Lucas Giolito’s breakout season is now about preserving it

One of the rewards for pitching better than anybody thought in the first half is a spot in the All-Star Game.

Another one of the rewards is a certain level of fear, ranging from low-level discomfort to out-and-out panic, when regression sets in.

Lucas Giolito picked up his first win in more than a month against Detroit on Monday, and it wasn’t his prettiest effort. He gave up three straight two-out singles for a run in the second, and two of them were on 1-2 counts. He gave up a solo shot on an 0-2 count the following inning. He threw 12 sliders and didn’t get a swinging strike on any of them, and this was all against a lineup that, without Nicholas Castellanos, is an easier call to tab the worst in the American League.

The bad news is that Giolito hasn’t looked like an All-Star pitcher two starts in a row since Fathers Day. The good news is that he’s thrown four quality starts out of his last five without his best stuff, and his velocity hasn’t really wavered.

Fatigue has shown up in his command, which is often how fatigue often manifests itself. It’s not necessarily surprising or concerning, even if Giolito threw a full six-month season last year, because he reworked his delivery in the offseason.

He also handled a new level of responsibility in the first half, with six of seven starts going seven innings or longer at one point. He pointed to both of these aspects of his season when asked about his lack of sharpness Monday:

If he needed a start to contextualize the challenge ahead of him in finishing out the final third of a breakout season, the Tigers aren’t a bad team to do it against. The rest of the month will be tougher, with starts against the A’s, Angels, Twins, Rangers and Braves if he sticks to pitching every five games before a relative easing in September.

If he can contain his fatigue to “midseason” versus “rest of season” and summon his ace-like first half, terrific. I’m more hoping that he can get to 190 innings with an ERA around 3.50. It’s worth remembering that this stretch — a 5.44 ERA over his last nine starts — would resemble progress at most points of his 2018 campaign. Revisiting the opening idea, as a reward for enduring enough starts to post baseball’s worst qualifying ERA, he gets a large margin of error with what constitutes a “major step forward.” He may as well use some of it.

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In unrelated roster news, Welington Castillo is back, Hector Santiago is the 26th man, and the Sox made room for him by placing Manny Bañuelos on the 60-day injured list.

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I believe Giolito will replace what Q gave the Sox. He’s not an ace, but an excellent # 2/3. An invaluable asset on a playoff caliber team.

Lurker Laura

A 2/3 with stretches of ace stuff, like he had in May, is a nice profile.

Yolmer's gatorade

Giolito’s clunkers have been against the Cubs twice and the Twins. Knowing Giolito, he probably put too much pressure on himself to do well against the Cubs. The Twins are really good this year, so it does not surprise me they got to him once this year. Otherwise, he has posted adequate to good starts over this stretch.

lil jimmy

Manny Bañuelos, on the 60 day. sounds like so long Manny.

karkovice squad

If he can contain his fatigue to “midseason” versus “rest of season” and summon his ace-like first half, terrific. I’m more hoping that he can get to 190 innings with an ERA around 3.50.

As much as last season’s struggles were a catalyst for him overhauling his approach so he could be have success in the first place, hopefully the mid-season struggles are a catalyst for learning what long-term tweaks he needs to make to his routine to retain them.

The obvious areas for work are a) strengthening whatever’s giving out now –Fegan reports it’s his legs but he should also check whether that’s the only thing that’s affected his release point, b) in-game usage and how that compares to his maintenance program, and c) working on his curveball, especially how his release point for it might be tipping the pitch. The latter in particular could bump him up from 2/3 to ace.

Josh Nelson

I agree that the next step in Giolito’s evolution is refining a breaking pitch to be as reliable as the changeup.


Have the sox mentioned any sort of innings limit on Gio, Lopez, or Cease???

karkovice squad

Cease is the only 1 who’d likely have a restriction. But hopefully not since innings limits for fully grown adults are probably dumb unless there’s an actual injury that needs treatment.


100% agree, just not sure that will be the sox course of action

karkovice squad

Given the pitch counts they’re happy to run up with Giolito and Lopez, pretty sure they’re unrestricted.

They said they’d monitor Cease. Since they already gave him a 13 day vacation, that probably looks more like pushing back starts for extra rest than last year’s shutdown.

jose robcada

Doubtful Gio or López have limits… if cease has one it’s probably at 160ish innings and he only has 96 innings now so he would have to average over 6 innings for rest of his starts to reach that so I wouldn’t worry about it


The schedule is about to hit a long stretch of 30 consecutive games against teams that are currently above or right at .500. This stretch will be a real test for Giolito’s endurance. We are about to enter what could be a brutal month that will test the patience of even the most optimistic among us.

Curious to hear what Jim and Josh see as reasonable expectations and things to look for in this upcoming stretch.

Josh Nelson

You know what, I’ll add it to the Rundown for Sox Machine Live! which will stream tomorrow night.


Thanks, Josh. Look forward to it.


Unrelated but I love that Dick Allen era Red uniforms


His xFIP yesterday was quite good.

Greg Nix

I’m curious what his numbers during this stretch would look like in front of a halfway decent defense. It’s been even rag-taggier than usual with Anderson and Moncada out for chunks. I tried looking up FIP splits, but couldn’t find them anywhere.

karkovice squad

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The defense does make it look worse and also might have had knock-on effects that contributed some to the increased walks and HRs.

Regression and fatigue from being overused in starts even when Anderson and Moncada were healthy still would’ve taken their toll.

Patrick Nolan

Those singles in the second were unfortunate, because he was cruising. I partially blame McCann…Giolito’s changeup was in a groove and then he threw four straight high fastballs to Demeritte, and the fourth was smacked for a single on a 1-2 count. I guess they thought it was a low enough risk situation to try to hide the pitch from the guy until his second time up, but even still, I have a hard time trying to justify that fourth fastball.


All and all I think McCann has called really good games, but this wasnt the first instance I thought he got a little cute and got burnt.