White Sox

Where do Peavy, Sale stack up in Cy Young race?

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Where do Peavy, Sale stack up in Cy Young race?

It's been nine years since the White Sox last had a legitimate contender for the AL Cy Young. Sure, Mark Buehrle probably deserved more than five votes in 2005. But not since Esteban Loaiza in 2003 has there been Cy Young chatter on the South Side.

At the halfway point of 2012, the Sox have two starters who have garnered attention for the award given out to the AL's best pitcher.

Chris Sale's 2.19 ERA is second-best in the league, only topped by the Angels' Jered Weaver. And Jake Peavy, who won the award in the National League five years ago, merits consideration with a 2.85 ERA through his first 17 starts.

Along with Weaver, Justin Verlander, David Price, C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison and Felix Hernandez all deserve recognition.

While it'd be awfully nice if pitcher win-loss records weren't looked at by voters, unfortunately, they are taken into consideration. So that hurts the case of Peavy, who enters the break with a 7-5 record that he doesn't really deserve. Then again, voting is starting to move away from such a generally meaningless statistic, as evidenced by Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke winning the award.

We'll look at Sale and Peavy's case up against Weaver, Verlander and Price, although WilsonHarrisonHernandez could very well pull into the top five at some point this year. Here's the side-by-side breakdown:

SPW-LIPERAKBBHRCGOPSFIPWARSale10-2102.22.19982551.5462.583.5Peavy7-51202.8510826124.6103.342.9Verlander9-5132.22.5812830115.5662.943.8Weaver10-196.21.96732252.5072.942.6Price11-4111.22.8210537101.6473.422.2
Right now, Verlander's probably the favorite to win the award for the second straight year. He's thrown the most innings and complete games and has the most strikeouts -- essentially, he hasn't done anything to lose his grip.

But Weaver looks like a pretty good bet to win the Cy Young, too -- had he not been victimized by a lower back injury that landed him on the DL for a few weeks, he'd likely be ahead of Verlander at the break.

Sale and Peavy certainly have legitimate cases, although Sale probably would be the one to make the top three cut over Peavy. But assuming everyone stays healthy, Sale may not get enough innings to beat out the uber-durable Verlander.

The White Sox are going to do everything in their power to protect the arms of Sale and Peavy, especially if they're going to need them for a few extra weeks in October. That cautious approach may jeopardize both pitcher's chances at winning the Cy Young, although that's hardly a bad thing if it means both are healthy for September and, yes, October.

Right now, a fair ballot would be Verlander-Weaver-Sale, with Peavy at No. 4 and Price at No. 5. At the end of the year, both Sale and Peavy may still be in the discussion, but beating out midseason favorites Verlander and Weaver will be tough.

If it helps, Peavy already has a Cy Young to his name, and this likely won't be the last time Sale inserts himself into the discussion. And that's not to count them out -- it's only mid-July, and there are plenty of things that can happen between now and the end of the season that can affect the race.

Take a step back to early April, before the season started. Few would've expected that Sale's transition to the rotation would go this well and Peavy would stay healthy enough to be effective -- maybe one comes true, but both?

The White Sox are in first place at the All-Star break, and the success of Sale and Peavy has been a main reason why.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: