Phillies @ Dodgers May 31, 2018: Nola vs. Kershaw – Aces Wild

In the third of four games, the Dodgers handily took care of the Phillies 8-2 behind Ross Stripling and Matt Kemp. That means with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers (26-29) look to beat the Phillies (30-23) and secure their fourth consecutive series win. Kershaw last pitched on May 1, and after that game, the Dodgers were 12-17 and nine back in the division behind the Diamondbacks. Since then, they’ve gone 14-12 and cut the division lead to just 3.5 games. The team currently has the 19th best record in baseball, but a run differential of +24 which ranks tenth overall. They’re currently 14-13 in May, and a full month of above .500 baseball would be nice. However, it won’t be an easy game as the Phillies will send their ace, Aaron Nola (2.27 ERA/ 2.72 FIP/ 2.26 DRA) against Clayton Kershaw (2.86/3.68/3.31) and the Dodgers.

Phillies
Dodgers
4:35 PM
Los Angeles
2B
Hernandez
LF
Pederson
RF
Altherr
1B
Muncy
CF
Herrera
3B
Turner
1B
Santana
C
Grandal
3B
Franco
CF
Bellinger
LF
Williams
RF
Puig
SS
Kingery 2B Valera
C
Alfaro
SS
Hernandez
P
Nola (R)
P
Kershaw (L)

Logan Forsythe, Chris Taylor, and Kemp have the start off today, as Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, and Enrique Hernandez offer superior bats against the right-handed Nola. Another reason to keep two of your best hitters on the bench, is that against a RHP as tough as Nola it’s likely that Kemp and Taylor would be very important down the stretch as pinch-hitters when relievers start to come into the game. Max Muncy has a 158 wRC+ and a .963 OPS in May, to go along with walking 15% of the time while striking out just 22.5% of the time. Puig has also been fantastic in May, with a .968 OPS, and 165 wRC+. Nola has a 2.95 FIP vs. LHB, compared to a 2.21 FIP against RHB. He also strikes out 33.6% of right-handed batters he faces, while walking just 2.3% of them, compared to a 16.7 K% and 9.7 BB% against LHB. Either way, left-handed and right-handed batters both have struggled against Nola, as neither group has an OPS over .600. After fouling a ball off his own face Monday night, Rhys Hoskins pinch hit Tuesday night. Today he was put on the DL as it was revealed that Monday night, that foul ball broke his jaw. Tough dude.

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131 pitchers have thrown 40+ innings, and while Kershaw rates favorably as always — Nola has been elite.

Kershaw hasn’t been the Kershaw we’re used to seeing, and even though he’s “struggled” for 40 innings, he’s still profiling as a top 25 pitcher in the league. After mentioning that he’s worked on some mechanical stuff in his time resting/recovering, it’ll be interesting to monitor his velocity and movement after his brief DL stint. Hopefully we see increased velo, with the strikeouts and results following in suit.

You can say that Nola is “breaking out” as an ace now, but really he’s been that good for a while now. The now 24 year-old, put up 2.8 fWAR in 111 innings in 2016, but it flew under the radar as his 4.78 ERA drew some surprise, masking his elite 3.08 FIP. Last year, he put up 4.3 fWAR in just 168 innings –– ranking 12th in the league, and everyone in front of him had at least 175 IP. He ranked top 10 in most meaningful stats, and remains the best pitcher on the Phillies even after the addition of Jake Arrieta. Going into the season, he was my number one trade target for the Dodgers if they were looking to add a starter, but after adding Carlos Santana and Arrieta in free agency, it was clear they were going for it and he wouldn’t be available. As of today, his 2.1 fWAR is good for seventh in baseball. What he lacks in strikeouts, he makes up for in generating ground balls and limiting hard contact. Of qualified pitchers, he has the 10th highest ground ball rate (51.9%), and the fourth lowest hard contact rate (25.1%), trailing only Justin Verlander,Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. He sits 92-94 MPH with his fastball which has natural sink, but he also throws a legitimate sinker 15% of the time. He also mixes in two strong off-speed pitches in a curveball and changeup which make up roughly half of his pitches thrown. Aaron Nola is good.

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In other news:

This was quite obviously going to happen.

First pitch is at 4:35 PT on SNLA and MLB Network.

About Allan Yamashige

Allan Yamashige
Just a guy living in Thousand Oaks, CA who happens to love the Dodgers and statistics. I'm currently studying at Moorpark Community College and plan on transferring into UC Santa Cruz's Business/Economics/Computer Science program. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about adults doing baseball is alright.