by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The signing of J.A. Happ wasn’t the sexy addition many had expected, especially with rumors throwing names like Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner and Patrick Corbin into the mix. The Yankees did have familiarity with Happ, who thrived in his 63.2 IP in New York after being acquired from Toronto around the Trade Deadline:
Happ has posted a BB/9 of 2.91 or better for five straight seasons, so that’s not an eye-popping number. The ERA, strikeouts and WHIP are, and none of the are completely believable.
There was a change in approach, with Happ moving away from his sinker (29.07% to 14.37%) instead to his fourseam fastball (42.27% to 59.17%). Maybe that allowed his changeup to play up a little bit more? Even if it did, the changeup generated just a 13.28% Whiff% (which did represent his best mark). Forget about his overall 9.78 K/9, even the mark just in New York seems unrepeatable.
The lower usage of his sinker also contributed to a 40.1% groundball rate, which in turn had him turn in a 1.37 HR/9. That was slightly worse during his time in New York (1.41 HR/9), and if he’s going to continue posting this type of pedestrian groundball rate there’s a good chance the home run issues continue pitching in Yankee Stadium.
Couple that, which is going to hurt, with the luck he benefited from during his time in New York (.250 BABIP, 89.7% strand rate) and everything appears to be skewing in the wrong direction. That’s not to say that it’s impossible that he holds value, because the solid control is going to allow him to post a solid WHIP, but beyond that what are we depending on?
A usable WHIP with the potential for a 4.00+ ERA and a strikeout rate that’s going to regress? Sure there should be some wins, but even that is hardly a guarantee (just look at Jacob deGrom from ’18). There’s simply not enough upside, especially with the potential cost/hype surrounding him while pitching for New York.
At this point it’s easy to call him a potential bust and a player to avoid.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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