Phillies Need Aaron Nola to Show the Form of Last Season

by Marc Narducci; Photo Marc Narducci | Apr 24, 2019
Phillies Need Aaron Nola to Show the Form of Last Season
The Phillies have gotten off to a quick start this season and one of the encouraging signs is that they have done so without No. 1 starter Aaron Nola finding his form in the early going.
Last year Nola was one of the best pitchers in baseball when he became a first-time all-star and finished third in the National League Cy Young voting.
Nola went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. He had a 0.975 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and his ERA+ was 175. That puts the ERA adjusted to the player’s ballpark. That meant he was 75 percent better than the average pitcher.
This year has been a different story. In assessing a pitcher, his won-loss record is often deceiving and that has been the case with Nola
This year he is 2-0 but has a bloated 6.84 ERA after earning the win in Saturday’s 8-5 victory at Colorado.
Nola has yet to find his command and is throwing too many pitches outside the strike zone. In his first five starts, he threw just 25 innings. The Phillies need more than five innings per start from their ace. In fact they need more than that even from a fifth starter.
Nola is still striking out batters at a good rate with 28 (compared to 12 walks) in 25 innings. He has a 2.33 strike-to-walk ratio, which is down from last year when it was 3.86.
In Saturday’s win there were some encouraging signs, including having nine strikeouts and just one walk in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three earned runs.
The fact that he didn’t last at least six innings, even though he was pitching in arguably the top hitting park, Coors Field, shows that is where Nola must make his biggest improvement. Nola departed after throwing 97 pitches.
This year the longest he has gone in a start has been 6 1/3 innings. With the Phillies bullpen showing early season inconsistency, Nola will have to go deeper into games.
Last year he pitched seven or more innings 15 times.
Nola should be just hitting his prime. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 MLB first-year player draft out of LSU, Nola turns 26 in June.
Sometimes when a pitcher is struggling, there could be fear of an injury. One way to tell that there might be something wrong is if there is a deep dip in velocity.
Yet Nola hasn’t had much of a drop and it’s common early in the year, especially while pitching in colder weather, for a pitcher’s velocity to be down.
According to, Nola’s fastball has averaged 92.9 miles per hour. Last year his fastball averaged 93.3, so the drop this year isn’t significant.
The game Saturday was a step in the right direction for Nola, but he still has a way to go in order to pitch up to the level of his outstanding 2018 season.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci


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