When Aaron Nola was drafted, most believed he had a higher floor than most prospects, and that his ceiling was that of a number-two starting pitcher. Virtually everyone believed he was almost Major League-ready the day he was drafted.
It's starting to feel like maybe we were all too low on the young right-hander, if that's even possible.
After shutting down a red-hot Cardinals offense in the Phillies 1-0 win in St. Louis Tuesday night, Nola has looked every bit the part of a number-one starter here in 2016. Last night he went seven innings and gave up two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
And the numbers bear out his new ace-like status.
|Chris Sale||White Sox||7.89||1.87||0.171||0.81||89||1.66||2.90|
|Rick Porcello||Red Sox||9.92||1.65||0.200||0.92||75||2.76||3.58|
The table shows Nola is ranked fourth in all of baseball in WHIP, at 0.80. The only pitchers ahead of him are Drew Smyly, Clayton Kershaw, and Jake Arrieta. Maybe you've heard of them (also, Vincent Velasquez is right behind in sixth). His .174 opponents' batting average against is seventh, and his FIP of 2.36 is ninth in baseball.
Oh, and there's this.
MLB leaders in xFIP-, updated through today’s games.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) May 4, 2016
1. Syndergaard (47)
2. Kershaw (54)
3. Nola (64)
Philly may have themselves an ace.
Elias Sports says Nola's 0.80 WHIP is the lowest for any Phillies pitcher through the first six starts of a season since Steve Carlton's 0.69 in 1972. And he's the second Phillie ever to win back-to-back starts pitching at least seven innings and allowing no runs with two or fewer hits. Dick Ruthven was the only other pitcher to manage that feat, in 1979.
Over his last three starts, Nola has pitched 21 innings and given up 8 hits, 1 ER, 4 walks, with 21 strikeouts. He has 44 strikeouts on the season, only Kershaw, David Price and Madison Bumgarner have more. And he has now pitched 20 straight scoreless innings.
He is doing this all with pinpoint control to both sides of the plate and a curveball that no one can hit right now.
Aaron Nola's curveball location. Batters are 3-for-58 (.052) with 29 strikeouts in PAs ending with his curve. pic.twitter.com/brECDiOtai— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) May 4, 2016
There is nothing wrong with being a number-two starter. And frankly, each person has their own definition of what a "number-one" or "number-two" starter is. Some think only "aces" can be number-one starters, guys who would front the rotation of a team with playoff potential.
But what we've seen from Nola is truly ace-level stuff. He's keeping with some pretty lofty company on the leaderboard. And judging by what we've seen in a limited sample size here in 2016, Nola is an ace, someone capable of leading a playoff-caliber team.
Nola is raising his ceiling so far this season. He may be even better than we thought he would be.
Those are the kinds of "mistakes' you can live with.