It’s back to basics for Lucas Giolito in 2017. The highly touted right-hander was touched up in his big-league debut with the Washington Nationals last season but a new uniform and new city will help the flame-thrower return to his former dominance.
“This year it’s kind of like a clean slate,” Giolito said at SoxFest. “It’s even a new team. I’m able to, like I said before, kind of get back to basics in my mechanics. Go back to what made me successful and continue to do that so I can continue to be successful.”
Big league hitters stroked Giolito’s fastball at a blistering pace (.349) in only 21 1/3 innings last season. This was a dramatic shift for the right-hander given his propensity for strikeouts in the minor leagues, fanning 397 hitters in 369 innings.
Advanced analytics have played a role in identifying Giolito’s decline from the top of the prospect pool.
Ball rotation matters and Giolito’s dipped when he reached the big leagues. The major-league average spin rate for fastballs was 2,261 rpm while Giolito’s was only 2,061. Less rotation creates more sink leading to ground balls, but given the elevated rate at which hitters swatted the right-hander’s fastball, it’s safe to say there wasn’t much sink.
Still one of the top prospects in baseball, Giolito features a sinker in addition to his four-seam fastball and boosting his spin rate will add life to his four-seamer.
Besides his heater, Giolito is confident he can spin his curveball and locate his changeup. Chicago White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler has offered other critiques for the right-hander noting, “We’ve got to create a little more angle, a little bit more down angle to the fastball.”
Giolito blamed his statistical slide on trying to do too much. “I was trying to make adjustments,” Giolito offered, “that I thought might have been helpful, might have made me more consistent with my mechanics…I was trying to juggle it, and then I developed some really bad habits.”
Whether Giolito was trying to run in quicksand or made too many adjustments at once, the right-hander will try to get back on track in 2017 and the White Sox are counting on it.