Expectations were low to nonexistent for Walker Lockett entering the 2019 season, so in that sense, his year was a success. But in another sense, the sense of his actual pitching, it was not a success. But I can’t even remember his correct first name half the time (no, it’s not Walter, go and check his Fangraphs page again), so who am I to judge?
Acquired in January from the Indians in the trade for Kevin Plawecki, Lockett came to the Mets with a short and unimpressive major league resume, just 15 innings with a 9.60 ERA in 2018. His minor league resume was somewhat longer - just shy of 500 innings since being drafted in 2012 - but only moderately more successful, with an ERA over 4 in his professional career and consistently mediocre strikeout numbers.
Lockett shaved more than a full run off of his ERA in 2019, dropping all the way down to 8.34, which could arguably have been even higher considering his strikeout rate would have been 5th worst in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. But not to be outdone, his 2.4 home runs per nine would have ranked dead last.
But this was also Lockett’s first shot at regular relief opportunities, perhaps giving him a chance to shine in a new role...except that he was pretty bad doing that too, with a 1.183 OPS against him in five relief appearances. His platoon splits aren’t much better, in case you were thinking he might be a specialist.
Credit where it’s due, though, Lockett did finally pitch to a league-average ERA in the minors. And he did actually drop his walk rate from atrocious to legitimately respectable. And most of all, this is still less than 23 innings of work to assess, though that number probably would have been higher if he’d pitched better.
Despite zero average pitches and no success to speak of, at 25 years old and with the minor league system largely devoid of functional arms, it’s likely that Lockett will get another shot next year, maybe even two or three. He’s only one of a veritable army of low-ceiling arms the Mets have acquired in exchange for major league players in the past three years and the only thing differentiating him from the rest of that bleak cohort is that he’s not currently injured.
Maybe he puts it all together next year and makes us all look pretty foolish for doubting him. But it’s hard to see any evidence in this season or anything prior that suggests that Walter Lockett is capable of that. I mean Walker.