Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola must be a true ace in 2020

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Once the MLB season finally gets underway, Aaron Nola will have to be lights out for the Philadelphia Phillies to have a real shot in 2020.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies and the 2020 MLB season. We don’t know when it will start, how many games will be played, or even how the baseball itself will perform after 2019’s historic juicing.

But there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty:  Aaron Nola has to be excellent for the Phillies to have any kind of chance at success this year. It was already the case before the current situation, and the abbreviated schedule will only serve to heighten its importance.

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If we have a 110-game season, for example, each game just got more important, its results magnified in the overall standings of this relative sprint of a year, as least in baseball terms. Nobody will be making 30 starts, so it’s incumbent upon the best pitchers in the league (a group which may or may not include Aaron Nola) to give their clubs absolute maximum performance for the 20 or 25 games that they’ll pitch this regular season.

Think about the Aaron Nola of 2018, then go a step further. He was dominant that year, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA while striking out 224 batsmen in 212.1 innings pitched. He’d basically need a repeat of those numbers (or at least the ratios, because he won’t reach that win or strikeout total in a truncated season). But putting up those kinds of stats in 2020 will be a bigger task than anything he’s faced, thanks to the offensive explosion around baseball.

It’s anybody’s guess if baseball will continue to be the affair of nothing but strikeouts and home runs that it was in 2019, but no matter where it settles, Nola has to be among the best starters in the league, both in raw numbers and the old optics test where any observer can tell he’s in the zone just by watching him pitch, final stats aside.

But what about if we get a repeat of his respectable but far from dominant 2019? Well, then you can book another Phillies-less postseason. Even in a short year, this Phillies team is just too thin to make any noise without their best hurler at the top of his game.

Ultimately, Nola can’t do it alone and he’s going to need some help from Zach Wheeler and the rest of the Phillies’ rotation to make things happen for the team this season. And even then, a winning record and playoff spot aren’t guaranteed. But the Phillies might as well pack it in right now if Nola is going to have anything other than a great season. He has to be a stud and match the likes of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom this year. He has to be a clear difference maker whenever he has an opportunity to toe the rubber.

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It’s the only way that the Phils can realistically rise above the fray when we start playing meaningful baseball in 2020, whenever that may be.