Who is now the ace of the Phillies rotation: Jake Arrieta or Aaron Nola?

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 21: Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on April 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 21: Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on April 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies have a problem they haven’t dealt with in years: who do we label as the team’s “ace” with two great pitchers on board?

Starting pitching has been a huge problem for the Phillies in recent years. After trading Cole Hamels and losing Cliff Lee to injury problems, their rotation has been a patchwork of journeymen and rookies trying to find their way. From 2015 to 2017 Philadelphia’s starters have the fourth-highest ERA (4.81) and sixth-highest fielding-independent pitching (4.60).

However, things are finally starting to change for them this year. As of Sunday, their starters have the third-highest fWAR (3.1), fourth-lowest ERA (3.02), fifth-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.79), and eighth-lowest WHIP (1.14).

Much of this change has been spearheaded by two pitchers: Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola. The two have been among some of the best pitchers in the league so far this year.

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Nola has been the team’s unofficial ace the last two years. He has been tremendous so far this year. He has a 2.30 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through his first five starts. Even when at his worst, Nola has not allowed more than two runs in any start this year.  His 1.2 wins above replacement are fifth among National League pitchers. Meanwhile, his WHIP is tenth among NL pitchers.

Nola is coming off the best start of his season Saturday night against the Pirates.

He struck out nine without walking anyone in seven innings, picking up his second win of the year.

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Arrieta is also coming off the best start of his season so far. Thursday against Pittsburgh, he racked up 10 strikeouts in seven one-hit, shutout innings. That brought his season ERA to 2.04, which would rank 21st in the league if he qualified. His WHIP of 0.962 is second only to Nola’s on the team.

With Nola and Arrieta both off to great starts, it begs the question: who is the team’s “ace”? Both have been amazing this year, and having two star pitchers is a lot better than having none. For all the problems this team has dealt with, this is a good one to have.

Nola is still young and in his prime, while Arrieta is 32 years old. However, Arrieta has the better track record.

His experience on a playoff team that could become quite valuable if Philadelphia keeps playing this way.

Next: Milner to AAA as Hunter recovers from hamstring

Ultimately, who the team’s “ace” is doesn’t really matter. Nola and Arrieta are the team’s top two pitchers and among the better one-two punches in the league. In a playoff series, Gabe Kapler should be very confident handing the ball off to either of those two players.

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