I can’t watch J.A. Happ start another game for the Yankees. I just can’t. If it weren’t for money owed, Happ would have stopped starting games for the Yankees a long time ago. But unfortunately, money owed and not ability or performance decides rotation spots for the Yankees, and because of it, Happ will likely continue to start for the Yankees.
It’s been one year, two months and 16 days since I wrote Yankees Have a J.A. Happ Problem, and yet, he’s still losing games for them. It’s not his fault that he’s losing games for the Yankees though. He didn’t miss out on Patrick Corbin over a measly extra year only to then turn around and give himself a multi-year contract at the age of 36 as a fastball pitcher with a declining fastball. He doesn’t keep himself in the rotation and he doesn’t let himself remain in games as he keeps putting runners on base and letting those runners score. Happ sucks, but he’s going to pitch as long as the Yankees let him, and they keep letting him.
I remember where I was when Happ’s career ended because I sitting directly behind him in center field. That was in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2018 ALDS when J.D. Martinez hit a three-run home run over the Green Monster, ending the game minutes after it had started. Happ has never been the same since. Last season, he was allowed to make 30 starts despite having a 5.01 ERA. Out of the 30, only eight were quality starts and he only managed to go at least six innings in 22 of them. This season has been a continuation of last as Happ has now made two starts for a combined total of seven innings, while pitching to this line: 7 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 8 BB, 3 K, 3 HR, 10.29 ERA, 2.143 WHIP. Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia are wasting pitches in fake games in Scranton as Happ continues to get the ball every fifth day.
Happ brings no value to the team right now. He’s not eating innings, he’s not keeping the team in games and he’s not working toward anything like a postseason start. Rather than accept that the money owed to Happ is a sunk cost and move on and give his rotation spot to someone with the ability to get major league hitters out, it won’t surprise me when Happ is given the ball again for his next scheduled start. And it won’t surprise me when Aaron Boone lets Happ try to figure it out on the mound even though there’s nothing to figure out. Happ can either nibble around the corners and hope to make the perfect pitch each time he releases the ball, which will in turn lead to 10.29 walks-per-nine total he has posted this season, or he can throw the ball in the strike zone and give up extra-base hits on his diminished stuff.
Happ isn’t going to magically find “it” again because there’s nothing left to find. This isn’t a two-start sample size, it’s a going-back-to-the-start-of-last-season sample size. He got knocked around by a bad Orioles lineup and embarrassed by a Phillies lineup that had played one game in 10 days. The details of Happ’s 2021 vesting option with the Yankees are either unknown or undetermined, but the one thing that’s known is the details of it will be based around starts and/or innings pitched in 2020. Happ doesn’t deserve to be in the rotation now and the decision to remove would make the Yankees better both this season and next.
When I wrote Yankees Have a J.A. Happ Problem, it was right after Happ had once again been rocked by an eventual 108-loss Orioles team. After that game, Happ said, “Tonight was just a tough one and I don’t know that I have an answer for it. They hit the bad pitches, they hit the good pitches, and I just got beat tonight. My plan is to get better and figure it out.” That was one year, two months and 16 days ago. He hasn’t gotten better and he hasn’t figured it out. He’s not going to get better and he’s not going to figure it out.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!