Lucas Giolito Has Future Cy Young Credentials

Giolito has had a breakout 2019, posting a 3.20 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

Bruce Levine
August 28, 2019 - 9:11 am

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- In one of the most important developments of the White Sox's third rebuilding season, right-hander Lucas Giolito has asserted himself both as the team's ace and also one of the top pitchers in the American League.

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So as Astros teammates Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander compete neck and neck for the AL Cy Young award this season, how far away is Giolito from elevating him to that elite status?

"All Lucas needs is sustained success," said catcher James McCann, who caught Verlander and Nationals ace Max Scherzer previously while playing for Detroit. "When you talk about any great pitchers of all time like we assume Verlander and Scherzer are, it's continued success year after year after year. So the only way to do that is the longevity of your career. Lucas can be that kind of pitcher."

Giolito is 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 26 starts. In a 3-1 loss to the Twins on Tuesday in which he threw six innings of two-run ball, Giolito struck out nine to pass the 200-strikeout mark for the first time in his career. He's the first White Sox right-hander to reach that threshold since Javier Vazquez in 2008.

Giolito is fifth in the AL in ERA, sixth in WHIP and sixth in strikeouts. Giolito has a 4.7 WAR, per Fangraphs, which ranks fourth in the AL behind Rangers right-hander Lance Lynn (5.8), Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (5.2) and Cole.

Giolito's breakthrough has come after an ugly 2018, posting a 6.13 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. He struck out 6.5 batters per nine innings last season, a mark that has jumped to 11.6 this year. He also issued an AL-worst 90 walks in 2018, walking 4.7 batters per nine innings. That mark has dropped to 3.1.

"Considering the kind of year I had last season and the adjustments I made, I knew I could be that kind of pitcher," Giolito said. "Getting my walks down was the number one focus as far as stats went."

Giolito has also improved on the mental side of the game, overcoming in-game adversity better.

"His experience last year enabled him to go into the offseason and figure it out," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "I really think he will continue to build on that. This has been new territory for him at this level in terms of the success he has had. He is understanding what it takes each game to be the best that day and concentrate on that."

Learning to win on days in which one doesn't have his best stuff is a hallmark of all great pitchers. Giolito is making progress in that regard. Teammate Ivan Nova noted that Giolito has "the same arm action for all of his pitches," which makes a batter's task challenging even if Giolito's stuff isn't its sharpest.

"Once you get the work done before your next start, it all comes down to competing on that day regardless of what is working or not working for you," Renteria said. "Those adjustments are what you learn as a major league. Just him going out and competing and getting through tough moments has been the biggest key for him"

Giolito has acknowledged that self-doubt contributed to his struggles in past seasons, a hurdle he believes that he has now overcome.

"So much of what we do as prospects is about development," Giolito said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score recently. "So when you get to the big leagues, it's all still development. You must at some point learn to compete and find the inner competitor inside. When you're here, it's all about competing and winning. That development switch must get turned off when you learn it's about pitching that day with what you have and live and die with it. It took about two years for me to figure it out. Others might get it in two weeks. You eventually learn to trust and believe in yourself all over again."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.