After Nola’s final start, is he an ace?

Aaron NolaJust win (one), baby.

It’s time for a daily news report.

No more for Nola?

In what was apparently the last of the season for Aaron Nola, the right-hander put in a solid finish.

The 24-year-old went six, struck out nine and gave up two runs in the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Phillies. (The team still needs one win to avoid 100 losses this year, but now they’re tied again with the Giants for the worst record in baseball.)

Nola finishes the year 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA, 184 strikeouts and 49 walks. He finished with 9.9 strikeouts per nine, which is the third-best mark in Phillies history, behind Curt Schilling’s two 300-strikeout seasons.

After the game Pete Mackanin said this:

“Nola has really established himself. To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

That’s a weird quote. Does that mean his floor is No. 3? His ceiling is a No. 3? He’s a No. 3 right now? Is Mackanin sending signals to the front office that the Phils need another two top-line starting pitchers?

Here is where Nola stands among all major league starting pitchers (qualified IP):

  • WAR (4.3): 12th
  • ERA (3.54): 20th
  • xFIP (3.38): 12th
  • K/9 (9.86): 14th
  • BB/9 (2.63): 23rd

I see it like this: there’s a top tier of obvious aces in this league, which includes Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, Jacob deGrom and Dallas Keuchel. Add in a healthy Noah Syndergaard, and there you go – somewhere around eight to 10 guys.

After that is a tier of near-aces. These guys can be No. 2s on a great staff or No. 1s on a more average staff. Think Carlos Carrasco and Gio Gonzalez. Nola has made his case for this group.

By the way, imagine a rotation of Carrasco, Gonzalez and Nola today. That actually could’ve happened.

Anyway, if Mackanin is saying Nola has a No. 3 floor, I’d agree with that, but the truth is he’s probably one of the top 15 starting pitchers in baseball. That’s a No. 2 and fringe No. 1 right now.

If I’m the Phils I get a guy in the same general area to pair with Nola next year. We’ll talk about that later.

Hit the ‘skins

Rhys Hoskins hasn’t hit a home run since Sept. 14 against Miami. It feels like a skid. And it is.

Since that game he’s .135/.256/.216 with just five hits in 37 at bats. He has walked six times, but he’s also struck out 12 times. This is that dreaded adjustment period, and he recognizes it – he knows pitchers are throwing him more stuff low and away. Last night he swung early in counts to get balls over the plate; that may be overcompensating a bit. Either way, he’s working it out. Plenty of confidence in him here.

Meanwhile, here’s a long read by Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee about Hoskins’ road to stardom.

What about Pete?

Mackanin told reporters that winning has to be a priority for his team next year; also, he doesn’t yet know it’s his team next year.

Yes, despite a contract extension through 2018, Mackanin hasn’t been assured he’ll be back. That will probably come when the season closes, but it’s still interesting to note.

I think Mackanin has afforded an opportunity to see this group into the next level. If that group can’t make strides next year, then maybe it’s time to move on.

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