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The Season that Was: J.A. Happ

A look at J.A. Happ's 2014 season.

Tom Szczerbowski

I'll admit that, after the 2013 season, J.A. Happ was high on my list of lest favorite pitchers. It wasn't really fair, he missed a good part of the season, after the line drive drive to the head and knee injury that came with him falling after said line drive. He was out from May 7 to August 7.

When he did pitch, he seemed to be afraid to throw a strike, he nibbled at the corners, he didn't seem to trust his stuff. He walked 45 batters in 92.2 innings. not something that makes one think that he should be part of a starting rotation.

Along with the walks he tended to throw a lot of pitches and couldn't pitch deep into games. At least if he ate innings I  could have figured there was a value to having him.

I really wasn't being fair to him, before the injury he had a 3.98 ERA in 5 starts and had been as good as any of our starters to that point. Climbing back onto a major league mound, after something like that, wouldn't be easy. I should have given him a bit of a break for being a little weary of throwing the ball over the plate.

In the off-season, I hoped the Jays would pick up another starting pitchers so that we wouldn't have Happ in the rotation. I hoped Happ would be long man in the pen and swing man for when we needed someone to make a couple of starts. But, we didn't add a starter and, at the Bisons Hot Stove Lunch, Alex said that Happ would be one of our starters.

Then spring training came and Happ was terrible. And then he was "injured". He went on the DL with back soreness and Dustin McGowan got a spot in the rotation instead. When Happ came off the DL, he went into the bullpen, but didn't stay there for long. At the start of May, Brandon Morrow went on the DL and Happ took his spot in the rotation.

He was wasn't all that bad.

Year   Age  W  L  ERA  G GS CG    IP   H  ER HR BB  IBB  SO HBP BK WP
2014    31  11 11 4.22 30 26  0  158.0 160 74  22  51   0   133   2   0  1

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Fangraphs has him at a 1.3 WAR, giving him a value of $7.3 million to the Jays. The Jays paid him $5.2 million, so he was a bit of a bargain. Baseball Reference has his WAR at 1.4.

His BABIP was .297 up a tick from his .288 last year and which is also his career number.

Compared to 2013, his strikeout rate was up a tiny bit (19.8%, up from 18.6). The big change was his walk rate, which dropped from 10.8% to 7.6%, much better.

Happ allowed a few more line drives (19.9%, up from 17.9), maybe a side effect from throwing more strikes. He gave up more ground balls (40.6%, up from 36.5) and, course, fly balls were down (39.5%, from 45.6). More of his fly balls left the park (11.5%, up from 7.7).

His FIP is 4.27 and his xFIP is 3.95, right around his ERA.

J.A. had more trouble with left-handed batters (.268/.345/.528) than he had with right-handers (.259/.310/.343). Strange for a left-handed pitcher. He had the same sort of reverse splits in 2013, but his career numbers are more normal for a lefty.

He was much better at home (7-5, 3.15 ERA, batters hit.238/.288/.436) than on the road (4-6, 5.67, batters hit .291/.354/.475). Strange since Rogers is a hitters park, but he must feel comfortable there. Maybe a sample size thing.

Happ was better in the second half of the season (4-6, 3.56 ERA, batters hit .239/.284/.455) than in the first half (7-5, 4.91, batters hit .283/.349/.451), but then we hit better in the first half of the season, so he won more.

J.A. by month:

April: 0-0, 4.15 ERA, batters hit .200/.400/.400, in 3 relief appearances.

May: 4-2, 4.09 ERA, batters hit .273/.342/.462 in 6 starts.

June: 3-2, 4.55 ERA, batters hit .290/.350/.439 in 5 starts.

July: 1-1, 5.01 ERA, batters hit .293/.337/.457 in 5 starts.

August: 1-3, 4.10 ERA, batters hit .243/.286/.472 in 6 starts.

September: 2-3, 3.62 ERA, batters hit .226/.267/.435 in 5 starts.

His longest win streak of the season was 3 games, May 15 to May 25, His longest losing streak was also 3 games, which happened twice, August 7 to August 19 and September 6 to 17.

His best GameScore was a 77 on June 26. He went 7.2 shutout innings against the White Sox, allowing 4 hits, 2 walks with 8 strikeouts. He also put up a 75 on August 7 against the Orioles, going 8 innings, allowing 5 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk with 12 strikeouts. He never had more than 8 in any other start.

His lowest GameScore was a 19 from June 21. He fought through 4 innings against the Reds, allowing 7 hits, 7 earned, 4 walks with 5 strikeouts.

Happ gets more than his share of grief around here, at least from me, but he had a pretty good season. He made all his starts (once he got into the rotation). He went at least 5 innings in 21 of his 26 starts and 6 innings in 18 of his 26 starts. There is a value in having a league average pitcher in the 5th spot in the rotation, especially if you had a very good offense. Unfortunately we only had a very good offense for a month or so of last season.

The Jays have a $6.7 million dollar option on Happ. I can't see any reason they wouldn't be picking it up.