The Philadelphia Phillies are off to a hot start in 2018 and appear to be capable of competing for the playoffs. One big reason for their hot start is the production manager Gabe Kapler has received from righties Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta — who are beginning to form a formidable top-of-the-rotation duo.
Going into the regular season, the Phillies were viewed as a team on the rise but one not yet ready to compete for the playoffs. However, with a current record of 23-16, they’ve proven the opposite to be the case, and their pitching has led the way.
After an encouraging 2017 campaign, the 24-year-old Nola has pitched at a Cy Young level this season. Currently owning a 1.99 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and recording 51 strikeouts in 58.2 innings pitched, Nola has begun to establish himself as one of the best righties in the game. He’s pitching deep into games, keeping runners off the bases, and posing a reliable option to take the mound every fifth game. Nola has also never pitched fewer than five innings or surrendered more than three runs in an outing this season; he’s off to an astonishing start.
The veteran Arrieta has also dazzled the Phillies’ faithful. Despite getting a late start to training camp (Arrieta signed a three-year contract with the Phillies in March), the Phillies have greatly benefited from the righty’s presence in their rotation. Currently owning a 2.59 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 41.2 innings pitched, the former Cy Young Award winner has been as advertised. He’s pitching out of trouble, getting batters to groundout, and preventing a great deal of runs from crossing the plate. Couple Arrieta’s production with that of Nola, and the Phillies have a special pairing at the top of their rotation.
Going into Sunday afternoon, the Phillies were sixth in team ERA (3.47) but accomplished such a feat through the production of Nola and Arrieta. Outside of them, the Phillies have received little to no consistency from their rotation. Vince Velasquez owns a 5.05 ERA; Ben Lively has struggled immensely, currently owning a 6.85 ERA and 1.85 WHIP; and Nick Pivetta owns a 4.15 ERA. Righty Zach Eflin has surrendered just one run in his first two starts this season but will need to continue or come close to those heroics over the stretch of the entire season to be considered a rotation staple.
Nola and Arrieta are crucial to any success Kapler and the Phillies aspire to achieve in the foreseeable future. Luckily for him and their ballclub, that duo might still have room for improvement. Nola is still just 24, has three years of starting experience under his belt, and is blossoming into a bonafide ace — if he hasn’t already. On the other hand, the 32-year-old Arrieta has little room for growth, but he is still pitching at a high level despite not joining the Phillies until March. With more time on the hill, the veteran should be able to dominate even more in the coming months.
It was just one year ago when many were questioning the direction of the Phillies. They had an intriguing young core that featured Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Cesar Hernandez, but they struggled to pose a high-octane bunch at the plate. Even in the Phillies’ hot start to the 2018 season, they still own the 19th best team batting average in baseball (.241); they’re winning games because of their starting staff.The @Phillies are off to a hot start, and the outstanding duo of @JArrieta34 and @AaronNola27 is a big reason why.Click To Tweet
There are a number of prominent rotation duos in Major League Baseball. Within the National League East, the Phillies are faced with having to match Washington Nationals righties Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, as well as Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets. When healthy, the San Francisco Giants can pose a dangerous threat with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. In the American League, the Boston Red Sox have lefty Chris Sale and Rick Porcello; the Cleveland Indians have Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco; the Houston Astros have Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. Simply put: There’s plenty of competition to be crowned the game’s best rotation duo. But Nola continues to excel and Arrieta is a proven top-ten pitcher; there’s upside and a legitimate argument to be made that the two arms are beginning to form a top-three duo.
Will the Phillies be able to maintain their early success over the next four and a half months? Many will be skeptical, but as long as Nola and Arrieta are at the top of the Phillies’ rotation, they’ll have the chance to limit teams’ offensive firepower. The two righties are the biggest reason for the Phillies’ hot start and the biggest reason to be optimistic about this ballclub going forward.