The Chicago White Sox have failed to meet expectations this season. After winning the American League Central last season, they were widely expected to do the same this season. Instead, they haven't been able to replicate their success from last season, and have instead been one of the most disappointing teams in the entire league.
There hasn't been one area in particular Chicago has struggled in. It's been a collective struggle instead. They have had players in their lineup unable to hit the ball, pitchers unable to make it through starts without giving up multiple runs, and a bullpen that has been relying on inconsistent arms all season long.
As a result, the White Sox find themselves barely hanging on to their playoff hopes in the AL Central. There is still time to turn things around, though, and it needs to start with this starting pitcher who has struggled all season long. Let's identify this pitcher and analyze why he needs to step up for his team.
Chicago White Sox player who needs to step up: Lucas Giolito
After struggling through the first three seasons of his career, Lucas Giolito has become one of the best pitchers in the MLB over the past three seasons. He's finished in the top 11 of the AL Cy Young voting in each of the past three seasons, and gave Chicago an ace they could rely on when the postseason rolled around. With Giolito leading the way, the White Sox felt very good about their starting rotation heading into the 2022 season.
Unfortunately for Giolito, the 2022 season has been one he'd like to forget. Giolito has struggled all season long, and hasn't looked anything like the guy who emerged from out of nowhere to become one of the best pitchers in the league. His struggles have offset strong seasons from guys like Dylan Cease, Johnny Cueto, and Michael Kopech.
Giolito just hasn't looked like himself all season long. His ERA has been hovering above five since midway through June, and he's given up at least one earned run in all but two of his starts this season. That hasn't helped a White Sox lineup that has run hot and cold all season long, as they almost always need to have big nights when Giolito is on the mound if they want to have a shot at winning.
It's tough to win much when your supposed ace falters the way Giolito has this season. It's helped that guys like Cease and Cueto have stepped up, but with Giolito struggling every fifth turn in the rotation, it hasn't really mattered. It's becoming clearer and clearer that Giolito is going to have to turn a corner if the White Sox intend on winning the AL Central this season.
There are some big games on the horizon for the White Sox as they come down the home stretch of the season. They have four games left on their schedule against the Guardians, and six against the Twins. They are going to need Giolito to step up at some point and deliver a big outing against one of their division rivals at some point down the line.
Even if Chicago manages to secure a playoff spot, they are going to need Giolito to perform once they get there. Cease has proven himself to be the new ace of this team, but he can't pitch every game. Cueto has vastly outperformed Giolito this season. meaning Giolito would be at best the third starter come playoff time. It's also fair to wonder whether Giolito has actually done enough to earn a spot in the rotation come playoff time.
That's a problem for another time, however. First, the White Sox actually need to make it to the playoffs, and without strong starts from Giolito, they are toast. Giolito's ERA is currently sitting at 5.21 on the season, and if that number doesn't at least get below five, chances are Chicago will miss the playoffs. You simply can't earn a playoff spot when one of your best starters is consistently giving up multiple runs with each outing.
Giolito is going to have to rediscover his form as a top-line starter for the White Sox, and fast. There's still time for him and the White Sox to turn things around, but that time is running out.
Giolito is going to find himself pitching in some big games down the stretch for Chicago, and if he does well, they have a decent shot at winning the division. But if he doesn't, the Sox won't stand much of a chance, and there could be some serious questions about his future with the team this upcoming offseason. There's clearly a lot on the line for Giolito over the final month of the season.