Yankees: What’s happened with J.A. Happ?


J.A. Happ has flourished in his last three starts and the Yankees are hopeful this continues. He’s 2-0, with a 1.56 ERA and struck out 19 batters in 17-and-a-third innings. Happ’s also allowed just five hits and has held batters to a .093 BAA. 

Let’s flashback for a moment.  Entering play on August 26, the Yankees left-hander was 10-8, with a 5.58 ERA in 25 starts. He had allowed 31 home runs and 140 hits in 129 innings—a .274 BAA. His 5.58 ERA was second-worst in the majors among 83 pitchers with at least 120 innings.

Worst ERA in MLB, entering play on August 26

  1. Aaron Sanchez: 5.89
  2. J.A. Happ: 5.58    
  3. Rick Porcello: 5.49

Think about it. Just two weeks ago, Happ might’ve not made the Yankees’ postseason roster. And now, he’s emerged as one of their best starters.

So, that begs the question. What “happ-ened” with Happ?

The answer: His four-seam fastball has returned.

Happ throws his four-seamer 47.6 percent of the time this season. That’s by far the pitch he uses most. His next most often thrown pitch is the sinker, which he throws 18.4 percent of the time.  Prior to his August 26 outing, batters were hitting .264 against his four-seamer. That’s 58 hits in 220 at-bats. By comparison, opposing batters hit just .203 against the pitch last season, having compiled 36 hits in 354 at-bats.

Since the start of play on August 26, batters have just one hit in 25 at-bats against his fastball—a batting average of .040! That’s the lowest batting average against any four-seamer in the majors during that span. His teammate James Paxton is right behind him at .045.

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The speed on his four-seamer has climbed during that span. He averaged 91.8 miles per hour on the pitch through his first 25 starts of the year. Happ’s averaged 92.3 miles per hour on the fastball in his last three outings. A difference of half-a-mile an hour might seem minuscule, but it’s just enough to disrupt a batter’s timing.

It’s obvious he has confidence in the pitch. He’s throwing it 55.1 percent of the time over his last three starts. That’s nearly nine percent higher than what his season average was prior to August 26 (46.5 percent).

Just take a look below. The numbers prove Happ’s four-seamer is the secret to his success.  The peanut butter to his jelly, as it were. If J.A. can continue his dominance deep into October, then Yankee fans will be very “happ-y” with him.

Next. Luis Severino nearing his return off the IL. dark

J.A. Happ’s Four-Seam Fastball, first 25 starts compared to his last three

First 25                                                                Last Three                    

AVG Velo: 91.8 MPH                                          92.3 MPH

Pitch Percentage: 46.5%                                   55.1

BAA: .264                                                             .040

Opp. SLG %: .627%                                              .040%