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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.
“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.
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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.