We all knew Aaron Nola would eventually show his humanity below a robotic, mechanical stretch were his ERA dipped to the fourth lowest in the National League, a pristine 3.07. Thursday night, Nola gave up five runs in 5.1 innings of work, showing everyone that his unpredictability is the most predictable thing about him.
It’s no secret that Aaron Nola is a good pitcher. I mean, he’s shaping up to be a phenomenal front rotation arm amidst a season of highs and lows. But, one little concern echoes in the back of all Phillies’ fans minds: how long will it last? If there is anything that Nola has solidified with his pitching over the last few years, it’s his undeniable knack for injury.
Forgive my pessimism, but Philadelphia has seen this before. Remember Cliff Lee? Towards the end of his career, he was on a merry-go-round of DL stints and it was a gamble which Cliff Lee would show during those injury days.
Much the same can be said about Nola. It seems as though he has a boom and bust cycle of injuries that make it hard to invest a lot of faith in his ability to have quality starts. The most frustrating part is his starts that do come out well are phenomenal. His 10 starts during the stretch of June 22 to August 12 this season could have very easily been confused with Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw. It had everyone in Philadelphia doing a double-take. 78 strikeouts in 68.1 innings? 1.71 ERA? Only 19 walks? Insane.
That 10 game, all-star streak came to an end Thursday when Nola gave up five earned runs in five innings and only managing to strike out three batters. His Cy Young caliber run of quality starts was shut down by a bolstered Giants offense. Sure this could be a bump or hiccup in his streak. He could go out next week and pitch a complete game shutout, or this hiccup could be a sign of “injury prone” Nola returning to the days of yore.
Sure, Aaron Nola has a much bigger upside than say Vince Velasquez, another injury prone Phillies pitcher, but a player who can’t stay off of the DL long enough to contribute as an integral pitcher is better served as a trade piece. So, at the high of his interest throughout the league, the Phillies front office should be at least entertaining the idea of a Nola trade. Now I’m not saying they should trade him, but they should at least keep him on the table for the time being.
We need consistency from pitchers and consistency is what Aaron Nola has lacked. It’s easy now to overlook a lot of Nola’s flaws, in the midst of an epically bad season, and focus on his stellar performances during that 10 game streak. But don’t let all of that fool you. There are some fundamental flaws with him and if they progress and never get addressed it could push back all the building of a contending pitching rotation is Philadelphia.
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