Cruising around White-Sox twitter the past few months would have found an unraveling batch of fans calling Lucas Giolito (and a bunch of other prospects for that matter) a bust. I get it. We all tend to get a little emotional from time to time, especially in a season where we didn’t realize the White Sox would be 30-61 bad.
The All-Star break will be a welcomed respite to reevaluate this season and clean up our twitter page of the irrational tweets we sent without taking a deep breath. But Giolito has been the subject of blistering ire, most of the time unfair, but the numbers suggest the criticism might be warranted. Entering Sunday’s game against the Astros, Giolito had a league-worst 6.93 earned run average. His WHIP (1.62) and WAR (-0.8) were also in the major league cellar, pairing with his 5.49 walks per nine innings as the pure vestige of bad. But…
…Here’s the good news: Of the 450 people who voted in a recent poll, Giolito still has the fanbase behind him.
VERY curious about this question: Are #whitesox fans giving up on Lucas Giolito?
— Matt Enuco (@Matt_Enuco) July 9, 2018
Early on it didn’t look good for Giolito, but he rebounded with aplomb. However, after posting one of his best starts on Sunday against a lethal Astros lineup, I have a feeling more than a few hearts were swayed.
Still, let’s all take a collective deep breath and cut the kid a break. He will turn 24 years old this week and he has only pitched in 31 career games. Chuck Garfein pointed out the silver lining when he tweeted this gem.
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
We can go farther than Dallas Keuchel. Phillies’ ace Aaron Nola comes to mind as a pitcher with a quick trajectory and early struggles. Nola has hit his stride after two bumpy seasons and shoulder injury, but he leads the National League in wins this season and is an All-Star. Jake Arrieta was another player who really took his lumps early but eventually reached his ceiling. We just hope it doesn’t take quite as long for Giolito.
Jon Lester suffered two seasons with an earned run average north of four to launch his career while Roy Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA in his third season in the majors. Halladay had to be sent down to the minors to adjust his arm slot and figure out how to manipulate his pitches before he became the star that he was. The list goes on but the idea is clear: It takes time to adjust to the major leagues.
It is well documented that Giolito has mechanical issues he needs to tame before he finds a groove. With a lanky frame and loose build, Giolito has to get his body in sync in order to have success. His front foot has to anchor his delivery and he cannot allow his front shoulder to fly open. He’s mentioned this several times in his postgame interviews and it’s easy to see watching him throw across his body. The front shoulder has to rip away from his delivery because he lands closed.
Alec Hansen has a similar issue in the minor leagues and the lack of a consistent and repeatable delivery is what led to Hansen’s sunk draft position. At one point he was considered for the top pick in 2016 before he fell apart. Yet, he led the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2017.
Players develop at their own pace and minor-league experience does not equate to much in the show. Giolito lasted 7 1/3 against the Astros on Sunday limiting a fearsome lineup to just a few runs. Command of his secondary pitches and outsmarting hitters contributed to his success.
“Smitty worked really well with me, calling a lot of two-seamers, just kind of sinking it in,” Giolito said. “One of the big points of the game that got me deep was being able to throw my changeup for strikes and throwing it down in the zone, which I had been struggling with this year. I had good feel for [the changeup] today, so I threw that a lot because they were cheating on the heater. Just kind of sink it in there and [let them] put it in play.”
Giolito is a pitcher. From his interviews and the way he articulates the troubles while self-evaluating his performances eases my fears that he is a bust. Give the kid a break and give him some time to grow into his body.
The stuff is there. He just needs some time to settle into a groove.