Another series concluded at under .500 for the Chicago White Sox, who fell to 33-34 with a 9-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, on Wednesday afternoon. With the Twins leading the Guardians 1-0 in the early stages of their matchup, the Sox will be losing ground to somebody after this evening’s contests conclude.
“I just got shelled.”
That’s how Lucas Giolito characterized his afternoon, his fifth straight start of allowing at least four runs. Headlined by a disastrous five-run fifth inning and punctuated by a Bo Bichette grand slam, Giolito’s stuff was simply ineffective today, allowing 14 hard-hit batted balls of at least 95 mph on the way to seven runs, all earned, over five innings.
Giolito averaged just 92.3 mph on his four-seam fastball this afternoon, his lowest single-game velocity since September 2018. It was responsible for six of those hard-hit balls, and the lack of velocity and zip was stark. The deleterious effect on the rest of his arsenal was also clear: his changeup (33 pitches), slider (20), and curveball (2) combined for just a 20% CSW, visibly having very little feel for consistently locating any of them.
As talented as the Toronto lineup is, it was difficult to watch them tee off on Giolito’s fastball without thinking that something is very awry. Compare the 3-0 fastball that Alejandro Kirk smoked for a 105 mph home run to the 3-2 offering — also down the middle, if a bit higher — as the last pitch of another seven-run outing against the Twins in 2019:
There’s a little extra oomph on everything that he just doesn’t quite seem to have right now. It’s not likely that there’s any one explanation, but it’s hard to not cast a stray eye at his stint on the COVID-19 IL in May as a turning point, even if his symptoms at the time were described as “mild.” After steadily trending up in velocity as the season ramped up, as many did this season, Giolito’s fastball speed has been all over the place since returning from the injured list on May 18th:
It’s also the point at which his contact management bucked his typical up-and-down trends and became worse than it’s been since 2018:
At the very least, we know that Lucas has what it takes to make adjustments and fix problems. All in all, today’s 95-pitch outing looked like this:
I need to create some kind of template for when the White Sox makes an average right-hander with a 92 mph fastball look like Tom Seaver. Ross Stripling did what Ross Stripling does and has done for many years: fill up the strike zone with five different pitches and make hitters beat him by virtue of the fact that those pitches are slow and don’t necessarily move very much.
White Sox hitters were not up to the challenge. Just six of the 16 balls they put in play against Stripling broke the 95 mph plane. They also let 15 called strikes sail by, allowing a hit to glide through six innings in just 87 pitches.
Those 87 pitches looked like this:
Josh Harrison faced the game’s highest-pressure moment, as his eighth-inning plate appearance (and subsequent pop-out) as the tying run with one out ran a 2.91 LI, far surpassing the competition.
Coming into the game for Adam Cimber to face Harrison with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, Trent Thornton picked up a 2.53 pLI in his brief two outs of work.
That home run from Kirk up top that doubled Toronto’s lead (from one to two) added .112 WPA (11.2% win probability), the number one game-changer of the afternoon.
Kirk and Stripling shared today’s honors with dual .180 WPAs.
Luckiest hit: Matt Chapman’s fourth-inning double to the left-field corner had just a .170 xBA, but as xBA doesn’t account for the fact that it was hooked into the corner rather than anywhere between the bases, which makes me skeptical about how lucky this hit actually was.
Toughest out: Alejandro Kirk probably should have had two today, with his second blast of 103 mph falling short at the 400-foot marker in dead-center field.
Hardest hit: José Abreu smoked one for a single at 108.4 mph in the second inning. Teoscar Hernández did a little bit more when he pieced one at the same velocity in the seventh inning.
Weakest contact: Reese McGuire’s pop-out for the first out of the seventh inning was a game-low 55 mph.
Longest hit: Hernández’s bomb took the cake at 421 feet.
Magic Number: 22
At age 22 years and four months, Lenyn Sosa should in short order be the youngest player on the Charlotte Knights by two-and-a-half years. While we have yet to receive word on Danny Mendick’s injury, Romy González is the only remaining 40-man roster infielder not in the big leagues and thus feels like his logical replacement should an IL stint be required. Someone has to take those at-bats.
Hard-hit is any ball off the bat at 95 mph or more
LI measures pressure per play
pLI measures total pressure faced in-game
Whiff a swing-and-miss
WPA win probability added measures contributions to the win
xBA expected batting average
Who was today’s MVP?
This poll is closed
Andrew Vaughn (3-for-5, R)
Jake Burger (2-for-5, R, RBI)
Tanner Banks (2 1⁄3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB)
Who was today’s Cold Cat?
This poll is closed
Lucas Giolito (5 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO)
Leury García (0-for-4, 6 LOB)
Leg Injuries (Mendick; Robert; Engel)