The Cardinals are in a position to get one of the premier free-agent pitchers on the market this year. They have the money, the need, and more importantly, a fan base that is watching the off-season very closely.
In no particular order, there are four pitchers that are at the top of everyone’s list. Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Blake Snell. Two of these pitchers can’t really be compared with the others. Ohtani is a unicorn. He is not only one of the best pitchers but also one of the best hitters. Yamamoto has been an ace in Japan and that makes it harder to compare to the other two.
If the Cardinals get down to Nola and Snell what are the differences?
CONTRACT: Both pitchers are 30 years old. Both will be looking for long-term contracts. Nola is projected to get about $25 million and Snell is just under that at around $24 million. Both will be for about five or six years.
ACHIEVEMENTS: It’s hard to believe that Nola has only been in one All-Star game. He did receive Cy Young votes in three years. Snell also was only in one All-Star game. The difference is Snell just won his second CY Young and has had two ERA titles in his career. When he is at his best there is none better.
CAREER STATS: If you factor in a 162-game season, Nola would have a WAR of 4.6, ERA of 3.72, SO9 of 10.0, and a SO/W of 4.26, Snell has a WAR of 3.8, ERA of 3.2, SO/9 of 11.1 and a SO/W of 2.71
Snell has more Ks but Nola has fewer walks which would be more important with a team that ranks below average in caught stealing percentage.
STATS LAST THREE YEARS: The stats for the last three years are remarkably the same as the career stats. With Nola giving up fewer walks but Snell being the better strike-out pitcher. They both averaged about 95 pitches per game as well.
Over the last three years, there has been one notable difference. Snell has missed 78 games with various injuries. This includes 38 games last year with a hip problem. Over the last three years, Nola has missed none.
Trends: Nola’s strikeouts per nine innings have been falling over the last three years. 11.1,10.3 and 9.4 last year. Snell has been pretty consistent. 11.9, 12.0, and 11.7. ERA for Nola was consistently lower than Snell. Nola had a better hard-hit rate at 38%, 32% and 38 %. Snell however has been getting better each year at 41%, 39%, and 34% last year.
One other factor that jumps out is the innings pitched per game. Snell is getting better at going longer and has 4.8, 5.3, and 5.6 innings per game over the last three years. Nola has been very consistent at 5.6, 6.4, and 6.1 innings per game. Over the last seven years, the average number of innings for Nola has been over 6.0 and never lower than 5.6 innings per year, Snell has never gone over an average of 5.8 and that was in 2018.
There are a couple of differences between these two pitchers. Snell has the better top-end stuff. He's the strike-out pitcher when right that will give you 5 innings of Cy Young stuff. Nola will, on the other hand, be more consistent, give you more innings per game, give up fewer walks, and is less likely to miss games due to injury.
The Cardinals can’t miss with this signing. Either pitcher would be a great addition and would be the number-one starter on this staff. I think the Cardinals' history shows that they would value the consistency and the innings-eating ability of Nola over Snell. Let’s see if that is worth the extra year or the extra money for them to get Aaron Nola.