Will Phillies aces Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler split the Cy Young voting?
Phillies starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are both earning Cy Young votes
If Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler keep pitching the way they’ve been over the first three months of the season, they’ll each get National League Cy Young votes come fall.
The Philadelphia Phillies pitchers have been two of the best in the game this season, with Nola leading the NL with a 1.2 BB/9, and leading MLB with an 8.36 SO/W, by far the best of his eight-year career. Wheeler has a 2.66 ERA over 15 starts and won NL Pitcher of the Month in May.
Among all NL pitchers, Wheeler and Nola outdo one another in various categories. Nola is fourth in pitcher WAR; Wheeler is seventh. Nola is only 0.033 points ahead of Wheeler in K/9, ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Wheeler’s 2.49 FIP is second-best, Nola’s 2.94 is fourth. Wheeler’s ERA and ERA+ are eighth-best in the league and his HR/9 is third; Nola doesn’t crack the top-10 in either metric.
Last year, Nola wasn’t even close to worthy of a single vote and Wheeler was snubbed. The Cy Young isn’t supposed to be an ERA contest, but that’s exactly what it was, because aside from Corbin Burnes’ 2.43 ERA being 35 points lower than Wheeler’s, the Phillies ace out-pitched him. Wheeler led MLB in innings pitched, batters faced, complete games, and shutouts, and led the NL in strikeouts. More importantly, Wheeler was the better pitcher on the team with the most unreliable bullpen in baseball, whereas Burnes had the protection of the best arm barn in the game. The Brewers could protect Burnes’ stat line with relief pitching, while Wheeler led MLB in innings pitched and complete games because he had to. Wheeler had no backup in the Phillies pen; he threw over 46 innings more than Burnes last season.
Wheeler’s slow start to the season hurts him this year, especially compared to last season, when he was the first pitcher in MLB to reach 200 innings, and finished the season leading all pitchers in that category. Nola’s inconsistency, while vastly improved from last year, hurts him. He’s going deeper into games this season, but still giving up too many earned runs, with at least four earned runs allowed in five of his 16 starts; Wheeler has allowed four or more runs only twice in 15 games and has five shutout starts to Nola’s three.
At this point in the season, Nola has an edge over his teammate, but not by much. He’s gone deeper into games, struck out more batters, and been the more complete pitcher. But don’t be surprised if they each get some votes this fall.