Spare Parts: Formerly a project, Lucas Giolito now projectable

According to ZiPS, Giolito projects for a healthy 5.6 WAR, which is the kind of total that would fit into Chris Sale’s White Sox career. Granted, 5.6 WAR also fits into Giolito’s White Sox career because he cleared 5 WAR in his breakout 2019, but it’s one thing to reach a height like that. It’s another thing to project that number, since projections are inherently conservative by nature.

What’s more: If projections translated neatly into Cy Young votes, then Giolito would have to be considered the front-runner. With all the ZiPS projections accounted for and the leaderboard on FanGraphs, Giolito owns he highest projected WAR total of any pitcher in 2021.

Should that surprise you, it’s not a knock on you, or Giolito for that matter. It’s a little strange to see a pitcher who is yet to top 200 innings be considered more valuable — even by mere tenths of a win — than Cy Young material like Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom. In fact, it’s unlikely enough that Dan Szymborski felt compelled to single out the development for a post on FanGraphs.

Giolito has three things going for him:

  1. Age (Bieber’s the only pitcher younger than him)
  2. Hard contact suppression (he’s not homer-prone in a park where home runs account heavily in offense)
  3. Strikeout rate (it’s good, but below his expected number)

Giolito indeed has a little bit of ceiling remaining because neither of his breaking balls quite registers as a go-to pitch. If he can be more aggressive with his slider, or if he can remodel the curveball he used to possess for his shortened armswing, it’s easier to imagine him holding down more lineups for longer.

The cool thing is ZiPS doesn’t take into account such Best Shape Of His Life stories that have a shaky track record of translating into performance. It’s just going off what he did, and what he’s done the last two years is plenty. I’m more curious about whether Giolito’s unusual arsenal — so many changeups, imprecisely located — might mess up some of his expected numbers. I guess we’ll also see how much the paper-tiger nature of the Central divisions in 2020 might have monkeyed with our perceptions of true talent for the following year.


Mark Buehrle’s appreciation on the Hall of Fame ballot is still that of a local legend. His support had gone dormant until another member of the Chicago BBWAA chapter, Paul Sullivan weighed in. It’s a mess of a column with an even worse headline, but he gives Buehrle his 14th vote. According to Ryan Thibodaux’s tracker, he needs six more to lock in 5 percent to last until a second ballot.

Back in April, I marked the 15th anniversary of Mark Buehrle’s 99-minute complete game by showing just how fast he worked compared to a contemporary, average-in-terms-of-pace pitcher in Giolito. Here, James Fegan provides color commentary from Chris Widger, Scott Spezio and Bret Boone.

One of short-term pitchers I was most intrigued by is off the board, for more guaranteed money than I anticipated. I thought he might be somebody who has to sign for a lower base salary, but with incentives that could run it up into an eight-figure neighborhood.

The Blue Jays officially announced the signing of George Springer, and I only mention it because the front-loaded nature is worth noting. Springer will make $60 million over the first two years — $22 million with a $10 million signing bonus in 2021, $28 million in 2022, then $22.5 million for the final four years.

Howard Bryant, who wrote the most acclaimed biography of the late Henry Aaron, reflects on what he’d learned about the man during and after the process of the book.

Henry understood at once his place in the world and how his talent had created a different lane for him. The people who once dismissed him, and his people, made exceptions for him because he was The Hank Aaron. He was rightfully distrusting of them. He watched the change in how America viewed him as his talent kept proving its cultural racism wrong. And instead of his constant defeat of its presuppositions, the culture did not change, but in its eyes, he did. Henry became dignified.

In the African American story, dignity is such a sly and deceptive word, simultaneously complimentary and condescending, and dignity was attached to Henry like a surname. Its affixation to him, of course, said more about his world than it ever did about him. For what was called dignity was simply an acceptable response to hostility, and it was easier for writers and broadcasters, fans and executives to concentrate on his response to hostility than the hostility itself. It is a common expectation of African Americans that they be more conciliatory and not vengeful, invested and not apathetic, constantly brave and aspiring and dignified in the hostile territory of indignity. When he smiled at the hostility, he was dignified. When he did not, he was bitter. Dignity has always felt like code for treating white incivility as inevitable behavior, of not ever punching the punchers.

(Lucas Giolito portrait by Carl Skanberg)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Great Bryant quote, Jim. Thank you.

As Cirensica



I called him dignified in the thread the other day. Now I feel bad about that. He was simply an extraordinary human being, and we’re all richer for his having been among us.


He was, and the term deserves discussion. The word “dignity” absolutely has its place in the battle against white supremacy. When Dr. King came to Memphis in support of striking garbage collectors (whose marching slogan was “I am a man!”), he famously declared “all labor has dignity.” What I appreciate about Bryant’s use of the word is that understanding the important fight to recognize dignity does not mean we have to use the concept of dignity to police Black people’s behavior, past or present.

This is also worth keeping in mind as we remember Dick Allen, who should be commemorated alongside Henry Aaron in the Hall of Fame.


I hadn’t thought about “dignity” in the context presented by Bryant until this morning. I agree with everything you say, including honoring Allen, whose response to racism was different from Aaron’s, with a spot in the Hall of Fame.


I’m a tad bit concerned that Giolito without McCann may factor in


Not to attack you personally, but this is a bad take that I keep seeing people put out there and needs to be addressed. In 42 starts since he reworked his mechanics in 2019, he’s thrown to McCann in 38 of them. Any notion that he can’t be the same pitcher without McCann is based on a sample size of 4 starts. In other words, the counterfactual is non-existent.

Those 4 starts were all in 2020, throwing to Grandal. He had two good ones (Cleveland and Milwaukee) and two bad ones (Minnesota opening day and the St. Louis double-header). In those 4 starts, he had a 5.66 ERA. Not good. But those were his first four starts with Grandal ever. His first four starts with McCann in his career? A 5.30 ERA.

So yes, comfort with the catcher is important as it is with any pitcher. But Grandal is also an elite defensive catcher. Given an uninterrupted off-season and spring training to work together and build a rapport, I have no doubt the results will be as good, if not better.


Thanks, Mr SYB: I didn’t take it personally nor am I going to make it an argument. My original comment was in no way making a McCann vs Grandal issue.

I merely know from several interviews that Giolito made a point to mention his comfortability/trust in McCann and credited/praised that trust for some of his success. The fact that he was behind the plate in the majority of Giolito’s starts shows that Ricky and Coop felt comfortable also. My comment merely pointed out that McCann’s absence MAY factor into Gio’s performance. Like you, I’m mostly confident that Gio and Grandal can build up that rapport and both perform at an All-Star level. but it’s yet to be seen.

I feel your stats are a bit skewed. You mentioned the 42 Gio starts. True, but Grandal wasn’t on the team until 2020 and so he caught 4 out of only 12 2020 starts, with 2 good ones, 2 bad ones – 50%. Small sample size, but that percentage needs to be much much better, don’t you think?

Also, It’s possible that Collins or someone else may catch some of Gio’s starts and again would need to find a way to match McCann’s relationship with Gio. That may be a longshot.

Stay safe, SYB !


Thanks, Mr SYB:

I didn’t take it personally and I’m not going to get into an argument/debate.

My original comment in no way was an attempt to compare McCann and Grandal.

I’ve heard Giolito in several interviews talk about his comfort and trust with McCann and that he used that reliability to praise McCann for a role in his success. The fact that JM started the majority of Gio’s games shows that Ricky and Coop felt comfortable also.

So that was all. I merely was concerned that without that relationship with McCann, would Gio’s performance may be affected?

To use the stats, though, Grandal wasn’t on the team in 2019 and so using 38/42 may skew the numbers. Giolito started 12 games last year, so it’s 4 out of 12 with 2 good, 2 bad or 50%. Small sample size, but that percentage has got to be better, don’t you think?

I agree with you that Gio-Grandal are elite and should be able to create that rapport and perform at an All-Star level. Let’s hope.

One other factor is that it may come to be that Collins or someone else may start a few games. Whoever that turns out to be could possibly affect Gio’s game, IMO.

Thanks again SYB


I didn’t think the first post took, so I tried to re-write it. Sorry guys.
Monitor, you can remove one of the duplicates.


Who holds more leverage in Giolito extension talks? I ask because I think this is a point of debate between some White Sox fans.

Is this a situation where the team still has more leverage (closer to an Aaron Nola or Blake Snell)? Or does the player have more leverage (Jacob Degrom or Steven Strasburg)?

In my opinion, it’s closer to the latter. Which means the number that is likely to get a deal done is much closer to $150M than $50M.


Giolito isn’t really similar to DeGrom or Strasburg. He’s only had a year and two months of elite production and is much further from free-agency than either of them were.

The team definitely has the leverage here and I’d be shocked if any extension exceeded $100m. This is why if I were Hahn I’d be aggressively pursuing an extension this off-season. Another year of elite production and things change a lot.

The kicker here, however, is that Giolito comes from affluence. He may not have the same incentives to sign an incentive that other players have, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hold out.


Unless the thinking has *really* shifted over the last couple of years, nine-figures is too heavy. In terms of production and years remaining, Giolito is pretty comparable to Nola and Snell—much better comparisons than DeGrom, certainly—who each got around $50m.

I’d say $90m is the ceiling and something in the $75-85m range is about right.


I agree, which is why I think he might hold out. But $100m+ now is probably too much risk for the team. Aside from the regular volatility of pitchers, Giolito has still only been good for 8 months. It feels like longer, and he’s been *really* good, but that’s a lot of money to commit to a pitcher at this stage. If that is the price, I suspect nothing gets done.


If the Sox are worried about swinging and missing on a big contract, there might not be a better one to hedge on than this. You don’t get to negotiate with a 26-year old ace very often. It’s lower risk than any potential $100M+ free agent. And (I’d argue) that it’s lower risk than the early career extensions they’ve done so far even at 2x the money, since you already know what the production looks like at the MLB level.

Not saying it’s what they’ll do. But I think that even a very large number fits with their m.o. of minimizing risk.


I don’t see it. If Giolito were a FA, you’d be right, but they already have him under contract for his age 26-28 seasons. He’s already had TJS and doesn’t have a long track record of success. Why guarantee him $100+ just to guarantee an extra year or two?

To be clear, I hope Lucas gets paid for his sake. But I can’t see the team making sense of this and I wouldn’t blame them for not offering it.


So this exact thing is part of my thinking. Things *have* changed a lot over the past couple of years. Strasberg and Cole reset the top of the market. Wheeler and Corbin showed you don’t even need ace production to be paid like one.

In the proverbial carrot and stick paradigm, the carrot has gotten a lot larger. You need to pony up to buy out those free agency years, more so than before.


Of course, a lot depends on the length of the extension.

If it’s a 5-year extension including this year (i.e., 3 arb years + 2 FA), the total using your parameters would be around $80M — $30M to cover the arb years ($4.5/$8.5/$17) + $50M for the two FA years @ $25M/year). That’s basically top dollar, with little give on his part in exchange for the years of guaranteed money.

I don’t expect the Sox or Giolito to longer than that — the Sox because they won’t want to take on even more risk and Giolito because he might not want to enter free agency later than age 31. Those factors might also make a 4-year extension realistic, which would obviously result in a lower overall dollar figure.

So I could see something in the 4/55, 5/80, or maybe 6/105 range, give or take a few million. I don’t foresee anything approaching $150M.