Philadelphia Phillies: Simply put, Aaron Nola has to be better

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

A talking point that has frequently popped up this season, Aaron Nola hasn’t looked his usual self. Whether it’s exiting games early or stringing together multiple bad outings in a row, the Philadelphia Phillies former Ace is on track to have one of the worst seasons of his professional career.

Nola’s ERA currently sits at a 4.44 and his WHIP at a 1.217 – both numbers ranking just below what he posted in 2016 (the worst season of his career from a statistical standpoint).

While a lot has been said in regards to what’s “wrong” with Nola, or if a better defense behind him is the sole issue, the simply reality of the situation is that the Louisiana born right-hander has to start pitching better. His current numbers are more reflective of a #4 four starter than a #1 or a #2, and he’s already cost the Phillies a handful of wins this season.

While Nola is by no means the biggest problem with the Phillies this season, or even one of the leading ones, expectations are undoubtedly higher for a player of his caliber. He entered the year with aspirations of competing for the NL Cy Young Award, and is instead battling to keep his ERA under 4.00.

The odd part with Nola is that it’s becoming harder and harder to pinpoint what exactly is ailing the 28 year old. His strikeout numbers are still above average, his velocity and “stuff” are consistent, and he appears to be healthy. For reasons unknown, Nola is simply giving up more base hits and more home runs compared to his previous seasons.

While the defense argument is an inherently valid one, it’s quickly becoming an excuse which falls upon deaf ears. Zack Wheeler – who’s currently in line to be the Philadelphia Phillies lone All-Star this season – has been able to navigate around a shaky defense, and Nola’s FIP has been steadily climbing over the past few weeks. At some point, a sense of responsibility does fall on the pitcher to induce less hard contact, in turn making life easier on the defense.

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As things currently stand, Nola has an ERA greater than that of Vince Velasquez and former Phillies teammate Nick Pivetta, which is obviously not something I expected to be typing here in early July. He’s been knocked out of a game prior to the sixth inning on nine different occasions, including a 2.1 meltdown against the SF Giants where he allowed six earned runs.

Currently possessing a 4.44 ERA, Philadelphia Phillies RHP Aaron Nola has to find a way to improve moving forward.

While the 2021 season is all but over for the Phillies at this point in time, Aaron Nola still plays a beyond crucial role in this team’s plans moving forward. He’s undoubtedly going to be on the roster by the time 2022 rolls around, and the organization is once again going to expect big things from him. With a 2024 free agency status looming overhead for Nola, pressure has never been greater on him than it is right now.

By no means is Nola a lost cause, in fact my guess is that he’ll slowly figure things back out as the season progresses. However, the overarching point remains the same. Nola has to be better, or the Philadelphia Phillies are royally screwed.

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