It’s far from a secret that the most glaring Philadelphia Phillies weakness last season was their bullpen. Although the team addressed some of its needs through the offseason, a strong starting rotation will limit the uncertainties that may remain.
That starts from the top with Aaron Nola. What can we expect from the 27-year-old?
Predicting how Aaron Nola will fare in his seventh season with the Phillies
The seventh overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Nola went 12-11 with a 4.30 ERA over his first two seasons with the Phillies. He was on the brink of being an All-Star in 2017, after winning 12 games with an ERA of 3.54 and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Nola entered the next level in 2018, posting a record of 17-6 with an ERA of 2.37. He allowed only 141 hits in 212 1/3 innings, while striking out 224. Nola’s efforts earned him third-place votes for the National League Cy Young Award.
Nola couldn’t match his 2018 success the following year, as his ERA finished just a shade under four at 3.87. Much of his relatively elevated ERA was due to an increased walk total and trouble keeping the ball in the park. However, he started 34 games and set a career-high in strikeouts for a season with 229.
In 2020, Nola struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings and allowed only 54 hits in 71 1/3 innings. Although Nola’s record was a mediocre 5-5, his ERA dropped to 3.28. Heading into this season, the Phillies hope to see the Nola that nearly won the Cy Young Award in 2018.
It’s difficult to envision Nola approaching the 2.37 ERA, considering it is nearly a full run lower than his next lowest season ERA. Nevertheless, Nola is a workhorse who should approach 200 innings pitched with more than 200 strikeouts.
With an improved bullpen that is more capable of allowing less inherited runners, equating to more holds, Nola’s win total could approach that of 2018. A season that gets Nola in the conversation for Cy Young Award is not out of the question.