MLB: Why Lucas Giolito Is the Best Pitcher in Baseball in 2019

The Chicago White Sox’s Lucas Giolito is one of the best starting pitchers this season. If you followed the 24-year-old as a prospect, this shouldn’t surprise you. Giolito entered the 2012 draft out of high school. The Nationals took him in the first round (No. 16 overall). But his MLB career never really took off — until now.

Giolito’s early career

In 2016, Giolito made his MLB debut and posted a 6.75 ERA in six appearances, including four starts. He only threw 21.1 innings that season, but the Nationals apparently saw what they needed out of him. That winter, they traded Giolito and two others to the White Sox for OF Adam Eaton. Giolito made seven starts for Chicago in 2017, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. Things went downhill from there.

Giolito hits a low point in 2018

In 2018, Giolito was one of the worst pitchers in the majors. He played a full season, making 32 starts, but they were not productive. He went 10-13, a respectable record considering his other stats. Giolito posted a 6.13 ERA and struck out just 125 batters in 173.1 innings, averaging just 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His 118 earned runs allowed and 90 walks were the worst among all AL pitchers.

Giolito turns it around in 2019

Through nearly three months of this season, Giolito is 10-2 in 14 starts — the first 10-game winner in 2019 — and has a 2.74 ERA. He is striking out significantly more batters (11 strikeouts per nine innings). And he’s on pace to give up about half as many earned runs as he did last season (26 so far). He’s also not walking as many batters, with 29 free passes so far this season.

What is Giolito doing differently?

After his poor performance last year, the former first-round pick overhauled his approach on the mound in the offseason. Giolito has a new, more compact delivery that includes an element of deception his previous approach didn’t have. The 24-year-old gave up on his sinker and now throws a much-improved change-up, which helps him play up his signature pitches (a mid-90s fastball and a tailing slider). He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in May, and he hasn’t let up in June.

The White Sox believed in him

The White Sox hasn’t been in the playoff picture for many years, so they were able to stick with him in the starting rotation. But they didn’t just do that because they were a bad team; White Sox management also believed Giolito would turn things around.

Giolito said White Sox staffers told him they believed in him and that they were sticking with him, according to The Athletic. Giolito said because of that, “I was able to put my mind at ease in that sense, just knowing that I had the opportunity to try to develop and learn on the fly.” The team’s patience paid off, and Giolito is now one of the best pitchers in the majors with an incredible turnaround story.