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HS 206: Aaron Nola’s MVP case is better than his Cy Young case

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Nola’s performance against Washington helped his Cy Young case, but maybe did more for his case to be MVP.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Episode 206 of “Hittin’ Season,” host John Stolnis speaks with Sirius/XM’s Mike Ferrin about Nola’s MVP candidacy, the Phillies’ chances of reaching the postseason, and the current state of the NL playoff picture. Subscribe!

The debate about whether Aaron Nola is one of the very best pitchers in the National League has been over for a little while now. There’s no denying that he is great and, short of amazing seasons by New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom and Washington Nationals stud Max Scherzer, he would be the runaway choice for NL Cy Young winner.

On Thursday, in a duel with Scherzer that absolutely lived up to the hype, Nola outtwirled the right-hander by tossing eight shutout innings in a 2-0 Phils win that ended their losing streak at four games.

Nola has become the Phils’ stopper, a true ace, and a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate. His performance against Scherzer, whose only blemish was a monster two-run home run at the hands of Odubel Herrera, at least vaulted him into the postseason hardware conversation on a par with Mad Max, and at the same time has turned him into a serious MVP candidate as well.

It’s not hyperbole to say this pitch, this strikeout of Bryce Harper with two men on and two out in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Phils leading 2-0, may have both saved the Phillies’ season and leapfrogged him into the No. 2 position in the Cy Young running.

It’s hard to argue against deGrom as the current leader to win the NL’s top pitching prize. When you break down the numbers, it’s clear deGrom (and Scherzer in most areas) has simply been just a wee bit more dominant.

3 NL Cy Young Contenders

Player bWAR fWAR IP K% AVG WHIP ERA FIP
Player bWAR fWAR IP K% AVG WHIP ERA FIP
Aaron Nola 8.4 5.4 169 25.6 0.195 0.97 2.13 2.66
Jacob deGrom 7.7 6.9 174 31.5 0.203 0.97 1.71 2.07
Max Scherzer 7.5 6 181.2 34.6 0.178 0.89 2.13 2.63

Even with his performance against Scherzer, the smart money is on Nola finishing 3rd in this race, barring some September struggles from either pitcher. In fact, deGrom also pitched on Thursday and was outstanding once again as well.

Ignore the record, folks. It means nothing.

But while Nola may be running either second or third in the Cy Young race, there are compelling reasons why his MVP candidacy is stronger than either deGrom’s or Scherzer’s.

deGrom is pitching for a Mets team that is dead in the water. Scherzer’s team is likely out of the postseason mix as well (the Nats have an 8.7% chance of making the postseason, according to Fangraphs), so it will be Nola who is making stress-filled starts in the middle of a pennant race from here on out.

Aaron Nola is simply more valuable to his team than Scherzer or deGrom are to theirs.

The Phils are 19-7 in Nola’s starts this year and 50-51 when he doesn’t pitch. More recently, they are 4-0 in his last four starts, and 3-10 in the 13 games started by others during that span.

He stops losing streaks and has helped keep a potential playoff team afloat, despite a horrific defense behind him and an offense that often leaves him hanging out to dry.

If you’re someone who believes an MVP is someone who is the most valuable to his team and that the candidate should be playing for a team that is in the postseason hunt, than Nola has to be a more viable candidate for Most Valuable Player than deGrom or Scherzer.

Of course, these are the arguments that were made when people denied Mike Trout’s candidacy year after year, so that definition of MVP is dicey to be sure. And as of now, Matt Carpenter may have the best argument for NL MVP, given the Cardinals’ recent blitz and his crazy production over the last three months.

But if the MVP is going to be a starting pitcher, it really should be Aaron Nola.