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Terrerobytes: Lucas Giolito remains hard to hit

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Plus: Shohei Otani and pitch clocks are coming, fly balls are leaving, and more

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Lucas Giolito had his weakest start of the year on Wednesday, at least when it came to stuff. He failed to even touch 94 on his fastball, so he was shorter on power. The command/control stats aren’t great, either -- three walks, one HBP, only six swinging strikes, and just one of them from 23 breaking balls.

And yet he threw another quality start and pitched into the seventh.

For a rookie who is well into career-high-workload territory (154 innings and counting), there are worse outcomes. His height is one thing that seems to confuse hitters who should ordinarily be all over him when his stuff is lagging.

“His stuff is moving,” [Kevan] Smith said. “Guys get in the box joking, ‘This guy is 7-foot-5, how am I supposed to hit?’ It’s funny when guys have that perspective with him. It’s fun seeing a pitch that he didn’t hit his spot but guys pop it up. It’s like, ‘All right, something is moving there,’ especially with the caliber of hitters on that side.”

The one drawback is that, as we saw from his previous start, the foreign angle is something that can possibly confuse the umpires as well. James Fegan asked Smith about all the low strikes Giolito didn’t get his last time out, and he’s aware of the issue.

“It’s so hard, I’ll watch all the low strikes on the bottom lines and half of them being breaking balls,” Smith said. “They’re in the dirt but they’re hitting the bottom part of the line. It’s like how are we going to change? That’s an area where we need to adapt. We need to learn somehow, if it’s moving closer [is the solution]. I don’t know what it’s going to be but there are balls hitting that lower line that we’re not getting. It’s not because we’re not catching them. It’s going to change ump to ump, but what is he seeing that’s making that not a strike? Because it’s obviously hitting the line for a reason and it certainly gets frustrating, but a guy with angle you’ve really got to beat the ball to the spot. Angle down and away is impossible to hit, and if he can consistently do that…I mean, unhittable.”

Terrerobytes

If Shohei Otani were 25, he’d be able to sign with any MLB team for any amount. the Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani is only 23, his maximum contract is bound by the constraints placed on teams CBA’s constraints on signing international players. That means he can only theoretically sign for $8 million or so with a team that uses its entire international budget and trades for other teams’ international money. Or, if he prefers to sign with one of the 11 teams handcuffed by overage penalties, he can only sign for $300,000, followed by a standard minor-league contract and six or seven years of team control.

That has Dave Cameron wondering how Otani can somehow come out of this deal with more guaranteed money than $300,000 and the league minimum. An early extension is his leading guess:

Every good young player gets approached about signing a long-term deal these days, and there’s no way MLB can order teams not to treat Ohtani similarly. So the question will be how close to the “forebearers” does Ohtani’s next deal have to look? And when can he sign it? And if you want to sign Ohtani this winter, the ability to — legally, which means not officially putting it in so many words during the official visit — provide a clear and legitimate plan for getting Ohtani to his next contract might be the deciding factor.

Over at his new writing home at The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal says a pitch clock is coming. That might not be huge news because baseball’s relapse into longer games has effectively forced that hand, but the bigger news is how they intend to go about implementing them. Rob Manfred is trying to get the players to see his side after a more combative approach during CBA negotiations last season. I’ll take that as a positive, since the next CBA will be negotiated as the White Sox rebuild is supposed to pay off.

If you’re trying to see baseball’s tilt toward fly balls for yourself, the total number of batted balls won’t really show it. It’s about damage, and the extra gains from hitting the ball in the air.

Production is up significantly between 20 and 30 degrees, and it’s also up significantly between 30 and 40 degrees. These are the home-run angles, the extra-base-hit angles. Therefore, there’s more damage to chase at higher angles, and this is why batters want to hit more balls in the air in the first place. In part, I think this reflects intentionality — batters are doing better at those high angles because they’re trying to do better at those high angles. And, in part, I think this reflects why the high angles are even increasingly desirable. The ball’s taking off like never before. Anyone who used to have even middling power is now far more of a home-run threat. Recall, again, the 30 home runs by Francisco Lindor. He wouldn’t even be trying to do this if there weren’t something substantial for him to gain.

This is why Giolito’s high-fastball approach could have some staying power. Intentional fastballs that start from a high release point and find the top of the zone might be incompatible with the modern uppercut.

It’s nice to see Pelfrey avoiding the trap of paying rookie hazing forward just because he had to deal with it. I cringed a little when he said, “There is a way this game needs to be played,” but there is a point when it comes to preparation.

Adam Engel shouldn’t be playing as much as he is, and everybody knows that. However, with no other true center fielders on the roster, the Sox have settled for prioritizing his play in center field and taking whatever he can give them at the plate.

That has left Engel in a position to fend for himself on a daily basis and attempt to get positive results. With that in mind, Steverson said his focus with Engel has been simplified.

“The number one key is timing and pitch selection,” Steverson said. “When you’re struggling, that tends to be most of the issue. It’s at the highest level. Guys have good stuff. At the end of the day it comes down to pitch selection. Being on time and swinging at a good pitch. Physically, mechanically, that is what it is. I just want him to be ready for the opportunity of a mistake or something you can handle.”