The Season That Was: J.A. Happ

Tom Szczerbowski

A look at J.A. Happ's 2013 season.

J.A. Happ was someone that the Jays had wanted for a while and I never really understood why.

Then, July 20th, 2012, Alex finally got him, and David Carpenter and Brandon Lyon for Asher Wojciechowski, Carlos Perez, David Rollins, Joseph Musgrove, Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco. We were happy to be rid of the Franciscos, who weren't fan favorites, to put it mildly, but we were underwhelmed with the trade. Or at least most of us were.

Woodman663 talked about him and told us:

J.A. Happ's not a very good pitcher, nor does he have huge upside.

After the trade, he put up a 3-2 record with a 4.69 ERA in 10 games, 6 starts before breaking his foot, in early September. The good part was that he was striking people out, 46 in 40.1 innings as a Jay.

In the off-season J.A. was:

As Rickey Romero didn't show anything in Spring Training, Happ got his spot in the rotation, instead of being stashed at Buffalo, waiting for an injury.

His season was almost as eventful as his off-season. His numbers:


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - J.A. Happ 5-7 19 18 0 0 0 0 92.2 91 53 474 10 45 77 4.56 1.47

Fangraphs has him at a 1.2 WAR for 2013, giving him a value of $5.8 million to the Jays, who paid him $3.7 million. So I guess he was a bargain.

He averaged 5.15 innings per start. As you know, he tends to go to a full count on far too many hitters. JA seems to have no trouble getting to 2 strikes but then will nibble until he's evened the count.

J.A.'s strikeout rate dropped a lot from (7.48/9 innings, down from 8.96) and his walk rate went up (4.37/9, up from 3.48). He can't continue to walk a guy every other inning and stay a useful pitcher. He did give up fewer home runs (0.97/9, down from 1.18).

His FIP (4.31) and xFIP (4.82) were right around his ERA. His BABIP against was .288.

Strangely, for a lefty, he had huge reverse splits. Right-handed batters hit .229/319/.389 while lefties hit .304/.371/.431.

He was much better at home, except for the won/loss record, (2-5, 3.86, batters hit .223/.308/.397 with 6 home runs) than on the road (3-2, 5.36, batters hit .278/.359/.406 with 4 home runs).

Happ by month:

April: 2-1, 3.86 ERA, in 5 starts, 28 innings. Batters hit .224/.300/.355 with 3 home runs.

May: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, in 2 starts, 5 innings. Batters hit .381/.533/.667.

June: Injured.

July: Injured.

August: 1-2, 6.15 ERA, in 5 starts, 26.1 innings. Batters hit .243/.331/.427 with 4 home runs.

September: 2-3, 2.97 ERA, in 6 starts, 33.1 innings. Batters hit .256/.322/.379 with 3 home runs.

I'd love to think that the September Happ was the real one, but I'm not going to fool myself.

His longest win streak was 2 games, his first 2 starts of the season. Longest losing streak was 3 games. He went from April 12th to August 17th without a win, but there was a lot of injury time in there.

Happ's best Game Score was a 71, on August 12, against the A's. He went 7 innings, allowing 3 hits, 2 walks, 1 home runs, with 6 k. He left with a 1-1 tie, in a game that Casey Janssen gave up 4 runs in the 9th. He also had four starts with scores in the upper 60's.

His lowest Game Score was a 21, his first game back after the injury, so he can be excused for that, against the Mariners. He went 4.0 innings, allowed 7 hits, 7 runs, 6 earned, 3 walks with 2 strikeouts. His second lowest score was the game he took the line drive to the head. Before that he had thrown 1.1 innings, allowing 5 hits, 4 earned, 1 walk with no strikeouts. The start before that one, he gave up 7 walks in 3.2 innings.

We can't talk about 2013 for Happ, without talking about the line drive that got him in the head. Before that game, he was 2-2 with a 3.98, and had been as good as any of our starters, to that point. As it turned out, his head wasn't the part of the body that kept him out for so long, he hurt his right knee when he crumpled to the ground. It would be exactly three months before he would pitch for the Jays again.

I really don't know what to think of Happ. I'm not a big fan. He, like most of our starters, would have likely looked better, early in the season, if we had guys that could makes catches and turn double plays. He was much better than Ricky Romero would have been.

As a 5th starter, he'd likely be ok, but I'd rather him in the long relief, emergency starter, depth for when there is an injury to one of the starters. I'm hoping we can find better, but then I don't know what we do with him if we do find better. I don't see Happ having a lot of trade value right now, unless someone sees what Alex thought he saw in the guy. Happ does get a good number of strikeouts, maybe he can cut back on the walks. Or maybe someone thinks they can get him to cut back on the walks.

Jared put up a poll, asking folks if 'a year later' we were happy with the trade. The no vote won, with 62% of the vote, yes got 23% and undecided 16%. Right now, I'd like to have the depth back for out minor league system. We gave up a lot of players, maybe none of them will turn into major leaguers, but, with the trades we made last year, our cupboard is pretty bare now.

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