Mets: How Skip Lockwood reinvented his career as a closer in Flushing

Skip Lockwood came to the New York Mets after years of struggling as a starting pitcher and reinvented his game as a closer.

Like many pitchers, Skip Lockwood began his career as a starting pitcher. From his debut with the Seattle Pilots in 1969 through his 1974 campaign with the California Angels and all of those seasons in between with the Milwaukee Brewers, he started games. When he joined the New York Mets in 1975 that came to an end.

Every year of his career, Lockwood started at least one game except for his time in New York. It seemed to be an appropriate move because during his time with the Mets, he was sometimes an exceptionable reliever.

Lockwood was one of those guys who was purchased before free agency. The Mets bought him in July of 1975 from the Oakland Athletics—a team he never actually pitched a major league game for.

There was no buyer’s remorse. Lockwood did find his way to Flushing where he completed the 1975 season with a 1.49 ERA across 48.1 innings of work. The results were far better than I believe anyone in the front office could have hoped.

To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Lockwood returned in 1976 with 94.1 frames and an ERA of 2.67. He also managed to snag 10 wins as a reliever in a year where he struck out an average of 10.3 batters per nine innings.

While this isn’t impressive for modern relievers, back then it was not nearly as common to see even the most elite pitchers strike out batters at this rate. Lockwood averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine in 1976, his first full campaign as a reliever.

The 1976 season was also special because it was the year Lockwood began to rack up save. He finished the year with 19 of them. The next season, he topped it with 20.

Lockwood’s final year with the Mets in 1979 was another impressive one from an ERA standpoint. In 42.1 innings of work, the now 32-year-old again pitched to a 1.49 ERA.

In those fast five years with the Mets, Lockwood managed to muster 65 saves across 379.2 innings of work and a total of 227 appearances. His ERA was an impressive 2.80 while his strikeout rate was a solid 8.7 per nine.

The period of time Lockwood spent with the Mets wasn’t the most glamorous in franchise history. Although he caught the tail end of Tom Seaver, he remained with the team through the Midnight Massacre and into the Joe Torre managing years.

He wasn’t Jesse Orosco. He wasn’t John Franco. Lockwood wasn’t even Armando Benitez.

Next: Best closers in Mets history

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However, in a time period before closers were a necessity, he was a pretty darn good option to finish the game for the Mets. And if you ask me, he has one of the best closer names in franchise history.

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