Aaron Nola and Young Pitching

The Phillies did not surprise anyone with their selection of LSU RHP Aaron Nola with the seventh overall pick Thursday night. Nola had long been linked to the Phils, despite his profile as a college pitcher being a rather distinct departure from the club’s particular tastes of toolsy high school athlete-types. His selection was predicted, but the expectation that he’ll be a fast riser through the minors and up to Citizens Bank Park is exciting for a number of reasons, the most intriguing of which being the lack of value added by young Phillies pitchers.

It didn’t seem like long ago that the Phillies had a carousel of Major League-caliber arms in their silo, ready to roll out one after another in a parade of cost-controlled goodness. Hell, there was one group some even took to calling the “Baby Aces.” Needless to say, through trade or otherwise, the Phillies have not exactly trotted out this continuously cycling, Tampa Bay Rays-style cheap/good rotation. In fact, it’s been damn near the opposite for some time now.

Consider the following table.

The above is a table containing the number of pitchers, aged 27 or younger, who have pitched 10+ innings at break-even or better rWAR since 2009. The Phillies are tied for dead last, and the results don’t improve much if you narrow the date range. Now, this isn’t necessarily a death sentence, as the Giants rank below the Phillies on this list rather consistently across the various start years of the range, and not only have they won two World Series since 2009, they’re currently on pace to win 100 games with a staff that features just two regular hurlers aged younger than 30, much less 27.

But the Giants have made it work and have fielded a competitive team. The Phillies burned brightly for their time but are now merely smoldering, and the insertion of someone like Nola into the team’s 2015 post-All-Star rotation could be something the club desperately needs moving forward, especially as the only current members of the squad who’ll still be sub-27 come 2015 are Jonathan Pettibone, Mario Hollands, Ethan Martin and other not-exactly-locks. Nola, paired with Jesse Biddle, has the potential to reshape the face of the Phillies rotation – a Botox injection, of sorts – and provide an exciting, youthful lift that this franchise and fanbase could certainly use.

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