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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  1. Andrew

    June 06, 2014 02:32 PM

    Biddle and Nola plus whoever they pick up with next year’s high draft pick thanks to this year’s dismal season.

    • tom b

      June 07, 2014 09:39 AM

      starting to wonder about biddle

      • kevin

        June 07, 2014 01:19 PM

        I hope he is a #3 starter at least. If Nola is good and MAG gets healthy the Phils could have a nice young rotation. Cole, Lee, Biddle, Nola, MAG

  2. Pete

    June 08, 2014 11:18 PM

    Neither a “death sentence” nor any “sentence” at all perhaps. I see an almost equal mix of recent playoff and non-playoff teams at the top of the list as at the bottom of the list. So, at a quick glance, this list doesn’t seem to tell me much about the success of a team. It looks like you can win with a lot of young arms cycling through and you can win without a lot of young arms cycling through.

    No doubt having good young cost-controlled arms has benefits, but according to this list, winning isn’t one of those benefits.

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