We need to talk about Aaron Nola’s Cy Young-caliber season

Jun 18, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws to the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws to the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aaron Nola is quietly having a Cy Young-caliber season.

The longtime Philadelphia Phillies pitcher looks nothing like he did in 2021, and that’s a very good thing. Last season, only three of his 32 starts were eight innings or deeper; dating back to May 26, he’s gone eight or more innings three times in his last five starts. On Saturday, he dazzled in DC, blanking the Nationals for eight innings, striking out eight, and only issuing one walk. The stellar performance lowered his ERA to 3.11.

Coming into Saturday, Nola led all MLB pitchers in K/BB and the National League in WHIP, walks per nine, and K/BB. He’s second in strikeouts, third in innings pitched, fifth in strikeouts per nine, and10th in pitcher WAR.

In other words, Nola doesn’t just deserve your All-Star votes; he deserves to be in the NL Cy Young conversation.

Of course, Nola has some in-house competition for the game’s most prestigious pitching award. Zack Wheeler, who finished runner-up in NL Cy Young voting last season, has a 2.69 ERA over 12 starts and leads the NL with a 2.32 FIPI and 0.4 HR/9.

Will the Phillies extend Aaron Nola or will he become a free agent?

The 29-year-old righty is one of the Phillies’ rare homegrown pitching talents. He was their first-round pick in 2014, debuted on July 21, 2015, and has spent eight years in a Phillies uniform. He finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2018 (and was an All-Star) and seventh in 2020. He’s been excellent throughout much of his career, but like the team he pitches for, struggles with consistency.

2022 is the final guaranteed year of Nola’s 4-year, $45M contract, but the Phillies have a $16M club option for 2023, which is an absolute steal, considering it’s only half a million more than they’re paying him this season. The way he’s pitching, don’t be surprised if the Phillies turn that option into an extension.