Phillies starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin
Aaron Nola has been in the Phillies starting rotation for his entire major-league career. He made his debut with the club in July 2015 and has a career 3.58 ERA over 157 games, all starts.
Overall this season, Nola – like many pitchers on the staff – has been a liability for his team. The best thing you can say about him is that he goes out to the mound and eats innings; he’s thrown at least five innings in 14 of his 18 starts, including a complete-game shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 18. That was a high point in a season in which Nola has struggled to keep runs off the board.
Including the game against the Cardinals, Nola has only made three scoreless starts this season. He has allowed at least three earned runs in 11 of 18. It’s not that his strikeout numbers aren’t there; he has four double-digit strikeout games, and has struck out seven or more batters in 11 games.
Nola has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season, but he’s averaging a run every 1.9 innings. Opponents are hitting .254/.304/.424 against him with a .727 OPS. He’s also far more comfortable pitching at home: a 3.56 ERA in eight games in Philadelphia, versus a 5.40 ERA in 10 road games.
His MLB record-tying start against the Mets bumps his grade up a bit, but overall, the Phillies need more from Nola.
Midseason Grade: B-
Eflin is another Phillies lifer (so far), now in his sixth season in red pinstripes. He and his fellow Zachary in the rotation have thrown more innings than anyone in the rotation, though Wheeler has obviously been more effective.
But kudos go to Eflin, who has lowered his ERA every year since 2017. Like his team as a whole, Eflin has had an up-and-down season. He started strong, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in his first start, but promptly gave up four earned runs in his next. Since April 27, his ERA has ranged from 3.38 to 4.39; he didn’t have a scoreless start until his most recent one, on Thursday.
Overall, Eflin hasn’t been the worst pitcher in the rotation, but he could be a lot better. He goes deep enough into games; he’s thrown six or more innings in 14 of his 17 games. Unfortunately, with the state of the Phillies bullpen, Eflin needs to be better at limiting runs before handing the ball over to a pen that leads MLB with 22 blown saves. The Phillies have won seven of his 17 starts, and those were all games in which he allowed two earned runs or less.
Eflin has the second-best ERA in the rotation and has been more consistent of late. Over his last three starts, he has a 1.50 ERA and has only allowed three earned runs over 18 innings. He’s also walked a shockingly-low 14 batters all year, the best in the rotation, and better than many of the bullpen arms who’ve pitched far fewer innings. Closer Hector Neris has walked 16 batters over 32 2/3 innings, for example.
Midseason Grade: B-