Once upon a time Lucas Giolito was viewed among the elite pitching prospects in the game, though during his time in the Majors he hasn’t lived up to that hype. In fact he’s been among the worst pitchers in the game, including a 6.13 ERA over 173.1 innings in ’18 as he struggled to show any of the skills we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 6.49 K/9
- Control – 4.67 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.4%
It would be easy to simply write him off at this point, given a career 5.48 ERA over 240.0 IP, but he’s still just 24-years old and showed signs of maturing/developing as 2018 progressed. A lot of the changes came due to an adjustment in his approach, and it’s hard to argue with the promising results.
Early on Giolito was consistently leaning on his fourseam fastball, throwing it over 55% of the time (55.52% in April, 58.26% in May). At that point he began to phase out the pitch, culminating in throwing it just 25.20% in August and 22.30% in September. Instead he was using his sinker (30.11% and 36.45% over the final two months), while also incorporating his changeup more (at least 16% in each of the final three months).
Just to give a better view, here’s a look at his pitch usage for the first three months compared to the final three months:
|April - June||52.42%||8.71%||9.87%||17.36%||11.64%|
|July - September||27.17%||30.68%||10.36%||12.96%||18.83%|
Those adjustments led to a significantly better groundball rate, with a 51.4% in the second half (39.8% in the first half). He also showed improvement in his strikeouts (5.49 K/9 to 7.97 K/9) and his control (5.23 BB/9 to 3.86 BB/9), so it’s obvious the alterations had a significant impact on his production.
Now the question is whether or not he can carry the success into 2019 and beyond. Considering the pedigree there is reason to believe, and it’s easy to envision Giolito producing usable numbers in 2019. The general feeling was that he was going to be a work in progress, especially in terms of his control as he’s listed at 6’6” (and it often takes taller pitchers time to figure out how to consistently throw strikes), so the evolution is important.
Giolito still has work to do, and while he may not be an ace in ’19 he should at least be a usable option to fill out your rotation. It’s an ideal spot, as others have likely lost hope and the upside is so much more than that. He’s figured something out, so now is the time to invest and reap the benefits.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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