J.A. Happ has thrown his hat in the ring for the National League Rookie of the Year award. Heading into tonight’s game, he had three games in which he had thrown seven innings and allowed no runs, including one complete game shut-out against the Blue Jays on June 27. The Phillies were just looking for a win on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Anything resembling a quality start after what Jamie Moyer gave them last night.
They got nine shut-out innings in which Happ allowed just six base runners on four hits and two walks. He struck out ten Rockies, besting his season-high of seven.
The top of the third inning was as sticky as it got for Happ when, with two outs, Jorge De La Rosa singled and Dexter Fowler doubled to put runners at second and third base. Happ rebounded to notch one of his ten punch-outs.
94 of Happ’s 127 pitches were fastballs (74%). He notched eight of his ten strikeouts on fastballs and nine of ten strike threes were swinging strike threes. Happ’s last pitch, a fastball for called strike three, was his fastest pitch of the night at over 94 MPH.
Courtesy Brooks Baseball, here’s a great look at Happ’s repertoire from a bird’s eye view and from the first baseman’s view. Click the image to enlarge and enhance it.
Looking at the bird’s eye chart, look at how close his slider and change-up (which he threw 20 and 11 times, respectively) stay until the ball is about 25 feet away from home plate. If you look at the first base chart, you can see that they end up in a similar spot as well (low). He has a similar release point for both pitches, so they are extremely deceptive. This will be critical for Happ as he relies less on his fastball as he gains more Major League experience.
The above chart shows all of the fastballs Happ threw tonight. The large orange circles indicate swinging strikes — all up in the strike zone, about belt-high or above. The smattering of green diamonds in the lower-left of the strike zone are called strikes, illustrating that when Happ wasn’t trying to induce swinging strikes, he was pounding the ball in to right-handers and away to lefties.
Ten of Happ’s 14 starts have been quality starts, including eight of his last nine.
With the Phillies trying to figure out what to do with the starting rotation, Happ’s success is making the decision-making process extremely difficult.
My solution: a platoon with the #5 spot in the rotation between Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez.