Aaron Nola’s inconsistency in 2021 was a microcosm of an overall Phillies’ problem
The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2021 season with high hopes at the front of the rotation with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. While Wheeler was stellar just about all season, Nola’s season was somewhat out of The Twilight Zone.
Let’s run down Nola’s inconsistent, to say the least, 2021 campaign. He started the season with three quality starts out of six in April, including a two-hit shutout over the Cardinals in which he struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter. Nola finished the month with a 2-1 record with an ERA of 3.11.
May opened with another solid effort for Nola, as he allowed only a run and five hits in six innings against the Brewers. He closed the month allowing only a run on two hits in six innings against the Marlins. Sandwiched in between were three less than mediocre performances in which Nola allowed 12 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings. All told, Nola ended the month with a win, three losses, and a 4.55 ERA.
Nola had his finest moment of the season in June, but also his worst month overall this season. He dominated the Yankees and Mets, allowing no runs and five hits in 13 innings combined, striking out 21 and walking two. In 5 1/3 innings in Nola’s start against the Mets on June 25, Nola tied Tom Seaver for the most consecutive strikeouts in a game with 10.
Nola improved to 6-5 with a win over the Cubs in his first start in July, despite allowing four earned runs in six innings. After getting knocked around by the Yankees in his next start, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings, Nola finished July strong with a win and only three earned runs allowed over 14 2/3 innings. Nola entered August with a 7-6 record and 4.30 ERA.
Over his next eight starts, Nola went 0-2 and made it out of the sixth innings only once. His record after a loss on September 7th was a very unexpected 7-8. Although Nola won two of his last three starts, he 10 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings.
For those that didn’t see Nola pitch and looked at some of the raw statistics, they would be surprised that he went just 9-9 with a 4.63 ERA. After all, he struck out 223 in 180 2/3 innings, had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career of 5.7, and allowed only 165 hits. The problem is that a large number of those hits seemingly came with two outs and runners in scoring position. Simply put, in crunch time, Nola often didn’t deliver, raising his ERA and costing him chances to win games.
Nola had some solid numbers and at times was still dominating, but the good moments were too few and far between.