I was at Aaron Nola’s first Major League game. Two of my friends and I went to Citizens Bank Park to see the most-touted prospect on a bad Phillies team we’d see in quite some time. As we sat in the Hall of Fame Club – which was one of the perks of having a friend who bartended at Xfinity Live! – we watched Aaron Nola deal six innings of one-run ball. I’d made a comment in passing about how Nola is the second-coming of Cole Hamels, something incredibly bold for a pitcher who only had six innings of Major League Baseball experience under his belt. Let’s face it, allowing one run on a solo shot and losing the game is peak Hamels, is it not?
Let’s look at the obvious first – on paper, the two are absolutely nothing alike. Hamels is a World Series MVP and a completely different style of pitcher than Nola. Hamels is arguably one of the best pitchers in Phillies history while Nola is only in his third full season and his first season and a half were pretty forgettable. One is 34, the other will be 25 in June. The list goes on and on.
While there are many tangible things that you can point to when showing the differences between Hamels and Nola, I maintain that the two are cut from the same cloth and will more than likely have similar fates in the minds of Phillies fans everywhere.
Exhibit A on why Nola is the second coming of Hamels: the two of them rarely get run support. This is something that will likely change when Phillies bats come alive (fingers crossed), but it’s something that Hamels struggled with during his tenure in Philadelphia. Looking back to the 2011 season, I found two instances where Hamels pitched a good game but couldn’t get in the win column. August 29, a 3-2 win over the Reds. Hamels threw six innings of one-run baseball allowing only two hits. The Phillies went on to score two runs in the top of the eighth to secure the win, but it earned Hamels a no-decision. The other example, which is in my mind more of a microcosm of Hamels’ time in Philly, was a 2-1 loss to the Mets on September 24. Hamels spun seven innings of four hit, one-run baseball and the Phillies lost the game, 2-1.
During his time in Philadelphia, the offense failed Hamels.
His win-loss record won’t reflect how dominant he truly was during his nine-and-a-half seasons in red pinstripes. If we’re being honest, I’m a little afraid that Nola will be in a similar boat.
Look at Nola’s last start. He had a no-hitter through six innings only to be derailed by mother nature and a rain delay. Nola still pitched a gem, 6.2 innings with one earned run, one hit, and 10 strikeouts, only to have it wasted with a no-decision because the offense couldn’t solve Jaime Garcia. Call it an isolated incident, but it really looks like Nola and Hamels are one in the same when it comes to pitching well only to have the offense fail.
Exhibit B is more of a fact than a comparison, but Hamels and Nola are the two best homegrown pitchers in recent memory. Both were drafted and came up through the farm system before coming into a rebuilding team. The only difference is that Hamels was drafted out of high school while Nola pitched at LSU before being drafted.
As it stands right now, Nola could be this season’s version of 2007-08 Hamels. He is the best pitcher on a dark horse baseball team that is coming out of a rebuilding season. He clearly has a lot of potential, he just needs to continue to get support from his offense to prove that he is the real deal. Unfortunately for Hamels, he never got the run support which kept his name out of talks of being one of the most elite pitchers in baseball history.