Aaron Nola is a very talented pitcher. He is also someone you can never fully trust on the mound. Yesterday was a familiar experience. Aaron Nola cruised through 3 innings. And the bats did their job and gave him a 5-run lead. But then one bad inning chased Nola from the game and blew the big lead. Every pitcher has bad games. But with Nola, it feels like Deja Vu. Many fans immediately flashed back to his performance in the NLCS Game 2, where they gave him a 4-run lead over the Padres, just for him to blow it a few innings later.
Nola had a hell of a season last year. He finished with a 3.25 ERA and 235 strikeouts. And it was Nola who pitched a gem vs the Astros to clinch the playoffs for them. That carried over into his first two outings in the playoffs vs the Cardinals and Braves. But his last 3 playoff performances were nowhere near as pretty. The Padres hit him around. Then he imploded twice vs the Astros.
It puts the Phillies in a tough spot. Nola is a free agent after this season. He is clearly a talented pitcher. But he continually comes up small. It is not even about yesterday. He will probably bounce back from that disaster and have a very good regular season. But unless he shows up in the playoffs, and does not fall apart like last time, how can the Phillies trust him? Especially with the type of money he is apparently asking for.
Jayson Stark joined The Best Show Ever earlier this week and said the two sides were very far apart because Aaron Nola was asking for true Ace-level money.
“They were really far apart. He is looking for $200 million, maybe a lot more than $200 million. The guys who have gotten that money, they are all former Cy Youngs. Stephen Strasburg. That is not what Aaron Nola has done. If you look at all the $200 million starters, he is hard to fit… Either this is going to get really expensive, or he has a chance to be elsewhere.”- Jayson Stark
Zack Wheeler has shown you can trust him in big situations. Ranger Suarez has shown you can trust him in big situations. Has Aaron Nola? There are too many examples of Nola falling apart late in years, or last year in the playoffs. Yesterday’s 4th inning collapse could just be a blip on the radar. But stuff like that happens way too much for him. Nola is still a very talented pitcher. But talented does not always mean great. And until he shows that he can be trusted to not implode, it is going to be very hard for the Phillies to trust him with a big contract. Yesterday was a reminder of that.
Meet The 2023 Phillies (Probable) Opening Day Roster