There Was No Doubt About It

A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

Rocky Mountain Jet Lag: Rockies 11, Pirates 5

06.10.16 Posted by

I’m not going to say that the Pirates lost (and badly) yesterday just because they had to suddenly fly cross country in the middle of what otherwise would’ve been a nine-game homestand, but I did express worry about this exact thing in yesterday’s preview. And I’m worried about today’s game for the same reason.

Jeff Locke got rocked, no pun intended, not just because he pitched poorly but because the Bucs seemed to want him to sacrifice his ERA to eat up more innings than his performance dictated, more or less writing off the game to spare the bullpen. This kinda made sense when the Rockies jumped out to a 6-1 lead, but it made less sense when the Bucs cut the deficit to 6-5 in the third. But they kept trotting Locke out there and he allowed five more runs, putting the game out of reach.

It’s already hard to know what to think of a pitcher struggling in Coors Field, but throw in the schedule nonsense and it’s even harder. I think Locke’s recent stretch was good enough and long enough to think he’s going to be useful the rest of the year, but he’s still going to have blow-ups like this.

And that’s okay if they’re effectively concentrated, which they have been: Locke has given up 43 earned runs this year, and 44% of them have come in just two starts. We saw this same thing happen with Charlie Morton last year:

Some of you are now saying “well, okay, but lots of people’s stats look better if you take out their worst games.” True, but for a starting pitcher, how you give up your runs matters a great deal. Technically, a guy who throws ten shutouts and then gives up 90 earned runs without recording an out the next game has an ERA of 9.00, but he’s actually more valuable than someone with a 4.50 ERA who gives up a run every other inning consistently.

You can only lose each game once, so a guy that puts up a sub-3.00 ERA in nine starts and gives his team a chance to win each, but completely blows up in one other, is probably helping his team a lot more than his ERA would suggest.

As I pointed out on Twitter, Locke dropped his ERA almost 1.20 runs from mid-May to early-June, and yesterday he almost entirely wiped those gains out. But he did it in the best possible way: being very good for four or five starts and then horrendous for one. I don’t know if this is a repeatable skill or not, but it’s worth noting, because I would absolutely co-sign for a Jeff Locke who’s good for three weeks and then totally gives a game away by himself.

A brief note about the hitting last night: uhhh, the Bucs continue to hit. Seven hits is less than they usually manage, but they scored five runs and David Freese hit a big three-run homer. The Pirates are going to score 4-5 runs a lot, so a quality start is usually going to get the job done.

Filed under: game recaps, Jeff Locke