Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola came into the 2017 season as a question mark. After finishing 2016 on a poor note, and having to be shut down with an elbow injury, many wondered if Nola would be the same pitcher that he was before he faded down the stretch.
Nola’s first 12 starts in 2016 were fantastic. He pitched 78 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA and an 85:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He found himself among the league leaders in multiple categories, and Phillies fans were extremely pleased with what they saw from their team’s 2014 first-round pick.
Something changed, though, and quickly. Nola only lasted a total of 33 innings pitched over his last eight starts of 2016, allowing 36 earned runs (39 total) for an ugly 9.82 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was not nearly as strong as in the early part of the year, sitting at 36:14, and Nola’s season ERA rose from the 2.65 mark to a not-so-nice 4.78.
What changed? Following a July 28 start against the Braves, Nola went on the disabled list with a low-grade sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament, the same tendon that leads to Tommy John surgery when torn, and a flexor sprain in his forearm. Nola opted not to undergo surgery, as his UCL was still intact. He instead received platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment last September.
That is what made Nola’s performance an area of concern as the 2017 season neared. The Phillies, in the rebuilding process, wanted to see some improvement from him to know exactly what type of pitcher he may ultimately become. And, really, all he needed to do was show flashes of his “original self.”
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