Lucas Giolito is one of many White Sox pitchers to make a debut in recent weeks. Reynaldo Lopez had a flashy but concerning start before leaving his second early with a minor injury, and Carson Fulmer had a disastrous but brief stint in the White Sox rotation. Giolito was unlike either of those pitchers because, well, he’s an entirely different pitcher from either of them. Lopez and Fulmer seem destined for the bullpen for very different reasons, but Giolito still looks likely to stick in the rotation albeit in a backend role. He showed glimpses of such a potential during his first start in Chicago.
Giolito has a fastball, curveball, and changeup to work with. His fastball averaged a good-but-nothing-special 93.2 mph, and he leaned on it heavily. It’s a nice pitch but using it in 69 of his 97 pitches thrown left him vulnerable, especially as he went through the order multiple times. The fastball was hit hard at times, but it was the lack of secondary pitches that was most concerning. In fact, Giolito’s lack of feel for those secondary pitches was likely what led to his fastball being hammered.
The most troubling of the secondary pitches was the curveball. He threw it just 12 times, which all seemed to appear in the earlier frames of his start. It’s easy to see why he abandoned it; it never once went for either a swinging or called strike. If Giolito wants to see success he will need to get it over for a strike from time to time. It has such a sharp break that there’s no reason it shouldn’t be generating whiffs either. Concerning on both accounts. The changeup was thrown just 16 times throughout the start, and it faired slightly better than the bender. He got two swinging strikes and three called ones from the pitch, which provided him with a little help in keeping batters guessing.
The lack of secondary pitches meant hitters could key in on the fastball that lacked elite velocity and hits racked up quickly in the latter part of Giolito’s six innings of work. Giolito didn’t walk a single batter, which was good, but his command was certainly wavering at times. It never directly allowed a man on base, but it provided hitters with great counts and far too many juicy fastballs over the plate. No bueno.
All is not lost for Giolito, though. He showed what he has shown all season, which is an ability to fight his way through six innings of work without his best stuff. Not many pitchers have that skill, and it’s a skill that could carry him into a future rotation. It wasn’t an exciting start nor did it flip the tables on concerns about Giolito’s future. It was, however, a showing of just how much the young pitcher can scrape up on a night when he lacks the stuff to blow hitters away. Lopez’ first start was exciting and eye-popping, but it brought to light a lot of doubts about his future role. Giolito’s first start was methodical and at times frustrating, but it showcased his ability to stick in a rotation spot going forward, particularly given that his secondary stuff has been ahead of his fastball in the minors all season. The White Sox will certainly take six innings with four earned runs from a fourth or fifth starter lacking his best stuff in the future. That might just be what Giolito can provide. And hey, that’s pretty valuable too.
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