“You guys thinking Cheetah’s after?” Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
“Do you like that reverse psychology?” asked Rod Allen of the Tigers broadcast crew as Miguel Cabrera plated a meaningless sixth inning run, immediately after Allen had brought up Miggy’s prior struggles against Jays pitcher Gavin Floyd. “Because it works.”
Er… well… sometimes it does. But it sure as hell didn’t for me in tonight’s Game Threat, when I postured like the Jays were obviously going to light up Michael Fulmer like he was a vacant on Devil’s Night.
He was outstanding (or the Jays’ hitters were crap), and J.A. Happ was… not.
But I feel like I need to defend Happ a little here. Not that I should have to, but I’ve definitely been on Twitter for long enough this evening to know that I probably should.
Heading into tonight’s start, over the past calendar year Happ ranks 34th (among 116 pitchers with at least 120 innings) by FanGraphs’ version of WAR. That puts him even with Carlos Carrasco, and a tenth of a win behind Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka. His 3.50 ERA puts him 35th among that group, 0.01 behind Max Scherzer. By RA9-WAR he was 25th, a tenth behind Justin Verlander, and two tenths back of Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber.
OK, so here’s where I must admit that I’ve been a little selective here — his ERA, for example, is even with R .A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle over that span, too *COUGH* — but I’ve also been generous to the haters! The 365-day sample still includes nine starts last year with Seattle, plus one bad one with Pittsburgh, over which he allowed 36 earned runs over just 47.2 innings (6.80 ERA).
Furthermore, to paraphrase some of what I wrote back when Happ signed with the Jays in November, we’d do well to remember that Happ struggled early on in 2014 with the Jays (missing much of April with back problems), but came on strong in the second half. He cut down on walks and pitched to a 3.56 ERA with a 3.65 FIP. He was pretty good at the start of 2013, before taking a ball off his skull in Tampa (and mangling his knee in the process), and seemed to get it togetherand at the very end, too.
So, for one, he was quite a bit better for not-insignificant stretches than a lot of fans recall. And for two, there were maybe some decent reasons (slow start with back trouble, getting skulled) for when we didn’t see him at his best.
He’s fine, in other words. He might not be the 2.30 ERA/3.30 FIP guy he’s been over the 21 starts that preceded this one (he’s probably not — few are!), but this boogeyman that is “bad Happ” is probably not as scary as the people searching dumbly and desperately for reasons to believe those last 21 starts didn’t happen would like you to believe. (Not that you’d actually listen to them).
And after the last time Happ had a blow-up (an admittedly scant three weeks ago), he came back with three strong starts, allowing a total of just five runs on 10 hits and eight walks over 20.1 innings.
So let’s relax. Not that we’re not relaxed. But just in case.
Hey, and not that we were doing this either, but let’s maybe relax about the hitters, too! Because as bad as they’ve looked at times this year, as a team the Jays currently rank 28th in baseball by BABIP at .277, and over the last month have been even worse (.268). Their hard contact rate over that span, however, is the sixth-best in baseball, and ranks third in the American League. They’re stinging a lot of balls, those balls have just been finding a lot of gloves (and shifts aren’t helping). That should get better.
Meanwhile… um… that’s not to say that everything is rosy…
Drew Storen? More like Two’s Scorin’
— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) June 7, 2016
Yep yep yep.
Anyway… ugh. The Jays lost 11-0. Did I mention that? No? Good. Now let’s never speak of this waste of time again.