General manager Rick Hahn has said since SoxFest that the 2019 season will be judged more on the progress and development of young, core players than it will be on the number of games the White Sox end up winning.
Well, consider Sunday's loss to the visiting Oakland Athletics a perfect encapsulation.
Well, maybe not a perfect one, with the White Sox bats effectively silenced by former White Sox hurler Chris Bassitt. But Lucas Giolito, one of those young, core players, was excellent. He struck out 13 batters to set a new career high in that category and owns a 3.42 ERA in this All-Star season. He's transformed himself from the guy with baseball's highest ERA a season ago to the ace of this White Sox staff.
That's the kind of positive progression that outweighs a loss in another rebuilding season that will end without a chase for a playoff spot.
The White Sox have seen a good deal of that kind of progression lately from its young starting pitchers. Giolito's been doing it all season, obviously, but Reynaldo Lopez is in the midst of a second-half renaissance and Dylan Cease is coming off two of his better starts as a big leaguer.
There's a great deal of focus on what pitcher or pitchers the White Sox might add to the rotation this offseason — and Hahn has made no secret about the fact that the team will be shopping for starting pitching — but the majority of the 2020 rotation is developing right before fans' eyes. And with how they're performing of late, there should be a great deal of confidence that the White Sox starting-pitching fortunes will be much better next season and in the seasons after that than they've been in 2019.
"I think that in the future we can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball," Giolito said after Sunday's game. "You look at the raw stuff we all have, it's there. It's just a matter of continuing to build confidence, gain experience and at the end of the day, just going out there and executing.
"It's all part of the growing and learning process at this level. For me, I'm really happy to see what Reynaldo's done the second half. He took it upon himself after the first half he had and said, 'This isn't going to happen anymore, I'm better than this.' And he's been showing that. Dylan's learning from each and every outing, getting better and better and better commanding.
"It's great to see. I think with more time and experience, we're just going to continue to get better and better."
Hahn has made it clear that the 2020 rotation will not be entirely homegrown. But four of the five spots figure to be locked up by homegrown guys, pitchers who have been long hyped since arriving in various rebuild-launching trades. Giolito and Lopez both came over from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Adam Eaton following the 2016 season. Dylan Cease was acquired in the midseason Crosstown trade with the Cubs in 2017.