The Top 50 Mets of All Time: #42 Skip Lockwood

Looking for bullpen help in the summer of 1975, the Mets took a flier on journeyman starter-cum-reliever Skip Lockwood when they purchased his contract from the Oakland A's Tuscon affiliate and assigned him to Triple-A Tidewater. A week later, on August 5, Lockwood made his Mets' debut by pitching in both games of a double-header loss to the Expos (the Mets lost both games by scores of 7-0). Lockwood would pick up his first victory as a Met on August 11 against the Padres by hurling five scoreless innings in relief of starter George Stone.
Year  Age    IP    ERA      H   HR  BB   SO  ERA+  WARP3
-----------------------------------------------------
1975   28   48.1  1.49   28   3  25   61  232    2.4
1976   29   94.1  2.67   62   6  34  108  123    5.7
1977   30  104.0  3.38   87   5  31   84  111    4.4
1978   31   90.2  3.57   78  10  31   73   98    4.5
1979   32   42.1  1.49   33   3  14   42  246    3.9
Lockwood finished the 1975 season strong, allowing just six walks and two earned runs while striking out 26 batters over his final 17.2 innings. His emergence as a dependable relief arm helped solidify a bullpen that was anchored by closer Bob Apodaca.

Lockwood became the Mets' primary closer in 1976 and didn't disappoint, hurling more than 94 innings in relief and striking out better than a batter per inning. He finished the year with 19 saves and an ERA almost 25% better than the league. The 19 saves were good for second in the league, and he might have had even more excepting that the Mets' starting rotation led the league with 53 complete games. His quick success with the Mets -- and the new economic climate of free agency in baseball -- landed Lockwood a three-year deal with the team in January of 1977.

Lockwood returned as the closer in 1977 and recorded 20 saves in 104 innings, all out of the bullpen. His ERA increased by more than two-thirds of a run over his 1976 performance and his strikeout rate fell below one-per-inning for the first time as a Met. His walk rate stayed consistently low, but fewer strikeouts meant more balls in play and subsequently more baserunners who could come around to score.

After the Mets traded Tom Seaver in June of 1977 Lockwood became the Mets' player representative, and he expressed a prescient sentiment in those early years of free agency:

"What makes players unhappy? Envy or jealousy? Well, maybe, but if you go through your whole life comparing yourself to other people you're in trouble. There's always a guy with more money, a bigger car, a better house. It's gotten to be a problem now because salaries are out in the open, they're published. But once, they were private -- the clubs didn't want players to know about salaries. Now, guys wonder: Is Willie Montanez worth $350,000 a year to the Mets? Is he more valuable than Jerry Koosman? On the Yankees, Graig Nettles may get half what Reggie Jackson gets, though he's been there longer. A guy may feel, why should he make it when we've been working our backs off for years?"

-- New York Times (3/5/78)

Lockwood had his worst season as a Met in 1978, finishing with 15 saves but a 3.57 ERA that was 2% below the league average. The longball became a problem for him for the first time, too, as he allowed ten homeruns in just over 90 innings pitched. Still, he kept his free passes down and his hit rate was solid, so he managed to remain quite useful to the team.

In 1979, his final year with the Mets, Lockwood returned to form. He struck out 42 batters in 42.1 innings while allowing just 14 walks and three homeruns. His 1.49 ERA was identical to his 1975 mark and was 146% better than the league. Things turned sour on June 6 when Lockwood's pitching shoulder stiffened up after throwing two innings in a 5-3 win against the Reds. Team physician Dr. James C. Parkes diagnosed the injury as "stiffness in the back of the shoulder" and recommended heat and massage. Lockwood was expected to miss just a few games but ended up on the shelf for the duration of the season.

Lockwood would sign a free agent deal with the Red Sox following the 1979 season and appeared in 24 games, posting a 5.32 ERA and recording just eleven strikeouts to seventeen walks in 45.2 innings. That was it for Lockwood, who was released by the Sox the following April and wouldn't pitch again in the big leagues.

Skip Lockwood was another in a long line of fine Mets' closers, helping to bridge the gap between Tug McGraw of the early seventies and Jesse Orosco of the early-to-mid eighties. He was good-to-great in each of his five seasons with the Mets, compiling a 2.80 ERA, good for the third best mark in franchise history among pitchers with at least 350 innings logged. His 65 saves are the seventh most in franchise history.

Sources

Skip Lockwood at Baseball-Reference.com
Skip Lockwood at Baseball Prospectus

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