Phillies 2024 Season Preview: RHP Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola is entering 2024 with a new long-term contract, and after an inconsistent 2023, he's projected to fare better this season.

Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The next player in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview Series is right-handed starter Aaron Nola.

Previous season previews: José AlvaradoAndrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake CaveDylan CoveySeranthony Domínguez, Darick Hall, Kolby Allard, Bryce Harper, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering, Rafael Marchán, Brandon Marsh, Yunior Marté, Diego Castillo, Michael Mercado, McKinley Moore, Max Castillo, Nick Nelson

We'll start with a look back at Nola's 2023 performance and then examine how effective he will be this season using the popular Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Aaron Nola 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 32 G, 193.2 IP, 12-9 record, 4.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 202 SO, 45 BB, 3.9 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 32 G, 195 IP, 13-10 record, 3.81 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 201 SO, 44 BB, 4.2 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 32 G, 195 IP, 13-9 record, 3.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 203 SO, 39 BB, 5.3 fWAR

Aaron Nola 2024 season preview

Nola will be a vital part of a very talented Phillies rotation. He will likely improve on some of his lackluster numbers from 2023. The biggest issue for the 30-year-old was his tendency to surrender the long ball last season. By the end of the season, Nola seemed to find his groove. If his performance aligns with his Steamer and ZiPS DC projections, the club will be happy.

Both Steamer and ZiPS DC project Nola's ERA to decrease, his strikeout totals to be around his career average, and a relatively low walk rate. Nola's career WHIP is 1.13, and both projection models indicate he'll fall around that number. The two projections are pretty similar and don't have many drastic differences, with the exception of fWAR. ZiPS DC predicts that Nola will be more valuable in terms of wins than the Steamer model.

While his numbers are not always consistent, one thing is: Nola's ability to eat innings. Since 2021, the Phillies' right-hander has pitched the third-most innings in baseball behind Sandy Alcantara and Gerrit Cole. He has also not seen the injured list since 2021. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Phillies can expect the same reliability from their freshly re-signed starter.

Can Nola limit the home run in 2024?

Last season, Nola allowed 33 home runs. Only six other qualified starters allowed more. This obviously drove up his ERA and affected the club. Both Steamer and ZiPS DC project fewer home runs surrendered in 2024. However, one predicts a significant drop, whereas one projects a smaller drop-off.

ZiPS DC projects that Nola's home run total will drop by 10 home runs in 2024 — from 32 to 22. Steamer predicts a smaller difference of just four home runs — from 32 to 28. The average number of home runs the LSU product has surrendered during his career is 24 per season. It's likely that he'll trend toward the mean rather than regress.

Both Nola and the club hope that ZiPS DC projection comes to fruition in 2024.

Nola can pitch with less pressure this season

With a brand new seven-year contract, Nola — who is typically stoical and even-keeled — can pitch without the distraction of becoming a free agent this season. Given his calm demeanor, it's impossible to tell if the impending contract uncertainty had any bearing on his 2023 performance. But it would be a natural human reaction to feel some pressure when the unknown is looming.

Being a creature of habit and the speedy agreement between the player and club, it's evident that Nola wanted to remain in Philadelphia. He is comfortable here, and he and his wife plan on welcoming their first child this year.

With the comfort of pitching in a place he loves and having familiarity with the front office, the coaching staff, and the fans, Nola can enter 2024 without distraction. Look for the longest-tenured Phillie to improve in 2024 and be an integral part of a team looking to avenge the sour ending of last season's NLCS defeat.