Aaron Nola's drop in velocity raises eyebrows, but there's nothing to see here

Nola's average fastball speed was noticeably slower during his start in St. Louis, but there's no cause for concern.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola's velocity was down against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola's velocity was down against the St. Louis Cardinals. / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies won their second straight series on Wednesday behind Aaron Nola on a rainy day in St. Louis. The Phillies right-hander picked up his second win of the season, allowing just two earned runs over six innings — both were solo home runs.

There were a few things that stood out in Nola's third start of the season. The first is that he surrendered three walks. His walk rate thus far in 2024 is 2.4 BB/9, the highest walk rate of his career.

The other aspect of Nola's game that raised some alarms on Wednesday was his dip in velocity. That, however, should not be a cause for concern, according to the 30-year-old and his battery mate, J.T. Realmuto.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com noted that Nola's fastball averaged just 89.5 mph in his most recent start, the second-lowest of his career. However, this time, injury was not the reason for the drop in fastball velocity — it was the weather.

Per Zolecki, Nola explained the reasoning behind taking something off his pitches: "It’s different when you’ve got a damp ball vs. a dry ball. For me, when I can stride a little bit farther like I usually do and know I’m not going to slip, I can command the ball a little bit better. I think that was the difference between the first five and the sixth inning.”

As Zolecki notes, with conditions improving in the sixth inning, Nola gained more traction on the mound and fired eight fastballs over 90 mph. This figure brushes aside any notion that the right-hander may be dealing with any sort of injury.

What to expect from Nola going forward

It has always appeared that the lifelong Phillies pitcher has performed better in warmer conditions. Throughout his career the months in which his ERA is the lowest are July and August. The rainy and wet conditions on Wednesday against the Cardinals were a rare occurrence, but Nola was able to adjust.

The right-hander has averaged between 92 and 93 mph on his fastball over the course of his career. Early this season, it's sitting just shy of 91 mph, according to Baseball Savant. Now that he's stretched out, and assuming he doesn't have to pitch in wet conditions, it's likely that Nola's velocity will trend back toward the mean.

After getting roughed up in his first outing, Nola has settled in despite still surrendering some home runs. He has brought his ERA back down to 4.50 for the season. He will hopefully bring down his career-high walk rate which should help him pitch with the bases clear more often.

As the season moves along, look for Nola to settle in and be a reliable part of the Phillies rotation as he remains a steadfast part of the organization. After all, he will be here for another seven years, and the club needs him to stay on the field and continue to take the mound every fifth day.