New York Yankees: What’s Wrong With JA Happ?

Nathan Solomon
New York Yankees, J.A. Happ
May 9, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ (34) throws the ball against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After a stellar second half in 2018, the New York Yankees signed veteran lefty JA Happ to a two year deal with an option for 2021. However, the Yankees may regret spending the 34 million dollars they did on Happ because he hasn’t met expectations this season by any means. Yeah, he may be 9-7 but hasn’t pitched well by at all.

Happ (5.48) is above only Rick Porcello (5.44) in AL ERA by qualified pitchers. His WHIP is at 1.35, which is a little high but not completely outrageous.

Over his last 20 innings (last four starts), Happ has given up 19 runs with no more than four strikeouts in each start.

The Problems

Strikeouts have been his main problem this year. Last year, he would get seven to nine strikeouts in most starts, while now he’s barely getting five or six a start, sometimes only three or four. His velocity is down, too. In 2018, his fastball would often sit around 94-96. This year, his fastball is only sitting 91-94.

With his age, it is expected that his velocity will dip. But, once velocity does dip, then the pitcher needs to find another way to be effective. Happ isn’t getting it done with an ERA in the mid-fives, and needs to work on using his breaking pitches more.

The lefty pitches fastball heavy, switching out between his four-seam and two-seam with no cutter. His other two pitches are a change-up and a slider. Maybe he could develop a curve-ball of some type, and use that more and his fastball a bit less.

To be an effective fastball pitcher, you must be able to locate it and throw hard. Happ isn’t doing that, and needs to find another way or another pitch to be effective and dominant again.