Jeff Locke, in case you don’t remember, was an All-Star this season. Just two months later, Locke is now a member of the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Double-A affiliate.
The Pirates decided to send Locke to Double-A rather than Triple-A because the Double-A season ends early next week, meaning the Pirates will be able to recall Locke before his 10 days are up. Teams aren’t allowed to recall a player until 10 days after they are optioned unless there is an injury and the team needs a replacement.
This is a great thing for Locke. Ever since his stellar first half in which he had a 2.15 ERA in 109 innings, he has had a 6.18 ERA in 39.1 innings in the second half. Two huge reasons that Locke is struggling in the second half are walks and natural regression.
In the first half, Locke allowed only a .197 opponent batting average against him, something that is unsustainable for a pitcher of Locke’s caliber. Batters are hitting .325 against him in the second half. Locke’s BB/9 has gone up from 3.88 in the first half to 6.18 in the second half, and when a pitcher is walking batters, he better be a strikeout pitcher; Locke isn’t a strikeout pitcher. Hits will fall in, hitters will make a pitcher pay for issuing walks. It’s just how baseball works.
Locke isn’t being sent down for no reason — he’s obviously struggled lately and he needs a rest. Oh, and he’s being optioned to make room for newly acquired Marlon Byrd. To make room for fellow newcomer John Buck, the Pirates also optioned backup catcher Tony Sanchez to Double-A Altoona, allowing them to call him up before ten days are up as well.
Hopefully a few extra days of rest will help Locke get back to his early-season form. He obviously won’t return to his 2.15 ERA ways, but maybe he can get some of his command back.