Photo by David Banks/Getty Images
Every baseball player has their breakout performance. Perhaps it comes on the same day as their debut at the Major League level. Maybe it comes one week, month or season later. Those breakout performances, to fans and even players, serve as a way to say the player officially “made it” to the highest level.
Regardless, the breakout performance might not be anything flashy – we are not talking about five-homer games or perfect games. Although, they could happen.
Something close to it did happen for one particular pitcher, though, and it officially tells fans that this pitcher is here to stay for the duration. He is finally living up to his potential and should be a mainstay atop the starting rotation for seasons to come.
That particular pitcher, of course, is no one other than Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox. His breakout performance came in the form of twirling a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 25. His no-hitter was even more impressive than many other no-hitters (if that was even possible), as he struck out 13 batters, the most among 19 no-hitters in the South Siders’ franchise history.
Why is this surprising? He always had the talent, sure, but it took a while before the talent was truly “there.”
The surprise comes in the journey the righty had to trek down to get to where he is today.
To understand the winding road the starter had to navigate, lets backtrack to when Giolito was a Washington National. After getting drafted 16th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, Giolito, who underwent Tommy John Surgery, propelled himself through the farm system gauntlet and became one of the premier prospects in all of baseball by 2016. After a brief cup of coffee at the MLB level during the same season (where he pitched to a 6.75 ERA in 21.1 innings), Giolito was traded as the headliner heading over to Chicago in a deal that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.
After pitching his way through AAA Charlotte for the majority of the 2017 season, Giolito would get the call-up by Chicago Aug. 22 and would make seven starts over the remainder of the season. Those starts would even out to a rock-solid 2.38 ERA. Something to build upon going into the 2018 season, right?
One would think, and, in Giolito’s case, one would hope. Over the course of the 2018 season, however, Giolito would put together an anticlimactic performance, as the young starter would pitch to a 6.13 ERA in 173.1 innings (32 GS). Giolito’s 90 walks would lead all 56 qualified MLB starters, while his 13 wild pitches would be tied for second. To make matters worse, his 6.49 strikeouts per nine (K/9) emphasized that the swing-and-miss quality of his pitches were not there.
Then came 2019, where, in 176.2 innings of work (29 GS), Giolito turned his fortunes around and pitched to a 3.41 ERA with three complete games (two shutouts). His 3.15 ERA through the first half of the season even garnered him his first All-Star nod of his career. The crispness was there for Giolito as well, as he had a K/9 of 11.62, which ranked fifth among 58 qualified MLB starters. The nastiness helped Giolito’s walk numbers trickle down to a more manageable level, as his 57 walks were tied for 37th.
It all came full circle this season, as the now-26-year-old not only possesses a 3.09 ERA and 11.95 K/9, but a no-hitter to his name.
There were bumps and bruises along the way, but nevertheless, Giolito’s breakout performance came. As the starter continues his upswing toward dominance, Giolito has nothing to say except one thing.
He officially made it.