Ordinarily he’d be preparing to start a game or working between starts in mid-April, but Lucas Giolito used a bit of his downtime to satiate baseball nerds.
The Chicago White Sox lost nearly 90 games for a third straight season last year (72-89), but the rebuild appears to be close to over. Lucas Giolito emerged as one of the top starting pitchers in the American League last year (3.41 ERA, 11.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, three complete games, two shutouts), and an active offseason had them primed for a run at the AL Central title this year.
But with MLB on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, and nothing concrete as to when or even if games might be played this year, players have some downtime to fill just like the rest of us.
Luckily for us baseball nerds trying to get through this time without games to watch, Giolito – during downtime while streaming on Twitch as part of the new MLB The Show Players League – has offered a look at how he grips each of his pitches.
As he showed, Giolito is a four-pitch pitcher: four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. What changed in 2019, and likely fostered his breakout, is a change in his pitch repertoire and how often he threw those pitches.
According to FanGraphs, Giolito threw his four-seamer 39.5 percent of the time in 2018, followed by his sinker (19.9 percent), changeup (15.3 percent), slider (15.1 percent) and curveball (10.1 percent).
In 2019 Giolito threw his four-seam fastball 54.9 percent of the time, with an uptick in velocity of nearly two MPH (94.6, from 92.8 in 2018). As an easy trade-off he pretty much abandoned his sinker curve (0.1 percent), which was a negative value pitch for him anyway based on advanced metrics. He also dropped his curveball usage quite a bit (4.2 percent), and used his changeup a lot more (26.1 percent). His slider usage pretty much stayed the same compare to 2018 (14.8 percent).
So Giolito basically became a three-pitch pitcher last year (four-seam fastball, changeup, slider), after being a five-pitch pitcher the year before as he used his four secondary pitches in fairly equal measure. Sometimes simpler is better, and Giolito found the formula that worked for him to nice effect in 2019.
Being stuck at home without live baseball isn’t great for any of us, but getting a closer look into some of the game’s best players is a consolation we’ll take.