For the 2017 Chicago White Sox, there wasn’t much to cheer about. The team won just 67 games on route to a last-place finish in the American League Central. There were a few bright spots, however. One of them being pitcher Lucas Giolito.
Giolito was acquired by the Sox in the Adam Eaton trade. The Washington Nationals were willing to part ways with Giolito for multiple reasons. One of them being the dip in Giolito’s velocity. The other being his control issues.
The 23-year-old right-hander made his debut with the Sox on August 22nd of last season. Despite giving up four earned runs there were a lot of positives. Giolito’s velocity was up and his fastball command was outstanding.
“I feel like I belong,” Giolito said. “I feel like my stuff plays. I’m happy I didn’t walk anyone. I was able to command the fastball pretty well, but fastball-changeup was pretty much all I had. I wasn’t throwing the curveball as well as I would have liked, but I’m going to work on that for the next start.”
Again, the key for Giolito has always been his command. Whether it be with his fastball, Changeup, or curveball. Sure, the dip in velocity wasn’t a positive sign by any means, but it wasn’t a major concern when compared to his command.
Giolito in 2017 was unhittable at times. In seven games started, Giolito went 3-3 but more importantly had an ERA of just 2.38. For those baseball nerds out there like me, Giolito had a K% of 19.0%, BB% of 6.7%, and K-BB% of 12.3%. His WHIP was at 0.95, while his xFIP was 4.42.
Overall, the numbers were pretty impressive for a guy that was considered a “throw in” in the trade that sent Eaton to the Nats. Now, Giolito’s success at the end of last season hurt him in 2018. At least, at the start.
Heading into spring training and later the regular season, there were expectations surrounding Giolito. Whether they were realistic or not, they were warranted because of Giolito’s performance in 2017.
It’s safe to say Giolito got off to a rough start in 2018. Some blamed the cold weather, others put it on his decreasing velocity. Either way, it wasn’t pretty. In March and April, Giolito had an ERA of 7.71 with a whopping 11-21 strikeout to walk ratio. Clearly, the right-hander was having command issues. Things didn’t get much better in May either.
His ERA stayed well above seven at 7.36, but his strikeout to walk ratio did improve to 19–16. The month of June seemed to be somewhat of a turning point for Giolito. He was able to lower his ERA to 4.85, while again improving his strikeout to walk ratio. July however, has been the best month of the year for Giolito.
Five of Giolito’s last six starts have been quality starts, including three in a row. His command is much improved, while his velocity is also up. It appears the former No. 1 prospect in baseball is heating up. Even though it’s the end of July, Sox fans will take it.
Giolito could be the type of pitcher who needs a month or so to figure things out. While frustrating, it isn’t the end of the world. Going forward, Giolito will need to figure out how to pitch in cold weather though. This will be more important when the Sox are contenders and hopefully playing deep into October.
In the Sox’s 5-3 victory over the Angels on Monday night, Giolito allowed three earned runs on five hits and four walks. He did strike out five over six innings pitched. After the game, Giolito talked about his turnaround.
“I’m in a much better place pitching-wise. I’m more relaxed and I’m not trying to figure things out when I’m on the field. The fifth inning was a grind, but I got out of it and got the team back in the dugout.”
Let’s not forget Giolito is young at just 24-years-old. There have been several pitchers his age have success one year in the bigs and regress the next season. One example is Dallas Keuchel.
Dallas Keuchel in 2012: 3-8, 5.27 ERA, 39 BB, 38 K, 16 starts, 24 yrs old.
Lucas Giolito in 2018: 5-7, 6.93 ERA, 54 BB, 54 K, 17 starts, 23 yrs old.
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) July 8, 2018
Whatever the case may be, Giolito seems to be returning to his 2017 self, which is encouraging news. I’ll admit I was the many people calling for him to be sent down, but would that have really solved anything? Probably not. He has already proven he can pitch at the big league level, so it was imperative that he stayed with the major league club to find himself once again.
Move over 2018 Lucas Giolito, 2017 seems to be on the way back.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @TLS_Petrusevski–Feature Photo Credit: USA Today