Lucas Giolito’s struggles carry into a fourth month

When you’re struggling for three solid months like Lucas Giolito is, it’s hard to present the same impressions in a different way.

The Astros roughed up Giolito for a tab of seven runs over three-plus innings, which only accounted for one-third of the runs Houston scored on the day. Giolito’s ERA rose to 5.34. He’s underwater in bWAR (-0.4), which captures the satisfaction level of his performances better than fWAR (1.2).

Giolito would probably side with Baseball-Reference, because he had nothing positive to say about his outing.

“Obviously, I didn’t do my job. It was pretty terrible.”

Giolito hasn’t been pleased with most of his outings, so his quotes start running together. For instance, this one-sentence is interchangeable with what he said after the Astros tagged him for eight runs over five innings back in June:

“This is pretty god-awful. That’s pretty much it.”

At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in figuring out the why of Giolito’s struggles, because he’s been more bad than good since returning from his bout with COVID-19 back on May 18.

StateGIPHHRBB%K%ERA
Before526.22158.635.22.70
After1789.2113148.623.56.12

The reference to COVID isn’t to say that he’s still suffering specific effects, because the other variables — the weather, and the way the dead ball failed to launch especially in those conditions — make those first five games a unique sample even if Giolito dodged the virus. There are no noticeable drops in velocity or spin rate from April to the rest of the season, and he opened the season with worse numbers in both compared to 2021, even accounting for the sticky-stuff crackdown. It’s quite possible that April Giolito and August Giolito are the same guy at their cores, but the conditions mean that the latter is the one paying for it.

The illness remains relevant just because it’s the only event specific to Giolito’s season that could make one sample different from another. Alas, it was so long ago …

— HOW LONG AGO WAS IT? —

… it was so long ago that we had doubts about what kind of impact Johnny Cueto would make on the 2022 White Sox. What Giolito’s been is the form we should assume Giolito should continue to take until the next event. The end of the season would qualify as one.


Speaking of things that might not matter, the Astros’ 14-for-19 performance with runners in scoring position drew special attention to another characteristic of Giolito’s recent starts: the marathon inning.

Every one of his outings, serviceable or otherwise, has featured one:

The exception was his previous start against Detroit, which still featured a three-run third. The Tigers having the poor man’s version of the White Sox meant that Detroit scored those three runs over the course of 22 pitches to seven batters.

This trend made me wonder whether this current form of Giolito has distinct issues from the stretch. The answer is “yes, but…”:

SplitFirst 5 GSLast 17 GS
Bases empty.242/.306/.470.297/.349/.446
Men on.172/.242/.310.323/.390/.567

Obviously his numbers with men on base are awful, and there’s a little bit more horizontal spray in his release points than before he missed time if you want to try sussing out a chief culprit. But the numbers with the bases empty are a liability as well, so his problems are range wider than one particular split. And with a month and a half of season left, it’s hard to think he’ll discover the One Simple Trick to get back on track.

The hope is that Michael Kopech maintains his second wind, and Lance Lynn’s form from his last five starts is the norm going forward (although he’s faced Cleveland, Oakland, KC, KC and Detroit in those five starts). That relegates Giolito to a No. 5 starter, and as No. 5 starters go, he’s better than most. Like a car that can’t get out of second gear, he should look fine when gravity’s on his side, but he’ll be exposed when trying to conquer a hill.

That’s not good that we’re talking about him like that, especially since the Drastically Eroded Standards Train is already at capacity. If there’s any silver lining for the White Sox, he’s the one player aboard whose current performance has some impact on his next salary.

As tough as Giolito is to watch right now, the open-endedness of his future makes him more interesting to talk about, as opposed to somebody like Moncada, whose $47.6 million means you’re either crossing your fingers or simply waiting it out. Can an offseason of rest, recovery and work help him regain previous levels of power and spin, or is his unusual arsenal unusually fragile, and susceptible to collapse at the first sign of diminishing physical abilities? This conversation assumes that Giolito won’t be able to answer that question in a more positive before before the end of the year, but for everybody’s well being, it seems like we’re safer doing so.

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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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jorgefabregas

If we’re looking for physical causes in addition to COVID, perhaps he is simply too caked up.

jorgefabregas

Last edited 1 month ago by jorgefabregas
jhomeslice

I think there might be something to this, even if it isn’t obvious in his mechanics. He seemed to have plenty of lower body strength the past 3 years. Sometimes less is more. I know that guys like Seaver, Ryan, and Steve Carlton threw plenty hard even compared to today’s pitchers, and never spent a ton of time in the weight room. Almost nobody throws huge innings numbers like they did. Cease is into yoga, and seems to be doing just fine. It may or may not be related to his problems, but I doubt that Giolito’s offseason strength program was to his benefit. It certainly hasn’t helped him. Hopefully he focuses more on things like agility, flexibility, endurance, and balance this winter.

Adam

I don’t really buy in to the COVID excuse. I think Jim hit it on the head with just conditions and small sample size at the beginning of the year.

It seems like the league has a book on him now and everybody is aware. Hitters are squaring up everything. His era is going to approach Keuchel levels.

Robbie Ray was having similar struggles earlier in the year and overcame it by adding a 2 seam fastball to his arsenal. Not sure if it’s that easy for Gio. He needs something to disrupt timing or location. I like Josh’s knuckleball idea but I think something like a 2 seamer could be more immediate. Or maybe just herk and jerk like Cueto and mix up timing that way. The thought of Giolito with Cuetos windup brings a smile to my face

a-t

The stuff itself isn’t fragile per se; it’s his mechanics that are, and it’s probably because he’s so large with long levers. His fastball is cutting on him, which has never happened before, which means it isn’t rising like it did previously, and conversely his slider isn’t dropping like it has previously. The issue is all spin. Total spin rate, spin efficiency, and spin direction are all off. “Active spin” refers to back/front spin + front spin / total spin rate, ie excluding gyrospin. The slider’s active spin has decreased noticeably, so it moves less. Both these issues with the fastball and the slider are results of what pitching coaches refer to as getting “around” the ball.

Thus his changeup is the least affected, so its movement is down a little but it’s mostly suffering from the fastball being so much less effective— the delta in drop is lower, the delta in velo is lower, and the fastball cutting instead of running means the fading action on the change isn’t imitating the formerly running fastball. So it’s definitely got less separation of what you want (velo and vertical movement) but more separation of what you don’t want (horizontal movement).

HallofFrank

Several folks have made comments like, “imagine where the Sox would be without Cueto?” The counter to that is, “where would the Sox be with normal Lucas Giolito?”

The Sox have a .409 win % (9-13) this year in Giolito starts. From ’19-’21, the Sox had a .556 win % (40-32) in Giolito starts. If they go even 12-10 in Gio’s starts this year, we’re looking at a 1st place 64-52 Sox team. And that’s not factoring in how the bullpen might be improved for it, too. It’s easy for a team to disappoint when your ace turns into a 5th starter.

soxfan

The combination of Lynn, Giolito, Grandal, and Moncada are about 20 WAR off of last year’s pace. If these guys were even half as valuable as they were last year, we’d have a five game lead in the division (and still be project underdogs for just about any post season matchup).

Nellie Fox

Hahn chose to keep the pitching staff intact although giolito has been non consistent. Now, this weekend is actually playoff baseball. Sox must take this series with all 3 wins as the schedule does not allow them to lose this series being 2.5 games back now. The Sox have been score board watching for a month now. Time is now to stop watching.

jorgefabregas

What does non-consistent mean? Inconsistent game to game? Year to year?
ERA
2019 3.41
2020 3.48
2021 3.53

That seems pretty consistent before this season, to me.

Nellie Fox

I judge inconsistency to be a lot more than earned run average.

a-t

Durability then? No questioning that he’s disappointed this year but the previous three years he’s been a very dependable no. 2 starter.

Nellie Fox

Durability is a good part of consistency, look at Verlander, Bieber, Don Sutton, catfish hunter, etc. They all have a common purpose, give your team a chance to win every game they pitched.

a-t

Verlander’s just back from Tommy John this year, tho obv he’s been an iron horse for practically his whole career, and Bieber struggled with shoulder problems last year. Staying healthy as a TOR starter in this day and age is very, very difficult and Gio’s been consistent in that regard.

Nellie Fox

Guess we were watching a different player

jorgefabregas

His xERA those years was between 3.04 and 3.48. FIP between 3.19 and 3.79. xFIP between 3.35 and 3.75. His innings were 176.2 and 178.2 during the full seasons. In the 60 game season his innings would be around 195 prorated to a 162 game season.

Yeah, he had to make an adjustment when they banned sticky stuff. But the adjustment was made and, zoomed out, the season production was very similar.

There’s evidence that a pitcher who inconsistent from game to game may be more valuable than a more consistent pitcher with a similar season line. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/finding-value-in-pitcher-inconsistency/

Nellie Fox

Cant argue with whatever you are talking about. Good job at doing a reply comment.

soxfan

Lineup’s out. La Russa had the choice to:

  1. Improve outfield defense by starting Engel and letting Vaughn DH,
  2. Improve team OPS against righties by DH’ing Sheets, or
  3. Start Grandal at DH against a RHP when doing so impairs the team both offensively and defensively.

And, of course, he chose 3.

ParisSox

This is so disappointing. Sheets is seeing the ball very well right now. McKenzie is excellent at the moment so Sheets’ lefty bat = “all the help we can get”

Augusto Barojas

Sheets had 4 hits yesterday. Of course he sits today. La Clown has had no business managing this team for the past year. Grandal, at DH, are you f-ing kidding me? He’s been better lately than his worst, but not as good as a guy with 4 hits yesterday, who is a lefty, and whose legs aren’t on the verge of collapse.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Is the 6th or 7th straight game without Robert? Are 1 or 2 games of Robert worth 8 or 9 games of the worst outfield defense imaginable?

OldMMJ87

One thing I have noticed in both my bouts with COVID (once before vaccination in March 2020 and after being vaccinated in January 2022) is it has seemingly had a long-lasting impact on my legs. They feel achey and I get more cramps now than I did pre-COVID, even though I’m arguably in better shape now than in February 2020. I wonder if this is a similar problem for Giolito, though he is younger than me and also presumably in better shape than me.