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PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 13: Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies tips his cap to the crowd after being removed from the game in the top of the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park on June 13, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Yankees 7-0.

By Dylan MacKinnon

Back on June 21st, the MLB officially started enforcing the foreign substance ban. In a unrelated twist, ERAs have spiked since then, and spin rates across the MLB are down. But how has it impacted the Phillies starters? Lets look at how each Phillies starter fared before and after the sticky stuff crackdown, and then draw wild conclusions from those still limited sample sizes.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler has been among the best pitchers in the MLB this year. he is 8th in ERA, 1st in innings pitched, 2nd in strikeouts, and oh yea, tied for 1st in the league in WAR with Fernando Tatis JR. He has a genuine case for Cy Young, especially with Jacob DeGrom still dealing with injuries. But has he seen a fall off since the ban on sticky stuff? Lets look at the numbers.

If it has affected him, it hasn’t done it that much. His ERA is under 3 in that time thanks to his strong start Friday Night. He has had a couple shaky starts in that time, but overall he has still been very good.

Aaron Nola

Here is where it gets a bit complicated, because the numbers I am about to show you are not pretty. Let me make it clear I am not accusing Nola of having been dependent on sticky stuff to pitch well. I am simply presenting the numbers from before and after that crackdown, and we can make of them what we will.

Because he missed time on the Covid list, Nola has only had 4 starts since the crackdown. So it is a small sample size. But it is a ugly sample as well. In 3 of these starts he gave up at least 4 earned runs, and he has gotten to 7 innings in none of them. To be fair, his start just before the ban was terrible as well, giving up 6 runs and failing to get out of the 3rd inning. And he was having a down year overall. So maybe his issue is not the ban on foreign substances. But something is causing him to pitch poorly lately.

*Update*- Aaron Nola gave up only 1 run over 8 and 2/3 innings vs the Braves, and his ERA since June 21st is now 4.8. 

Zach Eflin

Eflin is another pitcher whose limited sample size makes it hard to draw conclusions. He has been on the injured list lately, and like Nola has only had 4 starts since the ban started. But in his case, the sample we do have puts him in a good light. He reached 6 innings and gave up two or less runs in 3 of those starts. Here are his numbers.

His last start before going to the Injured list was ugly, but that may have been caused by the injury that is now causing him to miss time. He was very solid in the 3 starts directly after the MLB crackdown. So at least thus far, it does not appear he has been impacted at all by the new rules.

Vincent Velasquez

We are back to the ugly, but in this case, I actually don’t think it has anything to do with the ban on foreign substance. Rather this may be a case of Vinny V. just falling back into what he has always been after playing above his talents earlier in the year.

He has a career 4.82 ERA. Last year his ERA was 5.56.  This year now it is 5.54. This is just who he is. So I have a hard time attributing to his recent poor play on the new rules. It is far more likely he was over performing in May when his ERA was under 3, and this is him falling back to Earth.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore hilariously has been better in the post sticky stuff era. Not necessarily good, but better. To be fair it is hard to be much worse than he was to start the season. But since he returned to the rotation he has been about what you expect from a 5th starter. Here are his numbers.

So if he was using the sticky stuff, it wasn’t helping. And it is not yet hurting him that they banned it.

Conclusion

So what can we determine from these numbers? Is it fair to infer that because Nola’s number have gotten worse since that ban that he was using it? Maybe, maybe not. All we can do for now is look at the raw numbers, which do not paint a pretty picture. Perhaps today he can go out there vs the Braves and redeem himself. But for now, all we can do is see how poorly he has pitched in July and jump to perhaps unfair conclusions about him.