The Phillies are skipping Aaron Nola's start today. It makes sense. He's been roughed up lately. Let's see if we can find out why.
As of June 5, he'd made 12 starts, tossed 78 innings. He compiled a 2.65 ERA. His per nine rates were 7.15 hits, whiffed 9.8, walked 1.73 and gave up .8 homers.
Since then, he's made five starts, tossed 18 innings and compiled a 13.50 ERA. His per nine rates were 19 hits, whiffed 10.8, four walks and 1.5 homers.
So he's still striking out batters at a good rate, but he's giving up hits and an uncharacteristic amount of walks. Nola's young, but he's got a track record of throwing strikes. Beyond the numbers from earlier this year, he gave up just 2.2 walks per nine as a rookie and 1.5 in the minor leagues. The walks don't bother me because it's really rare that pitchers with strong command lose it like this. It's so rare, you remember the names of players who suffer from it: Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel.
Let's delve a bit deeper. When he was pitching well, he threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, 25 percent of those pitches were called strike and 11 percent were swinging strikes. Twenty-five percent of his at-bats ended in line drives; four percent in pop-ups.
Since then, he's thrown 63 percent of his pitches for strikes, 22 percent were looking and seven percent were swinging strikes. Thirty percent of his at-bats ended in line drives and three percent ended in pop ups.
One thing that shows you is how close a pitcher can be from being dominant to being dominated. But there were signs of improvement in his last start. He made it out of the fourth inning for the first time in four starts. He also retired the last nine straight batters he faced. Nola might have turned a corner, but giving him some extra time off over the All-Star break is still probably a good idea. It's worth noting he's already tossed 96 innings this year. He tossed 187 innings last year. Missing a start here is probably not a bad thing.
Before we move onto the preview of this week, I think we should disspell one train of thought: that Nola should be sent down because he's struggling.
Plenty of good young Phillies pitchers had struggles in their first few seasons.
Randy Wolf started off his Major League career with a 3.33 ERA through mid-July. Afterward he pitched to a 6.90 ERA before moving onto a successful Big League career.
Brett Myers looked like a future ace in 2003, but he had a 6-start stretch that included a 6.90 ERA.
In 2006, Cole Hamels had a 6-start run with a 7.13 ERA.
Nola should be allowed to work through this, within reason.
Thursday, July 7: 8:40
Friday, July 8: 8:10
Saturday, July 9: 8:40
Sunday, July 10: 4:10
Adam Morgan (1-6, 6.31) vs Chad Bettis (6-6, 5.85)
Vincent Velasquez (7-2, 3.34) vs Jon Gray (5-4, 4.81)
Jerad Eickhoff (6-9, 3.30) vs Tyler Anderson (0-3, 3.03)
Zach Eflin (1-2, 4.30) vs Tyler Chatwood (8-4, 3.08)
What we know about the Rockies
Colorado was 37-39 before losing six straight earlier this week. The squad has struggled in one run games, going 5-11. It's also winless in extra innings. But as Chris Wheeler often reminded us, "No lead is safe" in Colorado.
What we can't wait to see
Maikel Franco is still on fire. We told you to look out for him during the Braves series and he launched three home runs. If he stays within himself in Colorado, he could do a ton of damage. That said, the guy I want to see this series is Cesar Hernandez. The coaching staff has been saying how they want him to hit ground ball after ground ball. He's been doing that and it's paid off. But will the light air of Denver come calling? If Cesar can stay within himself, he could have a big series and set the table for the rest of the team.