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Refuting some very wrong thoughts about Aaron Nola

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David Cameron of Fangraphs says the Phillies should trade Aaron Nola because he’s more injury-prone than most.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Aaron Nola’s elbow injury scared the crap out of everybody last year.

In his last eight starts of the 2016 season, he was a totally different pitcher than he had been in 2015 and his first 12 starts of ‘16, posting a 9.82 ERA before finishing the year on the disabled list with a sprain of his UCL and flexor tendon.

The No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft came into this season as the team’s biggest question mark, and things didn’t start off too well this year, either. He made three starts before a back strain landed him on the 10-day DL, and after his first six starts of the season, he had a 5.06 ERA.

Alarm bells were ringing. But they were quickly silenced.

In his last 13 starts, Nola has an ERA of 2.77. He has struck out 9.89 batters per nine innings. Opponents are hitting .207 against him and he has a WHIP of 1.04. And his 3.02 ERA on the season is 4th-lowest in the National League. Simply put, he has been pitching like an ace for two-and-a-half solid months now.

That all brings us to a chat Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron conducted on Wednesday. During that chat, he was asked about Nola’s performance in 2017. Here is the screencap from that exchange.

After that tremendously pithy response, Cameron was asked later in the chat whether, given his concerns about another Nola injury, he would consider trading the young right-hander in the off-season.

Cameron’s responses to these questions had me confused. Just what was he talking about regarding Nola’s injury history? So, I reached out to him on Twitter about it.

“More arm problems than most?” Hardly.

Nola has had one arm injury in his life. He did not injure his arm in high school, college or the minors. In college he pitched 89.2, 126.0 and 116.1 innings in his three seasons at LSU.

Yes, he missed a good chunk of 2016, but his UCL strain did not require surgery of any kind. And his lone injury of 2017 was a back strain, completely unrelated to his elbow issue last year. He has come back from those issues throwing harder and pitching better than he was before.

In what world does that mean he has he had “more arm problems than most?”

The obvious answer is that this is simply a ridiculous claim made out of ignorance. As a national writer, it’s doubtful Cameron has been watching a ton of Phillies games (why would he?) and hasn’t been following Nola closely enough to make such a statment.

But, make it he did, and it’s clearly an incorrect assertion.

Even if you’re worried his delivery could lead to elbow injuries in the future, you can’t automatically assume that means he’s going to be inury-prone. Chris Sale has an even funkier delivery. Are there grand concerns his arm is going to destroy itself anytime soon?

Separate from that is the claim that the injury worries are so severe that it should force the Phillies to consider trading him over the winter. Look, if the right baseball deal comes along, the Phils should be open to trading anybody. But this team needs top-of-the-rotation starters in the worst way, and Nola is just 24 years old. Even if the Phils are 2-3 years away from the playoffs, Nola should just be entering his prime by then.

Unless the Phillies are concerned he’s a ticking time bomb (which as we’ve alluded to above would be a drastic overreaction) it makes absolutely no sense to trade him unless you get both a can’t-miss young starting pitcher and position player close to the Majors.

Is there a concern that Nola could suffer a serious arm injury at some point? Of course there is. But it is no greater a concern than any other pitcher who has had a minor arm injury in their past, of which there are many. And it’s no different than all of the young starting pitchers in baseball who could suffer a potential arm injury at some point in their career.

David, this was a bad take.