With James Paxton out with an injury, what can the Yankees expect from J.A. Happ, as he’ll be used in a more prominent role to begin 2020?
As I’m sure most of the Yankees fanbase knows by now, James Paxton will miss 3-4 months after undergoing back surgery. With this information present, we all but know for certain that J.A. Happ will be asked to man a rotation spot at the back-end of the starting five, and that has most Yankee fans rolling their eyes. However, there’s always the potential for a bouncing back when dealing with someone who’s coming off a down year, and that could be the case with Happ in 2020.
The Yankees acquired Happ in 2018 from the Blue Jays for Brandon Drury and Billy Mckinney, and if you look at stats like ERA, win-loss record, etc., those numbers look very appealing. In 11 starts, Happ was 7-0 and pitched to a stellar ERA of 2.69. In 63.2 innings pitched, Happ struck out 63 hitters and held opponents to a .217 opponent batting average.
Now, there’s no denying those stats look great, but 2019 presents a different story entirely.
In 31 games (30 starts), Happ pitched to a 4.91 ERA, striking out 140 batters in 161.1 innings pitched and opponents hit a solid .258, while Happ had a fairly high WHIP of 1.30. In 10 of his 30 starts, Happ allowed four or more runs, as both his strikeout numbers were down while allowing 34 home runs–a career-high.
What Can he Bring?
No one expects Happ to be great, but there’s a chance he can be between what he was in 2018 and 2019, and that could go a long way in patching the hole in the current rotation configuration. With Paxton out until May or June and Domingo German suspended the first 63 games of the season, Happ would need to act as a placeholder in the rotation until the core members of the pitching staff make their return.
What Can the Yankees (and You) Expect?
Mediocre to semi-solid at best. If Happ can return to form in 2019 and grind to a 4.00-3.50 ERA, the Yankees and the fans would be foolish to not take that. The key with Happ is to survive the first few months of the season. After Paxton or German returns, the Yankees could potentially relieve Happ of his duties in the rotation and shift him to the bullpen, with the fifth starter reps going to Jordan Montgomery until the other starter can make his return to the rotation. All in all, you shouldn’t expect Happ to dominate, rather he be a piece that the Yanks can live with for the first few months of the season.