• Jordan Gonzales

The Breakout Year

Lucas Giolito on the mound during the 2019 MLB All-Star game

Lucas Giolito, a rising American League pitcher looks to build upon an All-Star year in 2019 with the help of Sacramento's best training facility, Optimum Athletes. It has been a long time coming for Giolito who struggled early on in his career, but he has now morphed into one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.

He was selected with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Washington Nationals. On December 7, 2016 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox along with Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton.

In 2016, he finally reached the Majors and recorded a 6.75 ERA (earned run average) over 21.1 IP (innings pitched) for the Washington Nationals.

“By far my biggest challenge was my initial failure at the big league level my debut year in 2016, losing confidence in myself.” He proclaimed.

He would then come back in 2017, now pitching for the Chicago White Sox and throw 45 innings while recording a 2.38 ERA and improving on his previous record of 0-1 in 2016, by going 3-3 in 2017. Little did he know, the worst was yet to come.

Giolito says, “Continuing on my initial path from 2016 through the 2018 season where I was statistically the worst starting pitcher in the league that year, it took a lot of adjustments physically and mentally to overcome that.”

Throughout the 2018 season, Lucas was indeed the worst starting pitcher in the league. He threw 173.1 innings and posted a 6.13 ERA, while recording 10 wins and 13 losses. At this point in his career, critics and fans had to wonder, why is he still in the big leagues? Well, in 2019 he would prove every critic wrong.

In 2019, he threw 176.1 innings while posting a 3.41 ERA and recording 14 wins and 9 losses. He also become an American League All-Star for the first time in his career, and finished 6th in Cy Young award voting.

He finally broke out as a star in the major leagues, yet he acknowledges that he took a long path on the way to his current greatness. Throughout his struggles, he learned how to deal with failure at the highest level.

“I had to learn how to deal with failure in a more constructive way, and I think that was one of the keys in breaking through as a pitcher. Making sure that you maintain confidence in yourself despite bad performances is very important.” He says.

His failure led him to change his delivery drastically, however he believes this was not his most important change.

He says, “I made a bunch of physical changes with my arm action and how I drive down the mound to throw pitches, but the number one thing I changed was my mindset. I went from an unconfident pitcher to a confident pitcher.”

In addition to mental and physical changes, he began training at Optimum Athletes in Sacramento, CA at the end of the 2019 season. Optimum Athletes is a dynamic training environment that creates dynamic athletes. It opened in June of 2018, and was co-founded by former Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus as well as former Vanderbilt Commodore and minor league pitcher, Casey Weathers.

Lucas Giolito training at the late Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy

Optimum Athletes has also partnered with KIME performance physical therapy in order to help athletes stay healthy and recover from injuries.

Giolito opens up about why he came to Optimum stating, “I started training at Optimum because I was doing physical therapy at KIME after experiencing a lat injury at the end of the 2019 season, I reconnected with Ryan Mattheus after spending some time with him on the Nationals back in the day. I love training at Optimum because of the connection between the baseball side and the physical therapy side with KIME.”

Ryan Mattheus says, “There is a marriage between KIME and Optimum, whenever an athlete is injured or experiencing pain they can go see KIME and we can create a plan for the athlete to get healthy again.”

Optimum Athletes has emerged as the leading baseball training facility in Northern California, with multiple Driveline Baseball certified instructors as well as individually crafted workout programs for each client.

Lucas says, “The amount of space and the quality of guys working out there makes for an amazing environment to train.”

For many players old and young, the environment at Optimum provides a consistent routine as well as lifting, mobility, and throwing programs crafted to jump start the development of every athlete.

Lucas chimes in on what sets apart the good from the great by saying, “Consistency sets apart the good from the great. Consistency in routine, preparation and especially confidence. Without consistency there is no progress.”

At Optimum athletes there is a plethora of pro players, top high school prospects and division one baseball players. One day an athlete can be struggling with throwing a change-up, and the next day he can be talking with a pro pitcher about how to improve that pitch.

Receiving advice from experienced guys such as Major League players Lucas Giolito and former big leaguer Ryan Mattheus is a gift that many young players are not fortunate enough to receive.

However at Optimum, every instructor and pro player is an open book and gladly provides advice and instruction to each and every player regardless of their age or skill.

Giolito offers his own advice saying, “My best advice to younger guys is do not be afraid to try something weird or different to elevate your game, if you’re not making improvements and feel stuck as a player it is probably time to look at your routine and see what needs to be changed.”

Whether you are the best player on the field, or the worst, keep in mind that through hard work and analysis of what he could do better, Lucas Giolito went from statistically the worst pitcher in the Major leagues to an All star and Cy young candidate just a season later.

As for the return of baseball, Giolito is ecstatic.

He states, "I am excited for baseball to come back even though it is a shortened season. My main concerns are with the spread of the virus, it is going to take players and staff being very careful, especially when away from the field, to be able to get this whole season in."

For many, the current pandemic has been a source of depression, often times it has been hard to remain optimistic and see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, Giolito has viewed it very differently.

Throughout the pandemic he says, "I have remained optimistic through appreciating the time I get to spend with my wife and pets, but also seeing every day as a day to improve my skill set while not actively playing games."

Seeing every day as an opportunity to improve is the hallmark of every great player, and Giolito proves that he is no exception.

He exclaims, "Put more emphasis on the process rather than immediate results!"

He trusted the process, made physical and mental changes in order to become a better player, and was not afraid to step out of his comfort zone to achieve greatness. The results are evident in his 2019 season, one that he and baseball fans alike will surely never forget.

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