Stats Corner: Locke's second-half struggles continue
Jeff Locke re-emerged as a key cog in the Pirates' rotation during the first half of the season, carving up batters with a knockout changeup and solving the control problems that contributed to his posting a 6.12 ERA following last year's All-Star break.
With a 2.89 ERA during the first half, Locke bested the likes of Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Cliff Lee, among others.
However, Locke is taking another post-All-Star Game beating: His 6.00 ERA entering play Saturday is fourth-worst among National League starting pitchers. He's earning a reputation as a hurler who fades as the playoffs near, with a Jekyll and Hyde act between the season's halves that's unrivaled among current starters.
In 26 career first-half starts, Locke sports a 2.40 ERA. That's the lowest figure among active pitchers (minimum 25 starts), beating out perennial Cy Young candidates including Chris Sale (2.52), Clayton Kershaw (2.72) and Adam Wainwright (2.97). After the All-Star break? Locke has a career 5.99 ERA, sixth-worst among active starters making at least 20 second-half starts.
Locke's once-pristine walk rate has more than tripled from the first half (0.96 per nine innings pitched) to the second half (3.3 BB/9). He threw off-speed and breaking stuff for strikes at will during the first half, but he hasn't shown the same fine touch since mid-July.
1st-half 2nd-half Pitch strike pct. strike pct.
Changeup 81.2 70.6
Curveball 69.8 60.8
Source: Texas Leaguers
The 26-year-old relies upon his changeup, which limited hitters to a .212 batting average and a .333 slugging percentage during the first half. Locke is throwing his changeup even more during the second half (27.5 percent of his total pitches compared to 24.8 percent during the first half), but opponents are crushing his out pitch. They're batting .390 and slugging .660 versus Locke's changeup since the All-Star Game.
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.