The Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place in the National League Central and it is almost September. While far too many Pirates’ fans were busy waiting for a collapse, it seems they may have simply missed a large portion of what may end up being the Pirates’ best season since 1992.
There are several reasons why the Pirates are still in first place, but probably the biggest reason is Jeff Locke. Locke had an outstanding first half of the season, and even made the All-Star team. However, it was clear that he was pitching way better than he is truly capable of for the majority of the first half. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Locke is starting to come back to Earth. This process is known as regression.
Locke’s season statistics are still very good. In 139.2 innings over 24 starts, Locke is 9-4 with a 2.90 ERA. His ERA greatly exceeds his FIP of 3.86. FIP basically just measures everything that a pitcher controls and makes sure no luck can be involved to influence the pitcher’s numbers. If you split Locke’s first and second half numbers, they aren’t even close to even. His first half ERA was 2.15 and second half ERA is 5.58. Two huge reasons for why Locke has regressed so much are his batting average against and his walks per nine innings. Locke’s first half batting average against was just .197, in the second half it is .315. His walks have greatly spiked. In the first half, his 3.88 BB/9 wasn’t even great, but his second half 6.16 BB/9 is simply terrible and unacceptable.
If the Pirates want to win the NL Central division, Locke needs to get back on track. He obviously doesn’t need to get back to his 2.15 first half ERA, but he needs to meet somewhere in the middle and at least give the Pirates a chance to win.