January 22, 2021

Aaron Nola Has Changed, but Also Hasn’t (FanGraphs)

After strike-throwing hiccups (the percentage of pitches he threw in the zone dropped from 53% to 47%) contributed to a 2019 that was relatively pedestrian by his standards, Aaron Nola has come out of the gate red-hot in 2020. He’s getting ahead of hitters — his first-pitch strike percentage (68%) is sixth among qualified starters — and then finishing them, inducing a comfortably career-high 15.6% swinging strike rate, which is also sixth among qualified starters. Nola has now punched out an incredible 29 of the 68 hitters he’s faced this year and is one of just three starters who has fanned more than 40% of opponents (Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber are the others).

Nola has done most of this damage with his changeup, which he is using much more than at any point in his career, calling on the cambio a whopping 30% of the time after using it at about a 16% clip in prior years. The changeup itself doesn’t appear to be any different than in the past, as its movement profile is similar to his career-best 2018 campaign (it had a little less sink in 2019). Nola’s release point is perhaps a little more consistent than last year, when he was getting underneath more…

Read “Aaron Nola Has Changed, but Also Hasn’t” at FanGraphs