One of the major problems the Phillies are facing going forward is Aaron Nola. All season long he has not looked right. His ERA is 4.39, up from 3.25 last year. And even though last year’s Nola occasionally shows up, it is always followed up with another bad start. Leaving fans wondering how much they can trust him going forward. If Aaron Nola was starting in a win or go home playoff game how confident would you feel right now? There would probably be a lot of nervous fans in town.
So what is wrong? Well the main issue, is all those HRs he is giving up. Last year Nola gave up 19 HRs. This year he has already given up 21 in 19 starts. To give some insight into what is going wrong with him, Jayson Stark joined The Best Show Ever. Here is what he had to say.
“It is obviously a problem. If you were going to ask me the difference between Aaron Nola 2022, and Aaron Nola 2023, doesn’t it come down to all the balls he left over the plate that turned into somebodies’ homerun trot? 60% of the runs he has allowed this year has come on all of those home runs. If he had a HR rate like last year, then he is having pretty close to the same year.”
The weird part is otherwise, Aaron Nola is not giving out many more hits. He was giving up 5.25 hits per game last year. This season it is 5.36. His BAA only went from .219 to .228. Those numbers should translate to a similar ERA. But when those hits he does allow all go 400 feet, it causes problems. The curve ball in particular has caused Nola problems. Here is what Jayson Stark said about Nola’s issue with the curve.
“The average against his curve ball this year is .218, last year it was .219. But he only gave up 4 HRs on that pitch all last season, he has already given up 8 this year at the All-Star Break. Do the math. Look, he has to be better in the 2nd half better period. He has to be more consistent, and he has to keep the ball in the park. I keep thinking he will. Because he has a couple hundred million reasons to do that. “
His walk rate is also up. Last year he gave out just 29 free passes. This year it is already up to 30. So when you are giving out more fee passes, and serving up more homeruns, it makes sense that his ERA has inflated so much. The only question is will he fix it? They kind of need him to. Part of the problem in the World Series was how poorly he pitched. The Phillies hopes partly rely on their rotation coming together. Ranger Suarez and Taijuan Walker have most done their part. But Aaron Nola, and even Zack Wheeler, have not. And if they are not pitching like Aces, can they win a series vs the Braves or another elite team? It feels unlikely.
You can listen to the full conversation with Jayson Stark below: