Phillies RHP Aaron Nola deserves a chance to shine in the season’s final weeks.
It’s officially September 1 — which means the last full month of the Philadelphia Phillies regular season. September also marks a time when Aaron Nola has been known to struggle.
However, statistically, he isn’t all that bad. After his recent loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, many fans began to think that the dreaded “September Nola” may have made an early arrival. He surrendered eight runs in just four innings. With a curveball that looked flat, Nola told reporters:
"“I’ll have to go back and look. The curveball [to McCarthy] kind of hung up there a little bit. I think he might have just guessed right on the fastball.”"
While Phillies fans hoped to see the dominant Nola that has been on the mound often this season, many can’t forget his past September slumps.
There is a reason to be skeptical of Nola’s end-of-season performance. In a month-by-month breakdown, his career ERA is 4.60 for September and October — his highest of any span. Yet, Nola’s 11.5 K/9 rate in those months is the highest compared to other months. This suggests that the right-hander does still have “good stuff” late in the season after all.
June has also not been very kind to Nola in his career — yet it is not really discussed. Nola’s ERA that month (4.42) is just a few points better than September/October’s. His career 10.2 K/9 rate in June is still good, but a bit lower than the aforementioned 11.5 rate.
It would be beneficial for Phillies fans to note that Nola still is in the top 10 in WAR for pitchers — 4.6 WAR. He also has a 3.43 ERA on the season — with a 10.1 K/9 rate. While Nola can have ace-like performances, he is always going to have a few poor outings.
Even though Nola has had poor late-season performances in past seasons, there is data to suggest that he may be unlucky and that he struggles in the summer months at times as well.
As the Phillies have been in postseason contention the last few seasons — and ultimately came up short — Nola’s late-season struggles have been a focal point. Fans should give him a chance and realize that he does have the potential to be a top pitcher in a playoff hunt, and not a pitcher who will collapse as soon as the calendar hits September 1.