The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Former LSU Star Aaron Nola Making Strong Bid for Cy Young Award

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola went toe-to-toe with Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer last Thursday in a classic matchup of two of the best hurlers in the National League.  Nola came out the winner that time as the Phillies try to stay close to East Division rival Atlanta Braves, who led the Phillies by three games as of Saturday.

25-year-old Nola had already established himself as the best pitcher on a young Phillies team last year that finished last in the division.  This year he has emerged as perhaps the best pitcher in the National League on a team that is fighting for first place in the division.  He is one of the main reasons for the Phillies’ turnaround.  Nola is currently sporting a 15-3 record, good for first in the league in winning percentage.  Nola has the third-best ERA (2.24) and WHIP (0.981), while Sherzer and the Mets’ hard-luck pitcher Jacob deGrom are the other two National League hurlers at the top of these rankings.  These three pitchers are currently the top competitors for the National League Cy Young Award.

Scherzer, who has 16 wins to his credit this year, is working toward his third consecutive Cy Young Award.  He has claimed the award a total of four time during his 11-year career.  His 16 wins tops the National League, and he leads the league in strikeouts (244), WHIP (0.886), and Strikeouts Per 9 Innings (12.1).

DeGrom has been the victim of weak New York Mets team that’s had trouble scoring runs when he pitches.  His mediocre 8-7 record is somewhat deceiving, since he leads the NL in ERA (1.71), and is second in the league in strikeouts (204) and WHIP (.958).

When the Phillies acquired free-agent Jake Arrieta from the Cubs over the winter, many expected him to step in and become the ace of the staff.  Yet Nola has upped his game, building on his success during the second half of 2017, when he posted a 3.16 ERA.  Overall last season, he had a 12-11 win-loss record.

So, what are Nola’s chances of winning his first Cy Young Award?

All three pitchers are very close in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for Pitchers, a complicated calculation that attempts to consolidate all the various performance factors of pitching into a single value.  WAR doesn’t appear to differentiate any of the pitchers at this point.

If the Phillies wind up with a division title or gain a playoff berth, this could give Nola a qualitative edge over Scherzer and deGrom, whose teams are lagging behind the Phillies.  Although team performance shouldn’t factor into the individual award, some voters will give de facto consideration to the fact Nola has been instrumental in helping his team get into the playoffs.

In years past, voters for the Cy Young Award gave strong consideration to the number of wins by a pitcher.  Nola and Scherzer are currently neck-and-neck in this category, but nowadays pitching wins are no longer given much credence in measuring the effectiveness of a pitcher.  Thus, Nola’s impressive 15 wins (plus any additional he might gain during September) are almost a moot point.

With Scherzer having won the award in four previous seasons, he already has the reputation of being one of the best pitchers in this decade.  This intangible factor could enter into some voters’ rationale for giving him the edge over the other contenders, since their quantitative performance measures are so close.  DeGrom has finished in the top eight of the voting for Cy Young Award twice before.  This season is considered a breakout year for Nola.

One edge Nola may have is his record of 4-1, with a 2.03 ERA, against the Phillies’ two main competitors (Nationals and Braves) in the division.  Hence, when the Phillies’ biggest games have been on the line with Nola pitching, he’s come through in the clutch.

The bottom line:  unless one or more of these three pitchers gets injured or just falls to pieces during the balance of this season with a number of bad outings, it could very well be a toss-up with regard to who will take home the trophy as the league’s best pitcher.

This is Nola’s fourth major-league campaign.  He was selected by the Phillies in the first round (7th overall pick) of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft, after having a stellar career with LSU.

Nola compiled 30 wins (against only 6 losses) for LSU in three seasons (2012-2014).  He was the SEC’s Pitcher of the Year in both his sophomore and junior campaigns and the National Pitcher of the Year in his junior year.

He is one of seven former LSU pitchers who have made major-league appearances in 2018.  Kevin Gausman (Braves), Jason Vargas (Mets) are the other starters.  Relievers include Louis Coleman (Diamondbacks), Will Harris (Astros), Nick Goody (Indians), and Nick Rumbelow (Mariners).

The only other former LSU pitcher to ever receive strong consideration for the Cy Young Award is Brian Wilson, who finished seventh in the voting in 2010, when he led the National League with 48 saves for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)