A great panic swept through the minds of Phillies fans when Aaron Nola was said to not be in camp. Rumors spread quickly that Nola had contracted COVID-19.
Suddenly, it seemed the Phillies were going to lose their opening day starter. That all changed 2 days later.
To prove his well-being, Nola was spotted throwing a bullpen session on his first day back.
It was later revealed that Aaron Nola’s absence was indeed COVID related. He was exposed to someone with the virus. As a result, Nola quarantined before coming to Phillies’ camp.
“I was exposed to another person who tested positive. I had no symptoms. By MLB protocol, I had to stay home for seven days.”, said Nola.
Aaron Nola figures to be a tremendously important piece to the Phillies’ puzzle in 2020. In 2019, Phillies starters ranked 23rd in fWAR with only 7.6. They ranked 16th in ERA with a 4.64 and 19th in K/9 with a 8.36 mark.
In shortened terms, the 2019 Phillies starters ranked firmly in the bottom half of all MLB teams.
Even in a down year, Nola pitched well. For the second year in a row, he accumulated over 200 IP. His ERA might’ve looked a bit high at 3.87, but in 2019 standards, he was better than most.
His ERA+ of 116 shined in a year where homers flew free. Just for background, an ERA+ of 100 would translate to a league-average pitcher.
Of course, Phillies fans are hoping that 2020 Aaron Nola will look more like 2018 Aaron Nola when he was the second runner-up for the Cy Young with a 173 ERA+.
There are 2 factors that point favorably in Nola’s direction. In 2019, Nola had the highest BB/9 rate of his career and highest HR/9 rate since his rookie season. From this and his career-high 10.2 K/9 ratio, we can see that Nola was actively trying to miss bats in the year of the homer.
If the balls changed back for 2020, we could easily see 2018 Nola again. That boost would be entirely welcome with questions surrounding COVID and Zack Wheeler.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports