J.A. Happ Looks Good Going Forward

His start today against the Cardinal’s right-handed heavy offense will certainly be a very big test, but I still like J.A. Happ for the rest of the season.

Happ has improved most of his meaningful, predictive numbers. His strikeout rate is way up, at 23.1% (9.05 K/9) against a career average of 19.2% (7.39 K/9) and his walk rate has actually dropped to 8.5% (3.34 BB/9) against a career rate of 10.3% (3.99). The improvement of his strikeout and walk rates have allowed him to record a reasonable 2.71 K/BB, which is significantly better than the 1.85 mark he has for his career. While a 2.71 K/BB rate is not a tremendous number, it does show that he has improved.

The most notable difference in Happ this year is a slight velocity uptick. His fastball is up about a half mile per hour, while his other pitches are all up in according while his change up has actually increased to 82.3 mph from 80.9 mph. While he throws his change up just 10% of the time, the pitch has been reasonably effective according to linear pitch weights at 0.7. For his career, it has been a pretty terrible pitch, with a value of -6.8, so the increased velocity on it may make the pitch a bit more deceptive.

Along with the improved strikeout and walk rates, Happ has seen a huge increase in his ground ball rate. After being a rather normal pitcher in terms of batted ball rates, he has seen his ground ball rate shoot up almost 10%, up to 46.5% this year. The improved ground ball rate forces me to believe that the .328 BABIP will come down, and the better strikeout rate makes me believe that the oddly high 14.7% HR/FB rate will also decline.

With an xFIP of 3.63, Happ looks like a pretty solid pitcher to pick up or buy low on. For his career, he has outperformed his defense independent pitching stats, as his 4.04 ERA compared to mid 4.00 FIP/xFIP/SIERA numbers. He does seem to be a different pitcher though, so expecting him to outperform his peripherals may not be the wisest way to analyze his future performance. Even so, with his newly found ground ball rate along with solid K/BB skills, his results should start accurately portraying his performance. Although amount of quality starts is not the best metric ever, Happ having eight in 11 starts does show that he is rather consistent. I’m picking him up in one league, and I recommend you do as well if you have a need for pitching.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

8 Responses to “J.A. Happ Looks Good Going Forward”

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  1. I’ve been starting him in Tout Wars. He still makes me a little nervous, but I agree with Eno’s premise. Buy.

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  2. Dave says:

    Happ could potentially be GREAT going forward. Just combed through the Astros up coming schedule and after his start against the Cards tonight, things get much easier. His next 7 potential starts could possibly be against these teams in order (SF, KC, CLE, Cubs, Pit, SF, SD). Not a single dominant hitting team. The time to buy is now!

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  3. Eric Dykstra says:

    No way I’m starting him today, but he could be a decent streaming option or spot starter going forward.

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  4. joe bananas says:

    would you rather have happ or a guy like gee/nicasio/wei-yin chen the rest of the year?

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    • Eric Dykstra says:

      None are worth a permanent roster spot, even in deeper leagues. Happ maybe has the most upside as a spot starter, but I’d rather stream matchups with all of them, as well as a number of other pitchers that are great spot starts.

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    • LocoRoto says:

      Based on the numbers, I’d go Gee, Happ, and Nicasio. I’m an NL guy, so I can’t comment on Chen. If you’re in NL-only, all three of those guys need to be owned.

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  5. TBird says:

    RE: his GB % increase, therefore, BABIP should decrease.

    Am I missing something here? I thought GBs had higher BABIP than FBs?

    Thanks for the write-up!

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  6. JackFlash says:

    Well, I took your advice and streamed this guy yesterday for his easy start in SF. Nobody noticed apparently because of Cain’s perfecto … but Happ’s not looking good going forward from your original point looking forward just yet. Ouch.

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