White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito

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Bernstein: Lucas Giolito Is Figuring It Out

Giolito has reinvented himself on the mound, and the results have been superb.

Dan Bernstein
May 24, 2019 - 1:58 pm

(670 The Score) This is what it was supposed to look like when right-hander Lucas Giolito arrived to the White Sox as one of the game's most touted pitching prospects, the key piece in the trade that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals in December 2016.

In his first full season of work last year, the results were brutal: a 6.13 ERA, 5.56 FIP, 6.49 K/9 and 4.67 BB/9 over 173 1/3 innings, adding up to a total WAR of -0.1. Potential and hope were the only reasons to keep running Giolito out there to get pounded.

And after an offseason in which he committed to re-engineering himself as a pitcher, Giolito is at this moment one of the best in the game. His WAR in 2019 is already 1.8, tying him for the fifth-best such number in MLB. Through his 52 innings in nine starts, Giolito boasts a 2.77 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 10.21 K/9 and 3.29 BB/9. If that seems like a completely different guy, that's because it pretty much is.

This is what pitchers can do now, armed with rapidly accelerating technology that allows them to see their work in new and inventive ways and enhance proprioception to allow them to streamline their individual kinetic chain. Giolito is one of many reaping the rewards of combining hard work with enough smarts and talent. He has been helped by catcher James McCann too, as the similarly studious veteran has keenly managed pitch sequencing both within games and from start to start.

Giolito also ditched the sinker, because it was bad. These aren't good times for pitches down in the zone, because that's where the barrels lurk menacingly -- hitters looking to elevate the ball are coming up on it out in front of the plate to generate both launch angle and exit velocity, and down by the knees is a dangerous place for a pitcher to live.

Giolito threw 19.9 percent sinkers in 2018 but has now spread out that usage across his four-seam fastball (up to 54.8 percent over 39.5 percent last year) and changeup (23.4 percent as opposed to 15.3 percent) while also using his cutter more rarely (down to 7.6 percent from 10.1 percent).

And the velocity is back, which matters as much if not more. Giolito's 94.3 mph fastball average is the best of his career, as is that number for the slider at 84.7. He has shortened his arm action dramatically, to make it easier to repeat, and that consistency has allowed his changeup to be more deceptive than ever, particularly to lefties.

We live in an era in which pitching is real science instead of mad science, evaluation and objective fact instead of the voodoo and medieval barbering it once was. Giolito is learning what not to do, what to do and how to do it, and he seems to be restoring his place as a projected No. 2 starter at the very least. It's no small development for the White Sox to have.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​