Battery Mates: Giolito-McCann Pairing a Special Combination

Baseball can be an intense series of ups and downs with many triumphs along the journey. One of those triumphs took place Tuesday evening in front of cardboard fans at Guaranteed Rate Field. Chicago White Sox right-hand pitcher Lucas Giolito pitched his first MLB no-hitter in a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In winter of 2016, the White Sox traded their ace Chris Sale to Boston and shortly after made another trade sending Adam Eaton to the United States’ Capitol. The Eaton trade included three young pitchers in Giolito, Reynaldo López, and Dane Dunning. All these young prospects had the potential to join the Sox rotation and maybe eventually become their ace.

Lucas Giolito was a late August call-up after spending a majority of 2017 in the minors. There, he showed glimpses of success which included a no-hitter. On May 25, 2017, Giolito and his 6.41 ERA was pitching for the Charlotte Knights on the road against Syracuse Chiefs. He pitched a seven-inning no-hitter with three walks and three strikeouts while throwing 50 of his 87 pitches for strikes.

After being called-up, in just his second start, he got his first win after tossing seven scoreless innings with three walks and four strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers. Through those first seven outings, Giolito looked like a strong contender to be the new Sox ace after posting a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 innings.

Unfortunately, 2018 was somewhat of a disaster for Giolito after making the starting rotation out of Spring Training. In 32 starts, he went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA, 90 walks, and 125 strikeouts. Statistically, he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball that season. His ERA was the highest among qualified pitchers and he also led baseball in earned runs (118), walks (90), walks per nine innings (4.67), WHIP (1.48), and left on-base percentage (63.5%). He also hit 15 batters, threw 13 wild pitches, and allowed 27 home runs which got him on a few not-so-wanted leaderboards.

Giolito stepped into the 2019 season ready to pitch and kept his past in the past. He finished the year going 14-9 in 29 starts with a 3.41 ERA, just 57 walks, and 228 strikeouts. He was the league leader for complete games (3) and shutouts (2). Giolito also had a few other career-bests which included 2.9 walks per nine innings and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He even earned himself an All-Star Game honor. He went from being if not the worst, one of the worst pitchers in 2018, to one of the best in 2019.

Giolito just about solidified himself as a top of the rotation guy in 2019 and was granted that opportunity. His first start, he gave up four runs in the first and seven total. He would go on to string together some solid starts but had another a tough time in the first. As of late, nothing seems to phase him though and it showed Tuesday night.

From the start, Giolito was rocking early and so was the Sox offense. Through the first three innings, Sox took the lead and Giolito tossed just 33 pitches with no one reaching base. He allowed his only base runner after throwing four straight balls to Erik Gonzalez to open the fourth inning. That was the only blemish on the stat line for Giolito.

Giolito would go on to toss nine no-hit innings while giving up just the one walk and striking out 13 Pirates. It was the most strikeouts by a Sox pitcher in a no-hitter (via @ckamka).

He threw 101 pitches which 74 were for strikes and had an impressive 30 whiffs in the process. He did not throw more than 14 pitches in any of the innings.

His no-hitter was the 19th in White Sox history and the first since Philip Humber‘s Perfect Game on April 21, 2012, against the Seattle Mariners.

There seems to be a consensus about no-hitters being just as much as of accomplishment for the pitcher but also as a team accomplishment. Giolito was vocal about the help his teammates gave him in the postgame chat with White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti and Steve Stone. He even gave a shout out to Tim Anderson and Pito (Jose Abreu) for the play in the seventh innings.

Giolito added some praise for his catcher as well. He said, “I shook off James once tonight. He [James McCann] deserves this just as much as I do.”

After this performance and that statement by Giolito, there is no denying the connection they have and the success it brings this 2020 White Sox ballclub.

Battery Mates

Meriam-Webster defines battery mates as “a fellow member of a baseball batterythe catcher who is paired with a pitcher or the pitcher who is paired with a catcher.” This season, the Sox have Zack Collins, Yasmani Grandal, and James McCann who are all catchers.

White Sox battery mates have been a common discussion surrounding the team so far this season. To some, it is unclear who should catch when and with what pitchers while others have rather strong opinions on this topic. A common critique has been that a professional pitcher should be able to make it work no matter the catcher on that given day.

Maybe there is some truth to that but in the case of the Chicago White Sox and the current data available, the Sox should find a way to keep James McCann and make sure these battery mates are paired for each Giolito start.

During his White Sox career, Giolito has been caught by five catchers and no pairing has had the same success as Giolito-McCann.

This season, Ricky Renteria has had Yasmani Grandal catch four of Giolito’s starts. In those starts, Giolito had allowed more runs, hits, extra-base hit total bases, walks, and hit by pitches while striking out a lot fewer batters. He’s posted a 5.66 ERA in those 20.2 innings.

When it comes to McCann catching in 2020, he does not just do better, he does exceptionally better. He has a 0.78 ERA in 23 innings (three starts) while giving up just two runs, seven hits, seven walks, and zero hit by pitches. He also has 35 strikeouts in these games. His K/BB ratio is over double that of when Grandal catches. Giolito with McCann has also limited batters to a 0.95 average and .308 OPS compared to a .263 average and a .767 OPS in games caught by Grandal.

This is not just the case this season but historically for Giolito and McCann. McCann has caught the most Giolito starts at 32. Their numbers in just about every stat category are better than any other with Giolito. In these starts, Giolito has a 3.11 ERA (69 ER/199.2 IP), 263 strikeouts, 4.11 K/BB ratio, a .193 batting average, and a .611 OPS.

This should speak volumes. Maybe Renteria and the Sox organization are catching on, at least they should be. McCann becomes a free-agent at the end of the season and teams will be on the phones immediately once the season concludes.

Money is the main issue in this case and hopefully, the White Sox look deeper into keeping James McCann because he has shown to be a solid producer in the batting order but also for the pitching staff especially the guy off his first MLB no-hitter, Mr. Lucas Giolito.

Featured Photo: Matt Marton / Associated Press

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