At 34-34, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a much better place than they were just a few weeks ago when it looked like the season was over. When Gerrit Cole went to the disabled list due to shoulder fatigue, the Pirates could have curled up in a ball and gave up on the year, but they didn’t. Then, when another starting pitcher, Francisco Liriano, went down with an oblique strain, they could have quit on the season again, but they didn’t. Instead, they replaced the two starters with internal options and have actually played better since.
So, just who are these replacements who have pitched well since Liriano and Cole hit the DL? Well, both of them have had some success in recent seasons at the MLB level. First, Jeff Locke, a lefty. Locke was an All-Star in 2013 thanks to a great — and extremely lucky — first half of the season. In total, Locke finished the year 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA. It would have been much better, if not for a remarkably horrible second half of the season in which he had 5.81 BB/9 and a 6.12 ERA.
The other replacement, right-handed pitcher Vance Worley, had success in 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies, but he was traded to the Minnesota Twins before the 2013 season. After struggling in his time with the Twins, they traded him to the Pirates for cash at the end of Spring Training prior to this year. In 2011, Worley pitched to a 3.01 ERA in 131.2 innings.
In Locke’s two starts since being recalled, he has pitched 15 innings with a 1.80 ERA. Unlike last year, he hasn’t been getting incredibly lucky, he’s just been good. His 2.55 FIP suggests that even though he has been lucky at times, he has still been an effective pitcher. In one start since his promotion, Worley went seven innings without allowing a run. He didn’t walk a batter and he struck out five, while allowing five hits.