Aaron Nola could be destined for a career year in 2023 with the stakes at their highest

Nola Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

After his 2022 season, it’s no secret that Aaron Nola is an ace. He has now had 3 seasons in which he’s finished top-10 in Cy Young voting. 2022 was the 2nd time he’s finished in the top-5. In 2022, Nola had a solid 3.25 ERA. The numbers that really stood out were his strikeouts and walks.

Just how good was Aaron Nola in 2022?

Nola threw 205 IP yet K’d 235 batters and only walked 29 of them. His 1.3 BB/9 rate was the best in the NL and his 8.1 BB/K ratio was the best in baseball. He had a 0.961 WHIP which was the 7th lowest in baseball.

There has only been 1 other pitcher in baseball history to post 200+ IP, 230+ K, and less than 30 walks in a season. The other was Jim Whitney in 1884. Whitney threw 35 complete games for the Boston Beaneaters…that year.

How could Nola improve on an already impressive season?

Aaron Nola Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Nola’s best season actually came in 2018. While the K and BB numbers weren’t as impressive, other traditional stats were. Nola had his best ERA that season with a 2.37 mark. He also posted career highs in IP and wins (212.1 and 17). He also led all pitchers with a 9.7 bWAR.

It was his lone All-Star year, but that should change in 2023.

A prove-it year for Aaron Nola

On Saturday, it was announced that the Phillies and Aaron Nola had halted negotiations on a contract extension until the end of the season. That means Nola has bet on himself for the 2023 season. If he performs to a 2018 or 2022 level, he’ll be in line for a massive payday. Nola will be playing with the highest personal stakes of his career.

To see him improve on that 3.25 ERA should shock no one. It’s possible he could even come close to his 2.37 ERA from 2018. The only mark that he could hit that would be shocking would be his 212.1 IP from 2018. Nola looked somewhat gassed in the NLCS and World Series. With appearances in the Wild Card and NLDS, Nola had 217.2 IP between the regular season and playoffs before sniffing the NLCS.

The Phillies will most likely not allow Nola to go much further over the 200 IP mark. Besides that, don’t be surprised to see a career year out of Aaron Nola in 2023.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar