Lucas Giolito still searching for control, progress

But it doesn't sound like he'll face consequences for his strike-zone struggles anytime soon

Lucas Giolito reclaimed the American League lead in walks after issuing four free passes against the Indians on Monday night. They were unforced errors, in that Cleveland hitters hadn’t given him reason to shy away from pounding the zone. He issued four walks before giving up his first hit, including a pair with the bases empty and two outs in the fourth that set up the game’s decisive three-run outburst.

This is the kind of outing that could prompt a trip to Charlotte, at least theoretically. If his problems stemmed from poor execution within the strike zone against big-league hitters, then he might just have to take his lumps since it’s doubtful Triple-A hitters could send the same message about missing. But when the problems are consistent fastball life and losing the strike zone, those can be addressed at any level.

I thought the White Sox might’ve been tipping their hand when the various game accounts quoted little from Renteria’s postgame analysis besides, “He was missing his spots.” I thought that might’ve been the blunt assessment that foreshadows the end of one’s line, rope or patience.

But listening to the interview, it just happened to be the only quotable part. The rest was more of a game log of the outing.

When asked whether the Sox have considered demoting Giolito, he said, “We haven’t had any more discussions about that, not at all.” Sometimes management has to traffic in mistruths — see Rick Hahn and Super Two thresholds — so it’d surprise me if “not at all” was actually legit. However, he continued by saying that Michael Brantley’s fifth-inning homer is what cemented a bad outing, rather than one where Giolito could say he persevered.

That’s not the same sound or vibe Renteria gave before Carson Fulmer’s make-or-break moment, when he said little beyond Fulmer being on the schedule. And with Hahn challenging Michael Kopech through the media

“Not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future. But he’s not there yet.

“There have been flashes of real progress and there have also been some steps backwards along the way. We need to see more consistency. That’s one of the things, one of the determining factors.”

… it doesn’t sound like Kopech is about to force a change from below simply because of his talent.

Going back to Fulmer, his problems followed him to Charlotte. He’s issued 15 walks to 20 strikeouts over 22 innings, and while he only walked one batter over five innings his last time out, he also gave up his first two Triple-A homers of the season. There’s still work remaining, and it’s doubtful that he’ll ever be able to clear all the obstacles that lay in front of a spot in the White Sox rotation.

It seems like we’d learn a lot about Giolito if he were sent to Charlotte in the same fashion. The longer Giolito struggles to throw strikes in the majors without any detectable progress, the more I wonder if those closest to the matter don’t want to know what they’d find out.

UPDATE: Patrick pointed out in the comments that Giolito has one option remaining, and the Sox might be loath to use it. If that’s the case, then consider Giolito a Rule 5 pick until he stops pitching like one.

* * *

Giolito’s struggles dovetail with my column for The Athletic, which starts with a blow-by-blow account of Mat Latos’ indy-ball brawl over the weekend …

… and ends with the idea that watching overwhelmed young players try to learn is better than watching the Sox burn through washed-up veterans in a desperate attempt for adequacy.

Both the 2016 and 2018 seasons share a high body count, but the White Sox aren’t joylessly wringing the last useful moments out of a ballplayer and discarding the husk. The year’s kind of roster churn stands the chance at yielding a useful player. [Dylan] Covey wasn’t supposed to be starting now, but maybe he can hold down a rotation spot with that sinker. Daniel Palka could be too powerful to deny. Charlie Tilson…well, he’s only struck out six times over 48 plate appearances, so there’s the potential of a hit tool?

These are stretches of varying degrees, but they’re low-stakes dreams, not prayers in need of an answer.

Even though Giolito’s struggles have a certain sameness to them, it’s not out of the question it can click. For the time being, though, I’m pinning my hopes on Kopech posting a couple starts that Hahn can’t pick apart so easily.

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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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Patrick Nolan

I’m convinced at this point that the reason they won’t demote Giolito is the fact that he only has one option remaining. I think that they don’t want to burn that option this season because they don’t want to be put in a situation next year where they have to potentially choose between carrying a awful Giolito in the rotation (on a possibly competitive 2019 team), punting him to the bullpen, or losing him at age 24. Carrying him on the major league roster this season at least guarantees that they could option him next year and wait until 2020 for that make-or-break moment.

I’ve been vocal about wanting Giolito demoted, but I then learned about his option situation and ever since then, I’ve been slowly coming around to the stance that they should probably just keep him in the major league rotation for no other reason than buying him time. If he had more than one option, a trip to Charlotte would be for the best for everyone involved, but letting him take his lumps in the majors right now is unfortunately the choice that gives the White Sox the longest amount of time to let Giolito figure things out.

This means that we will probably not see Michael Kopech until James Shields is dealt.

Josh Nelson

So… August 31st.


I can’t picture what a Shields trade would look like. I am trying but failing to understand why a team would want him. He is officially a sunk cost. Probably just need to pay the man and move on with our young guys.


Or really more appropriately, I understand why a team might want him but I don’t understand how a team could give us anything of value for him.

karkovice squad

With the Padres paying half his salary, there’s maybe $9m left on the deal between the rest of this season and next year’s buyout.

The value for the Sox isn’t anything other than opening his roster spot if someone will take him and maybe however much of the contract their trade partner takes on.

He at least looked like a cromulent 4th or 5th starter in May. Less so against MIL and MIN.


It just seems like it might benefit the organization right now if they just pay the man his money and bid him adieu. They are saving money everywhere else. Obviously that isn’t how the White Sox operate and it isn’t my money.

karkovice squad

The Sox still have a shortage of other pitchers who can regularly go 5-7 innings. He’s managed that in every start so far.

I think they at least want to see Rodon able to recover from starting on regular rest before they get rid of the safety net.

lil jimmy

all they would get is salary relief. Of a player like Leury. Look at the Rios trade as a comp.


C’mon, Rios was a far better player when traded than Shields is currently.

Patrick Nolan

Shields was on a stretch of a month-plus of being legitimately good (not just tread-water-good) before running into that last start. I’m still a little skeptical but think he has a decent chance to build value.

lil jimmy

but owed a lot more money. Dollars this year about the same, but then 13 mil. the following year vs a 1 million buy out.

Trooper Galactus

With the buyout Shields only has about 5 or 6 million remaining. Hardly crippling for anybody who needs a back end starter to chew up innings, especially if the Sox pick up some of it.


Really? Get a Puckett for Shields? Alright then. Somewhat surprised here.

EDIT: Forbes, not Puckett. Still, okay then.

Trooper Galactus

Guy was a homer short of the cycle the other day! We won that trade, dawg!


Anyone with a young pitching staff that is looking to limit innings (hi Atlanta and Philly) or the few places he might be an upgrade (Milwaukee) or just eat up innings because of injuries without (hopefully) killing your playoff chances (Yankees, Dodgers).


sounds like they like his influence on the young pitchers. Might be worth keeping him around, though once you get to the point of denying Kopech for him, I question his value.

Maybe Giolito can be hidden in the pen for awhile?

Lurker Laura

This makes perfect sense, and I can’t really blame the Sox for the decision (if that’s what’s going on). Sucks for Kopech, though, and frankly, Jordan Stephens, who seems to deserve a big league look soon-ish.


Stephens, I think, would be fine to leave in Charlotte for a while. He’s done well, but he’s only had five starts there and his last start has taken some of the shine off of his stats in Charlotte.

Saying that Stephens still has things to work on before he comes to Chicago seems reasonable. For Kopech, it just seems like nitpicking. Especially given how awful Giolito’s been

Lurker Laura

I’m just bored and want to get frustrated by new guys, not last year’s guys 🙂

Trooper Galactus

Kopech legitimately has things to work on still, but it’s not unreasonable for him to work on them in the majors.


Same can be said for Giolito. It’s unreasonable to start Kopech’s service clock and possibly burn an option for the crummy 2018 White Sox.


The same can be said for Giolito only in the sense that you can literally say that sentence with Giolito as the subject.

Learning what the strike zone is is not a task for a major league starter who frankly doesn’t the stuff to get by otherwise.

It’s unreasonable to deny a player a promotion that he’s earned and waste a season of his development.


Kopech is (probably) going to walk a lot of guys in the majors. So you’re basically arguing to keep Kopech in AAA until he learns the strike zone.


Learning what the strike zone is is not a task for a major league starter who frankly doesn’t the stuff to get by otherwise.

It really seems like that’s what I’m saying if you only read half of what I’m saying.


Giolito at 22 was striking out fewer (but still 25%) but also walking fewer with a higher GB rate.

I think they should call up Kopech (this weekend in fact!) but let’s not act like Kopech is Kershaw and Giolito is Jered Weaver.


If the report of AAA hitters now just sitting on Kopech’s FB are accurate, isn’t he down there getting his secondary stuff to a point where Major League hitters won’t eat him alive?

karkovice squad

Pitching prospects rarely perform to expectations in their first pass at the majors. So if they have any designs on 2019 at all, letting Kopech start to get a rind this year makes a lot of sense.

The team’s most important service time concern for Kopech was not losing a year by calling him up in April. Secondary concern of not putting him in line to be a Super Two.

Given there’s likely going to be a lag between his arrival and hitting peak performance, the fact that they’re already running the clocks for Anderson, Moncada, Lopez, et al is relevant. They need to get Kopech to the majors as soon as he can start learning more there than in the minors.


Good summation of why Kopech needs to be called up ASAP. I’d start him in the Volstad long relief role with the idea of moving him into the rotation in August.


I’d hope Hahn has no designs on ’19. Would hate to see them pull what the Phillies or Padres did last offseason.

Greg Nix

Yes, would hate to be competing for a division title like the Phillies. 


I believe they spent $170mil and gave up 2 draft picks for a third place finish.

Trooper Galactus

Season ain’t over yet, and they’re set up very nicely for 2019.


If he continues carrying an ERA over 7 and a K:BB ratio under 1, is there a chance he gets relegated to mop-up duty in the bullpen and Kopech is called up before a hypothetical Shields trade?

Related: Why can’t Coop fix ’em?

Greg Nix

I’m not sure I buy this argument. It makes sense on the surface, but there’s still half a season for Gio to work on things in the minors right now. It’d be a better use of his and the organization’s time for him to try and get better now when they’re bad, so that he can potentially contribute to a competitive 2019 team, rather than let him continue to suck now on the assumption he won’t contribute at the beginning of next season.


I doubt they’re going to be competitive in 2019. The rotation is shaping up to be Rodon – Lopez – ? – ? – ?

Covey, Kopech, Giolito, Stephens, Fulmer competing for 3 spots. The Sox need to keep (literal) options on as many of those as they can in 2019. Next year might be Last Chance Ranch for Fulmer, they can’t afford it to be that for Giolito too. They aren’t going to put Kopech on the 40-man now – if he struggles they’ll have to burn an option on him, too.


I haven’t done the analysis but suspect the Sox will have a bit of a roster crunch coming up. If so, the Sox may need to decide on fishing or cutting bait on some of these guys before next season even. Maybe a few of the guys we have grown accustomed to get tossed into trades, for example.


If it’s mechanical or something he can work on, I could see this. If it’s “throw more strikes and get more guys to miss” I’m not sure that’s something on can just do in AAA.

The Sox (and Giolito) need to figure something out because this obviously isn’t really working and you don’t want Fulmer2.0 on your hands (Fulmer, imo, has been mishandled by the Sox). This year was always going to be a development/throw away year, so Giolito struggling, while less than ideal, isn’t the end of the world. But instead of this being a lost year, the Sox (and Giolito) need to figure out how to get some sort of development out of it.

karkovice squad

I think it’s likely there is/was a mechanical or health issue for Giolito. Velocity down, the movement profile on his fastball seems to have completely changed which probably explains the wildness, and he lost the feel for his curve that made him successful during spring training. All of which were accompanied by a big change in release point.

The velocity is trending in the right direction lately as he’s started throwing more over the top again. Movement is still erratic, tho, so he’s still working to regain the feel for his pitches.

At this point, assuming he’s currently healthy, he’s probably through the worst of whatever he had to sort out and he can keep making progress in the ML rotation.

And I’d assume that the Nats burning 1 of his option years in ’16 and the Sox using another last year probably played into the decision not to send him down earlier. Not really knowable why a DL stint and rehab program weren’t on the table, tho.


I thought about posting that very thing about options last night. I think he eventually goes to the bullpen to work out his issues – cuts down the innings but doubles his appearances – might keep him from spending 4 days between starts thinking about what he’s doing wrong.


Physically, he looked pretty good through the first 2 innings. Unfortunately, once he started getting in trouble, he reverted back to the same old crap, and it was all downhill from there. I was pleasantly surprised by how he threw the ball those first 2 innings, and it gave me a tiny glimpse of hope. 


He did look good through two.

I missed the 3rd and 4th due to bed time, but I counted at least two missed calls by the ump in the, iirc, 2nd and 5th (the Brantley at bat, and checking Brooks, Giolito had four balls that should have been strikes).


Last night was another perfect example of him losing his release point. Probably had his best command for a lot of the game, particularly with his curve and would just lose it for 5 to 8 pitches at a time.

I’ll say it again I would like to see him do what a lot of teams have done with tall starters with that problem and just have him throw from the stretch to simplify his motion to the plate.


“If that’s the case, then consider Giolito a Rule 5 pick until he stops pitching like one.”

Good line Jim. Wonder if they’ll actually resort to it.

Just such a shame about Gio this season. Had so much hope since he looked good last season. People were also saying it was the cold weather at the beginning of the season messing with his curve and affecting his other pitches. But that excuse certainly doesn’t fly anymore. Coop please fix him.


And spring training!


I’ve known Lucas since Little League.  Threw 100 in High School.  TJ surgery usually doesn’t take 10 mph off your heater.  More likely, his growth spurt physically has messedup his coordination.  He needs to grow into that new body, so send him down for a year and get him yoga lessons.  He’ll be fine–but not sure there’ll be room for him then.  Nice problem to have though.

lil jimmy

“Charlie Tilson…well, he’s only struck out six times over 48 plate appearances, so there’s the potential of a hit tool?”
I was struck a few times last night by how odd it is to have someone so competent in Left field.

Patrick Nolan

It’s nothing we’re used to, that’s for sure.


I hate to say this but “he looks like a ballplayer”. He knows whats up.


Hey, if we treat Giolito like a Rule 5 pick, maybe next year he’ll figure it out and be good like last year’s Rule 5.

Still blows my mind that Covey appears to have put it all together after what he looked like last year. Velo up, the sinker is sinking and hitters are hitting it on the ground, he’s fooling guys (O-swing% up, Z-swing% down) and when they swing they’re making contact with it less in zone or out.

Reindeer Games

I put my money where my mouth was.  Since I’m “Dylan Covey’s Burner Account” on twitter, I picked him up in all the leagues he was available in.  


Spencer Adams to Charlotte! Moves are finally coming.

Greg Nix

Making room for Alec Hansen.

Reindeer Games

Time to celebrate 

Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du, yeah

Trooper Galactus

So long, T.J. House. We hardly knew ya.

Lurker Laura

I just submitted my All-Star ballot. I voted for Salvador Perez. That guy really knows the right way to play baseball.

JK, of course. I am serious when I admit to voting for Matt Davidson for DH – wondering if he’ll take off his helmet between every HR of the HR Derby.

Patrick Nolan

You #triggered me with that first paragraph!


It is obvious that the problem with Giolito lies in his lead arm. As a tall pitcher, his lead arm should be straighter when he is in the closed position towards the target. His throwing arm, at the point of hand break, should also be equally straighter so that his levers are equal and opposite. When he pulls his glove hand in towards his body then, he won’t be pulled off-balanced as he would when his lead arm is at a 90 degree angle at his closed position. Let’s get this fix going Don Cooper!