Seriously, MLB Network?
I realize the Phillies haven’t exactly been a marquee franchise for a few years now, what with the rebuild going on and all. But you’d think that the cable network that focuses exclusively on, and specializes in, Major League Baseball players would know a thing or two about Major League Baseball players.
Apparently, at least in this case, you’d be wrong.
What the heck, guys?
MLB Network has been compiling their list of the Top 10 players at every position and, as they were putting together their list of the top starting pitchers, they flashed a graphic of the 24 hurlers they thought should be considered.
Aaron Nola’s name is conspicuously absent from that list, as the good folks at Phillies Twitter noted.
Make no mistake, Nola is one of the 24 best pitchers in baseball, and certainly better than a few of the names on that list, based off of last year’s stats alone. And it’s not even close.
First, let’s name the pitchers who we can honestly say is better than Nola at this point. These are all true, bona fide aces and, for me, that list begins with Clayton Kershaw and includes Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Carrasco, Yu Darvish, Jacob deGrom, Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Verlander.
That’s 14 names right there. No slouch in finishing below that tier of starters, that’s a phenomenal group of arms. Now, let’s compare Nola to the remaining players on this list, using last year’s numbers.
When you combine these pitchers’ fWARs and bWARs (which I’ll admit isn’t an exact science to determine who the best pitcher is), you see that none of them had a higher combined WAR than Aaron Nola last year.
His omission from the MLB Network list is confounding. Sure, if someone wanted to argue that a pitcher like Jon Lester, who has been a postseason hero before and that you’d rather have him in a “big game” situation, then fine. But it seems pretty clear that Nola is not only among the best 24 pitchers in baseball, he’s probably among the top 20. Perhaps even the top 15.
In 10 starts from June 22 through August 12 last season, Nola was virtually unhittable, with a 1.71 ERA, a 2.66 FIP, striking out 10.27 batters per nine innings (K/9). His average fastball velocity increased from 91.4 mph to 92.7 mph last year, and his curveball saved 18.3 runs for his team in 2017, second-best only to Kluber (37.8).
Nola had a down 2016 season, and injuries worries followed him into last season. But Nola answered any questions about his health and effectiveness right away, and for MLB Network not to include him in this list of the top 24 pitchers in baseball must have been just an oversight.
Because no rational baseball analyst could leave Nola off this list on purpose. No one could look at those pitchers and not think Nola should have been on there.
So, we’ll give you a mulligan on this one, MLB Network. Everybody forgets. Hopefully this serves as a gentle reminder.