Lucas Giolito has walked 19 hitters in just four starts.
Things are not going well.
That diagnosis can apply to just about every aspect of the 2018 White Sox so far. They lost in a blowout again Saturday night, this time by a 10-1 score, to drop to 4-13 on the season and 2-13 in their last 15 games. They’ve been outscored 50-15 in their last five games and 24-3 in the last 28 innings.
None of that is good.
But this rebuilding era, this developmental season was expected to have its share of bumps and bruises. What wasn’t expected was the poor play, to this point, of Giolito, who made such a great impression in his seven big league starts at the end of last season and during a dominant spring training.
On Opening Day, he said he felt like a new pitcher. He has been quite different in his first four starts of the regular season, but surely not in the way he hoped. He’s got 19 walks, just nine strikeouts and a 9.00 ERA. Saturday was his poorest outing yet: nine runs allowed, seven batters walked and just six outs recorded.
If you’re displeased with Giolito’s outing, know that he’s not happy about it either.
“Yeah, about as bad as it could get,” he said after the game. “I didn’t have a feel for much of anything. Seven walks, unacceptable. Put the bullpen in that situation, unacceptable. … It’s one of those ones that you throw away and move onto tomorrow and just continue to work on it.”
The problem is that every outing Giolito has made so far this season has approached that description. Against the Kansas City Royals, he walked four and gave up three runs in six innings. Against the Detroit Tigers, he walked three and gave up five runs in 5.2 innings. Against the Minnesota Twins, he walked five and gave up three earned runs in 6.1 innings.
Conditions have been brutal, obviously, with cold weather crippling much of Major League Baseball during this brutal first month of the season. All three of those outings came in very cold conditions, and Saturday’s game wasn’t exactly played in a tropical heat, either.
But the walks are piling up. No pitcher in baseball has issued as many free passes as Giolito.
“At this point I just need to kind of get my flow back,” he said. “I feel like my delivery, I’m not repeating much of anything. Very out of sync. So just need to go out there and kind of let it loose a little bit.”
“His first-pitch strikes were down, obviously. Kind of hard to work with batsmen when you’re behind in the count,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He tried to find his feel. … I think the walks were the biggest thing. You’ve got to command the zone, and hopefully as we continue to move forward and he continues to pitch, he continues to progress and improves on that aspect. In five days, we’ll throw him back out there and see where he’s at.”
As the losses keep coming for this team, they are easy enough to explain away as a product of the rebuild. Young players are spending this season developing at the major and minor league levels, and that doesn’t mean a juggernaut on the field on the South Side.
But the silver linings to all this losing are supposed to be progression of those young players. We’ve seen plenty of positives from the likes of Tim Anderson and Matt Davidson and Reynaldo Lopez at the major league level. And obviously each day brings more news of the fabulous feats the stocked farm system is accomplishing.
Giolito, though, is expected to be a pitcher that makes visible strides. He was so impressive at the end of last summer, throughout this spring, that he entered this season, in the opinion of plenty, as the best pitcher on the 25-man roster. And that still might be the case, but his performance hasn’t been the best. Neither have the results. Something hasn’t carried over from the spring, from the end of last year, and Giolito is still searching for what brought those high expectations in the first place.
“Obviously the mechanics have kind of gone away from where I was,” he said. “And on top of that just pressing and pressing to make it right again instead of just letting it loose.”
As Renteria said, Giolito will get another go real soon. But which Giolito will we see?