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J.A. Happ Is a Reliever At Best For the Yankees

The New York Yankees need to get some production out of J.A. Happ, but that won’t ever be as a starter if they use him properly.

When you think of J.A. Happ, you think of an unlikable pitcher on the New York Yankees because he stinks. This negative notion revolving him was emphasized when he wanted to file a grievance for not getting starts. He was then promptly reminded not just by fans, but by the Yankees that he has been bad. With what seems like $17 million wasted due to the ineptitude in every facet of the word displayed by J.A. Happ, how can I possibly say he’s being used wrong? I mean he has no salvageable assets to his pitching. He walks too many guys, doesn’t strike out people, and gives up home runs. That being said, I still think that he should be used differently to get actual value out of Happ.

J.A. Happ Has a Decent Pitch Arsenal

J.A. Happ has a surprisingly okay fastball, this year. Batters are not only hitting poorly on hit (.345 SLG) but it’s got a decent amount of spin at 2351 RPM. He’s also reliably able to pitch it up in the zone without giving up too many home runs. His HR/1000 fastballs thrown has been reduced from ~19 to ~5. He also owns a solid sinker that generates groundballs consistently, which is important considering that Happ no longer can get in the 8-9 SO/9 range. The average launch angle on a J.A. Happ sinker is -3 which is 5 degrees lower than in 2019, which is another good sign for that pitch. His slider is solid, but again, nothing really to write home about. With his arsenal being pretty solid, let’s get into what his role should be.

He’s Way More Valuable In the Bullpen

J.A. Happ is a useless starter because he can’t get strikeouts and he gives up home runs. He struggles because he can’t go deep into ball games. After a few batters faced those groundballs, walks, and flyballs add up. According to league average BABIP, balls in play drop for hits at a ~1/3 rate. Happ walks 10.8% of batters faced and only strikes out 14.7% of batters faced. That means that 74.5% of all balls are in play, and so at this rate, he projects to have 24.6% of all at-bats turn into hits along with his 10.8% walk%. This means a total of 35.4% of all batters faced against Happ get on base, which over innings will create traffic and in turn result in runs. This is why Happ would work in the bullpen, as for one or two innings he can get weaker contact.

J.A. Happ can do well in limited use, plus it gives Clarke Schmidt a rotation spot. If the New York Yankees want to get anything at all out of J.A. Happ, it has to be out of the bullpen.

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