In a game sure to go down in the annals of history—the annals maintained by those whose interests draw them to the least important and most irrelevant matches across the world of sport—the Kansas City Royals will inaugurate a five-game set with the Chicago White Sox. The Royals possess a 5-17 record. The Pale Hose own a 5-16 record. If the world were just, there would at least exist the possibility that neither team ended up winning one or more of the tilts from this quintet of games.
This game pits the one-time high-profile prospect Lucas Giolito against the largely unheralded prospect Jakob Junis. Giolito has amassed 86.2 innings of major-league experience over the past three seasons. Junis has totaled 125.0 frames since first getting promoted last year. Giolito’s breaking ball was considered one of the best pitches of any pitching prospect as he held down top 10 spots on prospect lists. That curveball induced Pavlovian salivation with Nationals and then White Sox fans. Junis’s breaking ball—something that lives in the nebulous fantastical realm between the fabled “slider” and the storied “charlie” but arguably gets lumped in with the former—wasn’t the stuff of legend as he quietly ascended the ranks through the Royals’ farm system, but it has been the key to his success in his short major-league career.
The other key to both Giolito’s undoing and Junis’s thriving has been their relationship to the free pass. Giolito cannot seem to stay away from them while Junis appears to be allergic to them.
Junis has been worth 1.2 fWAR and 2.6 rWAR while Giolito has scuffled his way to -0.4 fWAR and 0.4 rWAR over their fledgling careers. Junis’s ERA and DIPS over that time? 3.82 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 4.73 xFIP, and 4.41 SIERA. Giolito’s? 4.98 ERA, 6.08 FIP, 5.69 xFIP, 5.63 SIERA. If you asked virtually anyone in 2016 which pitcher’s numbers would look like these around the beginning of May in 2018, they’d surely have reversed the two résumés.
The pair squaring off tonight sure look like they are on trajectories in opposite directions from one another, hurlers passing one another as one ascends and the other descends. Though both franchises dwell in the cellar per the standings, they too are heading in opposite directions. Despite their win-loss record, the Pale Hoes are on an upward trajectory in the big picture. The Royals are not.
This game? Probably not going to be a WAR.