Storyline #2: Aaron Nola’s Health
Every time I have a discussion about the 2017 version of the Philadelphia Phillies, the question marks surrounding Aaron Nola are inevitably raised from the start. Nola is indisputably one of the most important pieces to the future success of the organization.
Nola’s 2016 season was broken into two extremely different paths. As a matter of fact, there was a stretch when the righty threw 23 consecutive scoreless innings. Throughout his first twelve starts, Nola’s ace-like qualities were brightly shining through with a 2.65 ERA, and an opponent line of .212/.252/.329 over 78 innings pitched.
The hype was real. Phils fans had every reason to believe this was a guy would dominate the National League with his uncanny ability to pinpoint every pitch he had in his repertoire. Then, the next eight starts changed everything.
The Louisiana State University product who walked just 15 batters over the aforementioned impressive stretch, handed out 14 free passes in the next 33 innings he pitched. Opposing hitters? They destroyed Nola in the fashion of the .367/.435/.531 storm. The Phils finally shut him down at the end of July because of a strained elbow.
Fans are banking on the idea that the struggles were a direct result of the elbow discomfort. As Spring slows to an end, Nola promises he feels great. While the numbers this month do not necessarily support that claim, it is something to hope for in 2017.