Phillies 2021 Spring Training Preview: Pitching Staff
Unlike the lineup, the Phillies pitching staff will have a lot of questions coming up this season, especially in the bullpen. In 2020 the starting staff and bullpen were completely different, the Phillies ranked 10th in Starter ERA in 2020 with a 4.08 in 311.0 innings pitched. The bullpen meanwhile was last in baseball with an ERA over 7.
With this situation, Dave Dombrowski made sure the Phillies made upgrades to improve the pitching in 2021. Today we will look at the entire staff heading into 2021.
Phillies ace Aaron Nola
Starting things off with likely opening day starter Aaron Nola, Nola really impressed in 2020 with the second-best season in his career. After a not as good 2019 where he had just a 115 ERA+, 4.03 FIP, and a 3.82 xFIP there were some questions about if Nola could be the ace of the Phillies pitching staff.
In 2020 he answered the question with a 139 ERA+, 3.19 FIP, and a 2.79 xFIP. One of the things that stood out to me for his jump in 2020 from 2019 was that he walked less and struck out more. In 2019 Nola struck out 10.19 batters per 9 innings ranking him in the 72nd percentile, in 2020 that jumped to 12.11 strikeouts per 9 ranking him in the 91st percentile.
With walking fewer guys Nola did a great job of that also. In 2019 Nola was walking 3.56 batters per 9 innings ranking him in just the 30th percentile, in 2020 he lowered his walk rate to 2.90 batters per 9 and ranked in the 57th percentile.
It is a lot easier to be a good pitcher when you strike out more batters and walk less, and that was a big reason for Nola taking a step forward in 2020.
Overall at 27 years old, there is no reason to think Nola can’t get any better and become more like the pitcher we all think he can be, an ace.