A lot has gone wrong with the Chicago White Sox in the first two months of the season.
The most obvious is the team’s record, 15-32, tied for the worst 47-game start (1948) in the 118-year history of the franchise.
There’s been the utter dissolution of Adam Engel, who took a promising Cactus League slate and within a week of the regular season had rewound the tape to 2017, completely. Carson Fulmer, excepting a start or two dating back to February, has been abominable. Nicky Delmonico this, Nate Jones that, ad infinitum.
And most recently, the disastrous choice made by Welington Castillo to take EPO (resulting in an 80-game ban) has thrust the team into backstop hell. Omar Narváez is bad at hitting and fielding. Kevan Smith has reinjured his ankle. Alfredo González is roster pulp. Zack Collins is a Double-A catcher with about a month of “figuring it out” offense under his belt. Seby Zavala is a clubber who’s played more than half of his Double-A games at DH, and has a balky wrist. Yermin Mercedes leapfrogged both Zavala and Collins, from Winston-Salem to Charlotte, but has never seen a pitch above Double-A. Just today, the White Sox claimed Triple-A .208 hitter Dustin Garneau off of waivers from the Oakland A’s.
It’s a good thing this young staff don’t need no veteran backstopping savvy to help them through any rough patches, eh?
But, the worst of all developments this season has been the complete disappearance of Future Ace, Lucas Giolito. Wait, forget about Future Ace, how about: Major League Pitcher, Lucas Giolito.
Heading into 2018, Giolito appeared to be the closest starter to a Sure Thing for the White Sox. Of course, he was still very young, and his immaculate 2017 with the White Sox was just August and September talking; his season in the minors leading to his call-up was pedestrian at best.
But Giolito pieced together strong starts in Arizona, to the point where naming him the Opening Day starter, outside of tradition and odd genuflection to Grandpappy James Shields, wasn’t out of the question.
That question is in an entirely different chapter in a completely different textbook right about now.
Giolito was annihilated by a subpar Baltimore Orioles offense, one that had been largely handcuffed by White Sox pitching in the first three games of this series. Getting just four outs, Giolito was either throwing easy balls over and getting rocked, or walking guys home. Either way, he found no way out.
On the day, he threw 27 of his 54 pitches (half) for strikes. That’s absolutely abysmal. He walked two Orioles home with bases loaded, and allowed back-to-back homers, en route to being pulled after surrendering seven runs.
Giolito’s strikeouts per walk is 0.73 in 2018, compared to last year’s 2.83, which has resulted in an ERA rising to 7.53 over last year’s phenomenal 2.38. He hasn’t been able to hit his spots all year. With zero touch on this curve, Giolito has had to throw easier fastballs over, which have gotten rocked when he’s falling behind in counts. He’s going to have to change something, and quick.
On the flip side, Dylan Bundy — just two weeks removed from a historic, seven earned run, no outs recorded, negative-19 game score earned, four homers allowed pasting by the Kansas City Royals — utterly dumbfounded the White Sox offense.
Bundy recorded a two-hit complete game (87 game score), whiffing 14 batters. The White Sox offense has rarely appeared more hapless in 2018.
The lone offensive highlight was José Rondón’s three-run-homer, marking back-to-back days with a dinger.
Charlie Tilson, reduced to two major league at-bats in 2016 and 2017 combined due to injury, finally made his return after Leury García was sent to the 10-day DL with a left knee sprain. Tilson, who didn’t do a whole lot to warrant a callup besides assuming residence on the 40-man roster, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. On the plus side, he did rocket an absolute scorcher of a lineout in his first at-bat, which in this Chicago lineup qualifies as raking.
The bullpen continued its solid work this homestand, combining for 7 2⁄3 innings of two-run ball. Jace Fry extended his scoreless start to the season.
Fulmer’s demotion probably buys Giolito some time to scrape himself together. At least one more start’s worth of time, at least. After all, you can only punch bus tickets to Charlotte for so many starters before the TSA starts to snoop around and smells something fishy.
But the slip-n-slide righty — seriously, longer cleats on those spikes or something, Lucas, it hurts to watch you wrestle with the pitching rubber — is in dire need of a bounce-back effort.