The righty has had some fantastic seasons throughout his MLB career, but his 2021 campaign wasn’t one of them.
With the Phillies trying to crack the playoffs in 2022, they’re going to need Nola to have a bounce-back season.
Is that in the cards?
Let’s take a look.
How Worried Should Fans Be About The Way Nola Pitched In 2021?
Nola’s stock was incredibly high going into the 2021 season.
He entered the year with a career ERA of 3.47 and ERA+ of 122.
Clearly, those are great numbers.
But in 2021, he had a hard time keeping runs off the board.
Across 32 starts, he posted an ERA of 4.63 and ERA+ of 90.
For a guy who is obviously capable of pitching like an ace, it’s fair to say that those are alarming numbers.
But here’s where things get interesting: According to some of Nola’s predictive statistics, his ERA should have been much lower in 2021 than it actually was.
For one, he finished the year with a gross .308 opponent BABIP, which is a stat that is largely beyond any pitcher’s control.
For another, he had a 3.37 FIP.
Aaron Nola's 2021
xFIP: 3.37 pic.twitter.com/lLkwqDLmwC
— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) November 30, 2021
FIP is essentially a predictive ERA.
In other words, over a large enough sample size (like a few seasons’ worth of outings), a pitcher’s FIP and ERA figure to be extremely similar.
But over a smaller sample size (like one season’s worth of outings), that’s sometimes not the case.
If a pitcher’s ERA is significantly higher than his FIP, that’s often a sign of misfortune and bad luck.
If a pitcher’s ERA is significantly lower than his FIP, that’s often a sign of good luck and unsustainable success.
Clearly, in Nola’s case, he wasn’t very fortunate in 2021.
You could argue that he pitched well enough to have an ERA in the mid-3s, but the dominoes obviously didn’t fall that way.
Aaron Nola recorded 10 straight strikeouts, tying the record for most in MLB history.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 25, 2021
The good news?
There’s no reason to believe that he has lost his edge.
For that reason, Phillies fans should be optimistic about how he’s going to perform in 2022.
Despite Rumors, Phillies Shouldn’t Think About Trading Nola
There has been some speculation about the possibility of the Phillies trading Nola this offseason.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, who is a Phillies insider, recently said he thinks Philadelphia “would discuss” the idea of trading Nola.
“I don’t rule out [Dave] Dombrowski … you know his track record, he likes big trades — I don’t rule out him doing something like that [making a big trade],” Salisbury said. “I look at the way they’ve built some catching depth, maybe they could part with one of their minor league catching prospects.
“… I think they would discuss Aaron Nola … depending on what they get back … depending on how they could plug a hole in the rotation that would create. It would be a $20 million free-up there that you could use.”
This would be a mistake by Dombrowski and the Phillies.
First of all, trading Nola now would be selling low.
Second of all, all signs point to him bouncing back in 2022, and an effective Nola is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The 28-year-old could end up being one of the biggest reasons why the Phillies potentially earn their first playoff bid in more than a decade next season.