Now is the time for Aaron Nola to establish himself as a premier pitcher in the MLB.
With the MLB season officially approaching, the Philadelphia Phillies will need to put all their trust into ace Aaron Nola this season if they hope to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The expectations for the Phillies continue to get bigger every season with their management willing to spend money to put the team in World Series contention. After a huge offseason in 2018 that included bringing in Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, they failed to make the playoffs and watched their division rival, the Washington Nationals, go on to win the World Series.
With more moves to make them contenders this past offseason, it could be now or never with certain players like Realmuto facing a contract year. If they hope to have success in this new 60 game format, they must hitch their wagon to Aaron Nola, who will be the team’s most important player this season.
Why is Aaron Nola the Phillies most important player in 2020?
In 2018, Nola was among the best pitchers in baseball, finishing with a 17-6 record and 2.37 ERA in over 200 innings. It gave him the first All-Star game appearance of his career and saw him finish in third for NL Cy Young voting.
2019 was almost the opposite, as the 27-year-old righty saw his ERA inflate to 3.87. His fall back from grace was one of the key reasons the Phillies ended up finishing with just one more win than the previous season, despite a far more talented roster. A rebound to his 2018 numbers is needed for the Phillies to get to the playoffs.
While most will say Harper is their most important player, he is almost certain to deliver. He fits right into the middle of the order and will drive in runs. Harper has done that his entire career and with him being fresher than ever, that should be expected once again. Realmuto follows the same, as he is proven and will do what he does every year. Nola’s path is not as clear to dominance or not.
The 60 game window for the regular season is what makes Nola so important. As the ace of a staff that isn’t a lock to be the most dominant or even second in the division, he needs to perform. With expectations being through the roof, there really isn’t another choice.
Nola has shown signs of greatness in the past. 2018 is a clear sign of that. 60 games may not be seen as enough to define a player’s career, but it would certainly give a hint as to which pitcher Nola truly is. Last year’s numbers made him more of a No. 2 or 3 starter, not the ace. Defining his spot as the ace of the staff with dominant performances could not only help him prove who he is but get the Phillies to the playoffs.
It’s a proven method. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they did it on the back of a loaded lineup and dominant ace in Cole Hamels. The same situation is now presenting itself. Somewhat ire to think about.
So much uncertainty surrounds this season as a whole. Phillies fans would agree that seeing their former Cy Young candidate return to form would be a good treat. It was one year ago that if the Phillies only played 60 games, they would have been in the playoffs. They needed to find that success they originally had and run with it. A new manager, a fully loaded lineup, and a dominant ace could do that.
This is Nola’s chance for redemption.