Happ Having A Special Season

Thumbnail image for happ 0805b.jpgTaking the elevator from the press box to the visitor’s clubhouse last night at Citi Field, I was thinking about J.A. Happ‘s season and started wondering how good his rookie year is compared to other rookie years in Phillies history.

It turns out it is very good.

He is 10-2 with a 2.59 ERA following a 4-1 victory over the Mets. The last Phillies rookie to win 11 games? Bob Walk in 1980. The last Phillies rookie to win 12 or more games? Tom Underwood in 1975, when he won 14.

The last Phillies rookie to finish with a lower ERA than Happ’s current 2.59?

Eppa Rixey‘s 2.50 ERA in 1912.

Grover Cleveland Alexander holds the franchise record with 28 wins for a rookie. He accomplished that in 1911, when he went 28-13 with a 2.57 ERA. (Old Pete threw 367 innings his rookie season.)

“J.A. does not pitch like he’s a young pitcher,” said Brad Lidge, who pitched a perfect ninth to earn 24th save. “He pitches like he’s been under pressure his whole life. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. He’s getting guys out, especially with runners in scoring position. He’s just very hard to hit. He’s got deception. He’s got location. And his ball has got life on it. When he keeps doing what he’s been doing, we’ve got tons of confidence. Honestly, he’s pitching like he’s one of the best pitchers in the National League. I know he’s a rookie, but it is what it is. He’s pitching like one of the best guys in the National League.”

Happ’s ERA is the lowest for any rookie pitcher anywhere since Hideo Nomo in 1995, when he had a 2.54 ERA.

In the previous 50 seasons (1959-2008), just 10 rookie pitchers have had lower ERAs than Happ’s current ERA:

  • Stan Bahnsen‘s 2.05 ERA in 1968
  • Jerry Koosman‘s 2.08 ERA in 1968
  • Jon Matlack‘s 2.32 ERA in 1972
  • Gary Peters‘ 2.33 ERA in 1963
  • Mark Fidrych‘s 2.33 ERA in 1976
  • Fernando Valenzuela‘s 2.48 ERA in 1981
  • Ken Forsch‘s 2.53 ERA in 1971
  • Nomo’s 2.54 ERA in 1995
  • Al Downing‘s 2.56 ERA in 1963
  • Gary Nolan‘s 2.58 ERA in 1967.

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17 Comments

Dear Mr. Zolecki:

Please tell Manuel to use Happ cautiously!
He is in his rookie year, and maybe pitched
200+ IPs ultimately this year!
If Manuel still let him pitch so deep in the game,
he will get another fatigue arm next year
just like Cole Hamels, or go to the DL…something like that!
I am serious and very worried about it.

Sincerely Lo,
From Taiwan

I’m not too worried about his IP. If you look at his last few years in the minors: 166.2 in ’08, 122.1 in ’07, and 160.2 in ’06. Plus he is 26 and has been pitching at a high level since college back in ’02. I think Hamels numbers actually threw more of a red flag. After high school in ’03 he threw 91 IP, then only 16 in ’04, 35 in ’05, 181.1 in ’06, 183.1 in ’07, and then he jumped all the way to 262.1 this past year. Since Happ started the year in the bullpen, I don’t think he will touch anything close to Hamels. He figures to get 7 or 8 max starts in the regular season. Then since he will most likely be the 4 in the playoffs, he probably will only get 3 playoff starts max. So, if he averages 7 innings in those starts he will be around 219 IP, so I don’t think that is a drastic increase.

hollywoodhamels, what in the world makes you think that Happ would be the #4 in the postseason? He has made the case to be no worse than #3 and could very well be #2, depending on what he and Blanton do for the remainder of the season.

Barring an injury, Happ will be #4 in the playoffs because Manuel is overly LOYAL to his veterans AND because you should not have 3 consecutive leftys in a PLAYOFF rotation. Gives too much of an edge to the opposing manager.
If it were me and Hamels continued to struggle, I’d pitch Lee, Blanton and Happ then Hamels in the playoff rotation. But Charlie would never do that because he will be loyal to Hamels, based on LAST year. Sad but true.

phan, check dolfan’s comment. Manuel has a loyalty to his pitchers. Cole won the WS MVP last year so he will be the number 2 behind Lee and then they will go Blanton then Happ. I think Hamels is our 4th or 5th best starter right now but that won’t show in our playoff rotation. Happ should probably be slotted at 3 behind Blanton but he won’t be.

I doubt that either one of you are right, if things continue the way they have been. Charlie will take loyalty only so far, RE: Moyer. The same goes for Lidge. If he doesn’t get his act together there is no way that he gets to close games in the postseason. They are going to give both Hamels and Lidge plenty of rope while they continue to dominate the division, but the postseason is a different animal. The rotation that makes sense is to have Blanton go second, and then Happ. If Happ, Blanton and Hamels continue on their current path, that is what will happen.

Wow. Bruntlett bails Lidge out with an unassisted triple play. Lidge scares the sh*t out of me. You guys think Charlie will be loyal to him if he keeps this up? Doubt it.

Charlie WILL remain LOYAL to Hamels ( as opposed to Moyer) because the Phils need Hamels in the future as he is only 25 yo. Also because he is a WS MVP. Hamels K to BB ratio is good. He’s just trying too hard to be fine with his pitches. I love Happ BUT he’s your #4 guy in the playoffs UNLESS Hamels completely blows up or gets hurt.

As for Lidge, he scares me too. But, Charlie will likely stick with him too. Today, it was not his fault that Howard and Bruntlett played soccer with three groundballs. Besides, UNLESS Myers can get back healthy ( and forget about his dumb drinking issues) , there REALLY is no other rational option for a closer. Lidge will be fine. You can’t replace a guy for whom you have no roster replacement.

phan, you obviously don’t know Charlie Manuel if you think Hamels will be anything other than the number 2 in the playoffs.

I know Charlie Manuel likes to win and he is not going to take a chance on Cole if he doesn’t get his act together. He’s a 5 inning pitcher now, 6 at best. He can’t locate his pitches and he loses his composure. They are not things that are long term or permanent, but they don’t appear to be going away this season. Happ battles much better at this point and Charlie will be much more loyal to a battler in the crucible of the playoffs. And there is no way Cole is ahead of Blanton.

Don’t forget we’ve seen Charlie put Moyer in the bullpen this season so we know he’s trying his best to win another WS. So he may put Hamels 4th if he doesn’t improve.

I think Moyer was a different issue because he doesn’t have the stuff Cole has and he is 22 years older than Cole. Cole has been battling all year, but he still has good stuff, he just can’t locate it and like you said he has lacked the composure this year. In the end, I really think Manuel will stick with him as the 2. I think this is the wrong decision but I really think that this is how it will go down. He is in the prime of his career and he has better stuff than Blanton and Happ, no matter the numbers that much is true. I say stick with the hot hand, but Manuel sticks by his guys and stickin by his guys won us a World Series last season don’t forget.

He HAS to drop him down, Karen.
I hope Cole gets back to the dominant pitcher he was last year and proves me wrong. But I just don’t have confidence that it will happen before next season.

Todd just agreed with me on CBS Sportszone that Cole should not be the #2.

I think we’re all in agreement here that he shouldn’t be, but I think he will be based on Charlie’s past moves like sticking with Lidge for so long. The best rotation would be Lee, Blanton, Happ, Hamels, this isn’t really a new development.

The question is who is your second lefty in the post season. Obvioulsy, Lee starts the first game and Blanton (r) starts the 2nd (assuming you go lefty/righty/lefty). DO you start Happ, with no Post season experience or Hamels in game 3?

No one has mentioned Pedro in the playoffs as a starting pitcher. He has shown so far that he pitches better when he has to. That lead he had probably contributed to his lack of concentration, resulting in the 4 runs he gave up. When the lead evaporated, he bore down and got the last 6 batters that he faced. THIS is the kind of pitcher you want in the playoffs.

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