Phillies: What’s Up With Aaron Nola?

ATLANTA, GA JULY 02: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) looks out from the dugout after pitching 8 scoreless innings during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2nd, 2019 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA JULY 02: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) looks out from the dugout after pitching 8 scoreless innings during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2nd, 2019 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Phillies RHP Aaron Nola has been struggling lately as the team looks to stay relevant within the NL Wild Card Race. Has the Phillies’ ace been pitching any differently over the past two weeks?

The Philadelphia Phillies came into 2019 with high expectations. The club had been rebuilding over the past six years, restocking their roster in hopes of once again reaching the level of dominance they enjoyed from 2008 through 2011.

The front office, encouraged by the growth displayed during the 2018 season, made some notable offseason acquisitions with the expectations of finally returning to contending status.

However, after adding both SS Jean Segura and C J.T. Realmuto via trade and signing OF Bryce Harper, the 2019 Phillies haven’t been able to take the next step forward. They’ve been inconsistent all season and currently find themselves 3 GB of the second spot in the National League Wild Card.

While the majority of the roster has performed below expectations, perhaps no player embodies this sense of faltering inconsistency than Aaron Nola, the ace of the starting rotation.

Nola, fresh off a third-place finish in the 2018 NL Cy Young voting, had seemingly elevated into the top tier of pitchers in the league. He was simply superb in 2018, with a 2.37 ERA that ranked fourth in all of baseball, plus a tenth-ranked FIP of 3.21. One could even argue that his emergence last season was a key factor in the front office’s aggressiveness in improving the roster this past offseason.

This season, Nola has not been consistent, alternating flashes of brilliance with stretches of poor performance. His overall line (3.70 ERA, 3.98 FIP,10.09 K/9, 3.3 WAR) isn’t terrible, but it’s far below his 2018 self. Nola’s been up-and-down virtually all season, especially within the last three weeks.

As of August 25, the Phillies were facing the toughest remaining schedule in the NL. In order to keep their October hopes alive, they would need their ace to return to form. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.

On August 20, Nola dominated the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a two-game series at Fenway. He went seven innings, allowing only two earned runs while striking out seven, earning a crucial win for the Phillies. His next start on August 25, against the Miami Marlins, began a poor streak of outings, the most recent of which took place on September 9.

Nola lasted six innings against the Atlanta Braves, but gave up four runs early, digging the team into a whole they were unable to get out of. All told,  he’s logged a 5.04 ERA through only 23.1 innings since he shut down the Red Sox.

With Aaron Nola in the middle of one of his worst stretches of the season, the Phillies are in desperate need of getting their ace back. What has been different with Nola, and is there any chance he can get himself right before its too late?

Let’s take a look at his last four starts and compare them to the rest of his 2019 season to see if we can find any significant discrepancies.  Now, it’s important to note that only four starts form a rather small sample, which can surely skew the data. That being said, there are some aspects of Nola’s recent outings that stand out!