Thursday, October 13, 2011
So What Happened to J.A. Happ?
The Houston Astros' starting pitcher J.A. Happ had the distinction of being one of the worst pitchers in the majors in 2011. He posted a -1.4 WAR in 28 starts. When looking at his past, we realize that this is really bizarre. In 2009, with the Phillies, he posted a 4.1 WAR. After being shipped to the Astros in the middle of the 2010, he put up a 1 WAR in 72 innings. So was 2011 a strange misnomer year or is this the new unimproved Happ. He is not even 30, so we will throw age being a major factor out. In 2009, he had a very solid for a starting pitcher .1 PE. His TR was a decent number but by no means great at 9.78. In 2011, he had a 1.74 PE, which is not good, but its not completely terrible for a starting pitcher. His TR was absolutely miserable, at a 6. TR tries to explain exactly what happened to a pitcher, while PE simply shows the pitchers' main results. He threw less strikes in 2011, and it led to a worse K/BB ratio. According to FanGraphs, he had a cutter he threw 15% of the time in 09. He did not throw this pitch in 2011. He also threw his curveball 3 times as much in 2011. He seems to be a slightly different pitcher than he was in 2009. There was not a big difference in FIP in 09 and his FIP in 2011 (4.33-4.64). The Astros defense clearly hurt him in 2011, while the Phillies' defense made him look a lot better than he actually was in 09 (this is also shown by the BABIP). There was also a huge difference in LOB % (20 % difference!) between the 2 years. For whatever reason (a slightly worse HR/9IP ratio in 11 could have contributed), he wasn't able to keep the runners on base from scoring. He was always a fly-ball pitcher, and I have a theory on fly-ball pitchers. The theory goes like this: unless you have a huge ballpark, if you have a fly-ball pitcher, trade him to your rival. He has always walked too many hitters, which makes his fly-ball pitching even worse. The stats seem to say that he is not quite as bad as he was in 2011, but he was not near as good as 2009 suggested. Playing for the terrible Astros won't help him either.