Aaron Nola hit the disabled list with a sprained elbow on Wednesday. That is some scary news and Phillies fans everywhere are surely holding their breath that this doesn’t lead to the dreaded “TJ” phrase. Manager Pete Mackanin has already alluded to possibly shutting Nola down for the rest of the season, which is not something fans want to hear about the team’s top draft pick from 2014.
Nonetheless, Nola’s struggles have been painfully evident. His ERA is up near five, after at one time being down to 2.65. That was back on June 5, when he threw six shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the eight games since, he’s given up 36 earned runs in 33 innings. His velocity has also dipped a bit recently. Since June 26, his average fastball velocity was 89.5, which is an entire MPH lower than it was in all of his starts prior.
Another interesting thing is that coinciding with the velocity dip, his release point has gotten closer and closer to his body (although it has been changing all season long) in addition to being slightly higher than normal as well.
This change began after his June 21 start against the Minnesota Twins. That was his worst start of the year in terms of GameScore (14). His velocity for that game was actually tied for the highest of the year, (91.8 MPH), but it was after that start that his velocity really began to dip.
If you put a gun to my head and said I had to guess, I’d probably say that he initially hurt his elbow in that start against the Twins, which would mean he pitched in five games, tossed 23.1 innings, and threw 415 in-game pitches since then. If this is the case—and I’m not totally sure it actually is—then that is troublesome management of a promising hurler that is supposed to be a key part of the team’s future.
But, that’s besides the point. The point is that one of the Phillies best young pitchers has an elbow problem, and at 23 years old that isn’t good news.
On one hand, he might be able to recover easily, but on the other hand it might be a sign of things to come. I always said that Aaron Nola reminded me of Roy Halladay. At 29, Halladay had some elbow issues. He was able to avoid any kind of surgery, and was still a dominant pitcher for a handful of years after that. Here’s to hoping that Nola can do the same.