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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: J.A. Happ

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J.A. Happ’s second go round with the Blue Jays started much much better than his first.

I’m sure you remember, we traded 7 players guys to the Astros for Happ (and David Carpenter and Brandon Lyon). It was the first of the ‘empty the minor league system’ trades from Alex Anthopoulos.

Over three seasons, as a Jay, he would make 50 starts, 8 relief appearances, put up a 19-20 record, get hit in the head with a line drive, spend more of his time in the minors than he would have liked, and generally be bit of a disappointment.

He drove me crazy by nibbling at the edges of the strike zone. If he got to a 0-2 count, I knew I didn’t have to watch the next 3 pitches, because he would work his way to a full count.

Happ signed with the Mariners before the 2015 season. He didn’t impress, and was traded to the Pirates at the deadline. The Pirates got his best work. In 11 starts, he had a 1.85 ERA.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled when the Jays signed Happ to a 3 year, $36 million contract. I was wrong to worry. FanGraphs says he was worth $25.5 million in his first year of the deal.

J.A. became just the 8th Jay to get 20 wins in a season. The season jumped him to 19th on the Jays all-time win list. 12 more wins would get him into the top 10 of the team’s win list.

At 33 Happ set career highs in bWAR (4.4) and innings pitched (195.0). Not that it really matters, but Happ was the first Jay to get 20 wins with less than 200 innings pitched. Before Happ the fewest innings pitched by a Jay 20 game winner was 229.2 by David Wells, back in 2002. Generally, guys that get a lot of wins pitch deeper into games than J.A. does.

Obviously, run support is the reason why he got to 20 wins. The Jays averaged 6.33 runs per game in his starts. They scored 9 or more runs in 8 of his starts. They only scored less than 3 runs 3 times. I’d imagine any or our starters could get 20 wins with that sort of support. Maybe all our pitchers could get this sort of support this year?

The only real question is can he be as good this season?

Well, it’s a safe bet he won’t be 20-4 again, but that’s not really dependent on him. But, can he have an ERA in the low 3’s again? Or a bWAR above 4?

I see that Zips figures he’ll drop to 154 innings and a 3.94 ERA and a 2.4 WAR. I’m hoping for better. PECOTA is less optimistic, putting him at 165 innings and a 4.52 ERA with a 0.9 WAR1(I get the feeling, PECOTA thinks there will be a jump in offense this year).

I’d like to think he can do better than either projection.

It is cool that Happ has remade himself in his 30’s. in 2014 I would have never guessed he could have a season like last year’s. Then a crappy few months in Seattle, the place that, you would figure, if he was going to be good, that where it would happen. I would imagine Ray Searage didn’t tell him anything he hadn’t heard before, but he must have been able to say it in a way that worked for Happ.

I kind of feel I own him an apology, before last year I really wasn't a fan, but I am now.