Philadelphia Phillies 2021 player grades: Starting rotation

Aug 25, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Phillies RHP Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola was the Phillies’ ace before Wheeler, peaking in 2018 as a Cy Young Award finalist. He pitched like an ace at times this season but struggled mightily in other outings.

Nola had a 9-9 record, 4.63 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, and 223 strikeouts in 32 starts. Consistency was his biggest challenge, often posting opposite performances in back-to-back starts. For instance, he shut out the New York Yankees for 7 2/3 innings in a June game, before giving up six runs in 2 1/3 innings in his following game, against the San Francisco Giants.

More recently, the right-hander gave up only one run in 5 2/3 innings against the New York Mets in a September game, before giving up six runs in six innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Despite the inconsistency, Nola surrendered more than three runs in just 12 starts and pitched five or more innings in 25 starts. He had 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.9 walks per nine innings, similar to Wheeler. It’s the bad outings that really hurt Nola this season.

2021 grade: B-

Philadelphia Phillies RHP Zach Eflin

Zach Eflin emerged as the final part of a “big three” for the Phillies’ rotation in 2020, but an injury cut short his 2021 campaign.

Eflin had a 4-7 record, 4.17 ERA, 1.249 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 18 starts this season. He got off to a strong start, recording a 2.77 ERA in his first four starts, including a pair of seven-inning appearances. But, his ERA crept up to 4.10 by the end of May, including a stretch of four straight losses, where he gave up a combined 14 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings.

The right-handed pitcher looked to be getting back on track, giving up multiple runs in just three of his next six starts entering the All-Star break. In his first game after the break, he lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned). He was later placed on the IL with a kneecap injury, nearly returning in late August before ultimately missing the remainder of the year.

Eflin pitched six or more innings in 14 starts while giving up more than three earned runs in six of his games. He had 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.4 walks per nine innings. Despite the rough stretch, he still had a decent season and looked to play a significant role in the starting rotation before his injury.

2021 grade: B-

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