The Phillies are betting on Aaron Nola to bounce back

The Phillies are betting on Aaron Nola to bounce back

The numbers add up for the Phillies to hand Aaron Nola a seven-year deal with an average of $24 million or so per year. Losing him would have meant a hole in the No.2 spot of their rotation. at the very least, and the Phillies aren’t chasing down Atlanta (even if at this pace their 40-man roster might have 18 guys on it) or getting through October with only one frontline starter. You can get jump through hoops and pull out all the smoke and mirrors with a bullpen, but most teams have at least two guys that can get through five innings in the playoffs that end up on a parade bus.

The numbers go further. Nola was certainly off his usual performance last season, but a lot of that was due to things out of control. Nola was a victim of sequencing, with only a 66 percent left-on-base percentage. That’s seven points below his career average, so though he wasn’t giving up that different of a number of hits than he normally does, they were just bunched together more than they had been for no other reason than baseball likes to laugh at your plans every so often for its own entertainment.

Nola also saw his HR/FB rate double from 2022, even though he gave up softer contact on fly balls in 2023. Sometimes a larger selection of flies just ends up in someone’s nachos. He even doubled up his pop-up rate from 2022 to 2023, so it’s more likely that Nola is more his 2022 version than the one Phillies fans saw in 2023.

Are there flashing lights? Of course, there always is with a pitcher entering his 30’s. Nola got fewer whiffs and fewer caught-looking strikes, too. The fastball was down in velocity ever so slightly and that probably won’t get better as he turns 31 in June. Nola was hit harder, as well, than he’d ever been in 2023, with his barrel rate against and average exit velocity against rising from 2022.

But the free-agent market was short on other solutions. The Phillies could have paid more for Blake Snell, but his peripherals suggest he could be a walking hand grenade, when judged by the money he’ll get in 2024. Eduardo Rodriguez is solid, but the same age as Nola and not as capable of the heights. Youshinobu Yamamoto is an unknown, though the Phillies are rumored to still be after him even bringing Nola back home.

But it would be more heartening to believe that the Phillies like what they have going, that there’s something unquantifiable about their October success the past two seasons, that fans have gotten attached to this team and they’d like to keep it together for as long as they can. A front office shouldn’t just give in to sentimentality, but it also just can’t be about the printouts either. There is a vibe to the Phillies and maybe it has a hand in making them what they are, and maybe it doesn’t. But most within that organization think it does aid their cause, however much, and while the numbers all say it was perfectly acceptable to bring Nola back, it is refreshing to think a team with the ability to pay for that kind of thing actually does.

Sure, the fifth through seventh years of this deal might be ugly, but what do the Phillies care? They’re going for a World Series now and the whole thing is probably balls-up by then, anyway. They’ve got something that works now, and it’s refreshing to see a team not screw with that in the name of saving a dollar here or there.

Here’s where it all starts to end for Brandon Staley

You know it’s over for a coach when they start snapping at the media. It’s like the last lever to pull before they’re called into the GM’s office. So Brandon Staley probably should start getting the resume ready and the house packed up:

It’s never a good sign when the defensive head coach has a defense that sucks. Kind of what their thing is supposed to be. The Chargers find a way to lose far more often than they find a way to win. The difference in the NFL is always micro-thin, a few plays here or there. The well-coached teams make them or at least don’t make the ones that blow their own nose off. The Chargers do and seeing as how Staley is taking it out on the beat reporters, he seems to know where that leads.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.