The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992 but things are starting to look much brighter in Pittsburgh. Last year the Pirates flirted with a winning record, but had a rough September and finished 79-83. So far in 2013, the Pirates are 42-29 and seem like legitimate contenders in the NL Central division. Aside from the talented young hitters like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh has a pretty solid pitching rotation. They have veteran guys leading the rotation in A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano, but one guy who flies under the radar, is Jeff Locke and he's been one of the best pitchers in the majors this year. In 14 starts this year, Locke is 6-1 with a 2.19 ERA.
The 6'1 lefty was the 1st pick in the 2nd round of the 2006 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves, straight out of high school. Over the next few years Locke worked his way through the Braves minor league system and was ranked #7 on the Braves Top 10 Prospects by Baseball America. On June 3rd, 2009, Locke along with Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Nate McLouth. On September 10, 2011 Locke made his MLB debut against the Marlins and suffered the loss, and in his 4 starts that season, Locke would go 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. Locke picked up his first career win against the team he started with, the Atlanta Braves, on October 1st, 2012.
Locke is not an overpowering pitcher, as he's only 6'1 and 180-185 lbs, but this guy knows how to pitch, using his excellent change up and curveball to keep hitters off balance.. In his 14 starts, Locke has pitched 82.1 innings, allowing 58 hits, 21 runs, 20 earned runs, 5 home runs allowed, 36 walks and 60 strike outs. He has a 2.19 ERA which ranks 4th in the NL and 6th in all of baseball. Hitters really have a tough time picking up his pitches, and it shows as opposing teams are only hitting .205 off of the lefty.
In 14 starts, Locke has allowed 0 runs six times, and 1 run three times. He's pitching to contact and has a good mix of ground outs (126) and flyouts (106). Of his 5 home runs allowed, he allowed 3 in one game to the Braves, back on April 18th. Since then, Locke has allowed 1 home run over his last 66.2 innings pitched.
Best starts of 2013
4/23 @ Phillies - 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, W
4/28 @ Cardinals - 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, W
5/19 vs Astros - 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, W
5/25 @ Brewers - 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K, W
5/30 vs Tigers - 5.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, ND
6/14 vs Dodgers - 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, W
Via Elias Sports Bureau 6/15/13:
Jeff Locke hurled seven innings, allowing just two hits, and was a deserving winner in the Pirates' 3-0 victory over the visiting Dodgers. Locke hasn't allowed a run in any of his last three home starts, and his streak of 20 1/3 scoreless innings in home games is the longest for a Pirates starting pitcher since Randy Tomlin had a streak of 23 scoreless home innings in June of 1992.