Jays From the Couch brings you a look at what to expect from Toronto Blue Jays Starting Pitcher, J.A. Happ in 2017
His addition to the Toronto Blue Jays after signing a 3-year, $36 million free agent contract was met with some trepidation by many in the fan base. However, the 6’5″ lefty put much of the angst to rest by proving his second half in Pittsburgh was not a fluke. Over his first seven starts, Happ, put up a 5-0 record with a 2.05 ERA, and kept things rolling on the way to a 20-4 total record, with a 3.18 ERA, and 3.2 WAR.
In fact, his first season back with Toronto turned out to be a career year for J.A. Happ. Not only were his 20 wins a career high, he also had career bests in innings pitched (195.0), ERA (3.18), and WHIP (1.169). With his H/9 (7.8) being his best since an injury shortened season of 2010. He also finished 6th in the American League Cy Young race.
Overall, his performance placed him in the upper echelon of left-handed starters in the American League. Not only did his 3.18 ERA lead all LH starters (Min 180 IP), he also finished fifth among the same group with 21 quality starts on the season, and fourth in QS% at 66. Typically the QS isn’t a stat that matters much, however, Happ’s total reflects his dominate season quite well. Especially when considering he hadn’t posted a QS% above 55 since he first donned a Toronto Blue Jays uniform back in 2012.
When career history, and age are major factors in prediction models, it leaves us with a lot of questions when looking into Happ. The back of his baseball card is not exactly dotted with substantial evidence to back up his last 43 starts since the trade deadline in 2015. And there within lies the problem. Is 43 starts enough to think he will put up more of the same production? Or should we expect him to regress back to something more recognizable?
Personally, I am on Happ train when it comes to expecting more of what we’ve seen last season. The reasoning behind this is simply, he’s a lefty. Granted he will be entering is age-34 season in 2017, and it is atypical for pitchers to get better as they progress through their thirties. However, many left-handed pitchers tend to develop and bloom later in their careers.
Should we expect another 20-win season from Happ? No, I doubt that we should. A lot of his record was supported by the offense providing a 6.06 runs of support during his starts. While he did pitch well enough to earn the majority of his victories, to expect the second highest run support in the American League is dangerous. For this reason alone it’s safer to assume Happ will finish somewhere around the 13-15 win mark with a 2.4 – 3.0 WAR, should be continue on his same trajectory.