Lat strain ends Lucas Giolito’s dream season, prolongs White Sox’ night sweats

Lucas Giolito
Lucas Giolito (Carl Skanberg)

As if losing their 15th game out of 20 wasn’t big enough a non-Aaron bummer on Monday night, the White Sox followed a Malört shot with a Malört chaser by announcing the end of Lucas Giolito’s season due to a mild lat strain.

Both Giolito and Rick Hahn emphasized the “mild” nature of the injury:

“I thought it was a cramp in my triceps. So, I was like, ‘I don’t need to throw a side. I’m good,’” Giolito said. “Then the MRI showed it was like a very, very mild lat strain. So, they decided to shut me down.

“For me, it just sucks because I wanted to finish what I started. But at the same time, it is what it is. It just was kind of a random thing that happened. That’s it.” […]

“No, nothing,” Hahn said. “It’s very clear it’s a mild lat strain and [there are] zero long-term concerns.”

Giolito probably loses his chance to finish on the podium with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in Cy Young voting, and he’ll come up short of busting through Ed Walsh’s stranglehold on the White Sox leaderboard for strikeouts by righties. That said, he’ll only miss out on the chance to burnish his credentials, because he already took care of the heavy lifting establishing them.

Let’s freeze where he stood among American League pitchers at the time of the bad break:

  • Wins: 14 (t-7)
  • bWAR: 5.9 (5)
  • ERA: 3.41 (6)
  • ERA+: 135 (7)
  • FIP: 3.44 (6)
  • WHIP: 1.06 (4)
  • Strikeouts: 228 (t-4)
  • Complete games: 3 (t-1)
  • Shutouts: 2 (t-1)
  • Innings: 176.2 (11th)

He would’ve needed help from above to sneak into a third-place finish, mostly because of that last stat. He missed a little time in late April with a hamstring strain, which combined with a couple of poor-weather starts put him behind the top tier of workhorses.

The one fun thing about Giolito ending his season here is that his innings totals are basically the same year over year, which makes it easier to contextualize and marvel at his improvement. Over three more innings, Giolito struck out 103 more batters!


But my favorite how-are-the-innings-the-same stat resides outside the usual pitching line. Look at what happened to the running game with Giolito on the mound:

  • 2018: 26 steals in 30 attempts
  • 2019: Three steals in six attempts

A lot goes into that improvement, like dealing with 83 fewer baserunners. James McCann’s reputation also made runners think twice. But Giolito helped himself more than anybody with his offseason overhaul. The shorter armswing gives him a more direct path to the plate, and the consistently higher velocity made rearing back and overthrowing less of a temptation.

I was hoping Giolito would clear 190 innings in order to establish a true upward trajectory with his workload, because he’s thrown between 170 and 180 innings in each of the last three seasons. There’s nothing stopping him from doing it next season, although if something stops him from doing it next season, we’ll probably have to take that into account projecting this New Giolito into 2021 and beyond. For now, it’s only a mild disruption, and one he can easily absorb this time around.

* * * * * * * * *

As for the rotation, that’s a different story. Without Giolito’s quicker picker-upper act, the rest of the rotation is store-brand recycled paper towels. Any attempt to clean up the mess will likely smear it around and make it worse. Rick Renteria would probably let it dry and take the hit on the security deposit if he could.

The non-Giolito starters have a 7.67 ERA and are averaging four innings an outing over 12 September starts. They’ve walked 30 batters over those 48 innings. Ross Detwiler is not going to help these numbers, and neither will Hector Santiago. Here is where I bemoan the fact that the White Sox have never tried an opener because they think openers are beneath them.

Unlike Giolito, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López and Iván Nova have reasons to power through to the end of the season. Cease needs some semblance of success, López needs to preserve a second-half improvement that lacks a strong foundation, and Nova needs to show the other 29 teams why he’s worth a guaranteed rotation spot.

Failing that, the White Sox will have to hope that playing the Tigers in seven of their last 10 games will take care of any improvement for them.

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Sox are going into next year with 1 starter + 6 potential pieces with huge question marks swirling above them.

How the FO handles it will be the most interesting and telling part of the offseason, for me.


I’m genuinely concerned we won’t add any rotation pieces, or just another Nova-type stopgap. They’ll see Giolito, Lopez, Cease as mainstays. Kopech will come back at some point. Rodon who knows when but he has a spot. Look at how amazing our rotation is on paper. Why would we go out and sign a high priced FA when we basically have two that are coming back from injury?


I wouldn’t count on Cease/Lopez/Kopech/Rodon delivering more that 2 SP’s worth of production. I’d favor signing 2 SP.

karkovice squad

If the goal is to put together a contending team, there’s basically a continuum between efficiency/volatility on 1 end and expense/stability on the other. Think of it as the Rays vs the Dodgers.

Both are viable but if you have the resources being the Dodgers is obviously preferable.

What this offseason will tell us is how much the Sox care about winning games versus their off-field, business agendas. We already know they’re neither innovative enough nor good enough at executing their approach to operate like the Rays if winning is their priority.

Greg Nix

This is another place where their unwillingness to experiment with the opener is hurting them. If they tried it with Cease and Lopez to good results, they could be marginally more confident that those guys will offer the rotation SOMETHING next season.

karkovice squad

With you except that the more obvious opener test cases were marginal (or worse) talents like Banuelos, Covey, Santana, et al.

Certainly for Cease they were better off just evaluating him on normal terms in a losing season. Same probably goes for Lopez given the adjustments he’s been attempting.


If the Rays and Dodgers are the current 2 path examples to 2020 contention, aren’t the Sox screwed? You rightly point out the fools errand of attempting to be like the Rays, but don’t payroll limitations, whether real or self imposed, make the Dodgers path unwise as well?

karkovice squad

I was trying to say it’s not a black-and-white binary. Cleveland and Minnesota are teams in our division showing what an effective middle-ground could look like. And the Sox really ought to be able to outspend them by $20-30m. They’ll probably have to, too, given their efficiency problems.

I was also trying to say we’ll find out soon if they’re even on the continuum of teams interested in doing things to win baseball games. Or if we’re better off talking about them in terms of a matrix that includes profit and CBA leverage.


If they want to seriously sell the fan base that they are trying to contend in 2020 I dont see how they dont come away in free agency without at least 2 of Cole, Strasburg, Bumgardner, Kuechel, Hamels, Odorozzi, and likely at least 1 bat that covers RF, C, or DH

lil jimmy

Two real Starters, and two Position Players. Nova and Jon Jay need not apply. That’s the minimum.


Question lj: What’s your opinion of Kuechel? I’m afraid he’s transforming into a pitch to contact type pitcher and with the Sox defense that might not work too well.

karkovice squad

He’s always been a finesse, pitch-to-contact, groundball guy.

lil jimmy

I’m certain he would make a nice addition to our rotation. As of today I lean- Kuechel, Kyle Gibson, Grandal, Joc Pederson, Will Smith LHRP.

karkovice squad

reply fial


Sox infield defense is actually pretty good, goes well with Kuechel’s groundball rate.


Abreu and Anderson have not been good and Sanchez needs replacing because of his bat.


Forget about selling the fan base. They now have three legitimate 3+ WAR players, with Eloy and Robert likely joining them in that category in the next season or two. But time marches on and they can’t waste these seasons like they wasted the seasons of Sale, Quintana, and Eaton. I know they tried supplementing with free agents and trades (like Melky, Robertson, LaRoche, Frazier) but they need to convert on signing legit 4-WAR free agents rather than shopping for bargains in the 2-WAR range. Cole, Wheeler, Ryu, Grandal, Rendon, Donaldson… they need to come away with a minimum of two of those.


Dream on. Kenny’s just hoping to pry Curtis Granderson away from the Marlins.


It’s different this time. Last time we only had 3 good players and a bunch of scrubs. Now we have 5 good players so when we fill the roster in with scrubs the results should be different.

(I apologize as most of my posts lately have been cynical/sarcastic but this team is doing its best to bring it out in me)


I think Cole, Stras, and Bum are going to be too expensive. Keuchel and Hamels might not be great in our park but they are lefties which we could use. Odorizzi should probably be our top target but I just keep waiting for him to turn back into a pumpkin. I’m also on board with throwing money at Castellanos and Grandal but we might have to settle for just one.


Why would anyone want to throw money at Castellanos?


Because he hits home runs and takes walks? His defense is not great but we ran Palka in RF for a full season so I don’t know that we actually care about that kind of stuff.


Exactly my point, knox. Curious if they’ll sign 2 mid to top tier FA SP’s to multi year deals, or go with “flexible” placeholders to see how many of the 6 behind Giolito can establish themselves.

Josh Nelson

NBC Sports Chicago should have a RedZone like broadcast which only comes on during Eloy Jimenez/Yoan Moncada/Tim Anderson at bats, because whoo boy, these last 12 games are not going to be very fun to watch.


The first 150 weren’t much fun either.

Josh Nelson

Pre-ASB was fun.


Just got to wait for that last week of “oh only a couple of games left for several months” panic sets in.


I have no idea if this still exists, but there used to be an open source add-on for the web player that would automatically switch to different games based on a customizable preference list of players/teams/game leverage index. The next two weeks would have been a good time to make use of that.


6 pick in the draft looks like a lock. This rebuild is a sinking island in a puddle of Pisz.


I doubt it. Even without Giolito, we’ve got 7 games left agains the Tigers. I’d bet the bank we win at least 3 of those and probably 4+. Even with our rotation, that Tigers lineup is Doo Doo. Cease/Lopez/Nova could potentially look like all stars against them.

As for teh rebuild, I’ve completely lost faith that we will have legit “sustained success” But with Yoan/Tim/Giolito all having outstanding coming out years and Eloy building towards something, I’m still optimistic for a 2 year Royals like run. Which is not really a success but wouldn’t be a failure.


When will we start trying to win?

When will we stop having Triple-A filler on our big-league roster?

When will we actually have a decent second half? A second half where the team doesn’t quit in the final month?


Maybe when they’ve developed a proven core superior to the one they failed with in ’15?