Phillies Dodged Bullet by Trading J.A. Happ

The Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty J.A. Happ to an extension. Gregor Chisholm tweeted the details:

Paul Boye tweeted about how favorably Kyle Kendrick‘s extension (two years, $7.5 million) compares to Happ’s:

 

 

There was a time when Phillies fans viewed Happ as a long-term fixture in the rotation, perhaps a future ace alongside Cole Hamels. But ever since leaving the Phillies in the trade that brought Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia in 2010, it’s been all downhill for Happ. Though the Kendrick extension was excoriated by many of the statistically inclined, you can’t help but feel thankful that things have turned out so well when comparing the fate of the two pitchers.

Kendrick improved his strikeout rate substantially, from 10.9 percent in 2010 to 17.2 percent in 2012. In the same time, his SIERA has gone from a laughable 4.85 down to a respectable 4.19. Perhaps as important as anything, Kendrick hasn’t complained about his role on the team, whether it’s been as a fifth starter, a mop-up arm in the bullpen, or Triple-A filler.

Comparatively, Happ was not pleased with the idea that he might not make the cut in the Blue Jays’ rotation — a rotation that includes NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, strikeout maven Brandon Morrow, and veterans Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. Fortunately for Happ, though, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and in voicing his displeasure, he was given both the #5 spot in the rotation and a contract extension. That, despite having the fifth-highest ERA among starters with at least 250 innings pitched over the last two seasons.

I’ll take Kendrick, thank you very much.

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18 comments

  1. Rob

    March 27, 2013 08:31 PM

    Should of kept

  2. LTG

    March 27, 2013 08:37 PM

    This is how much the Blue Jays don’t think they can fix Romero (who’s starting the year in the minors).

  3. Eric Longenhagen

    March 27, 2013 09:40 PM

    I love JA, he’s a great guy. Glad he got paid. But glad I’m not paying him.

  4. LTG

    March 27, 2013 10:23 PM

    Hmmmmmm… When I looked at Happ’s numbers from last season, the picture painted here seemed misleading. SIERA and xFIP liked Happ’s 2012 more than Kendrick’s. Happ had a much better K% and only slightly worse BB%. Happ also drastically improved his GB% such that it was almost the equal of Kendrick’s. He was unlucky in BABIP to the tune of .315, although a bit lucky with LOB% at 70%. If Happ 2012 is future Happ, then maybe the contract is not an overpay, or no more an overpay than the KK contract.

    The argument against this is based on hard regression in K%, B%, and GB%, which is exactly what ZIPS projects. But maybe the Blue Jays–and their Energizer Bunny–know something about Happ that ZIPS doesn’t…

  5. Jonny5

    March 28, 2013 07:51 AM

    When people were pining to keep Happ in Philly 09 ( I won’t lie I liked him a little too), I accepted the idea that his LOB% was insanely high. I agreed his numbers could be a mirage due to most of the evidence. I think Law was down on him too. So just for ha ha’s I looked back and he was north of 85% LOB with Philly in 09 (FIP 4.32). Now, how long does a pitcher have to hold a well above avg LOB% before people accept that some people are just better at keeping men on base? I’m sure his 74.1 lifetime LOB%(including minors)76.4% majors) must tell us that. Not that I’m saying I feel he’s worth that much money, or Philly should have kept him, just curious about what people think about the LOB% of Happ today. Is he just above avg at making outs with men on or are we still calling it luck? Or a product of his defense behind him?

  6. LTG

    March 28, 2013 08:54 AM

    Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. Happ’s LOB% was below league average for the second year in a row last year. He was not a bit lucky but a bit unlucky.

  7. Jonny5

    March 28, 2013 10:36 AM

    LTG, Avg LOB is about 70-72%. But in fairness avg is low for him if you look at his history.

  8. Pencilfish

    March 28, 2013 10:49 AM

    Bill,

    This sounds like a reluctant acknowledgement that RAJ made the right move in keeping KK and trading AJH, though you don’t say it explicitly :-)

    Note that KK’s contract expires this year, but he’s arbitration-eligible (and under team control) for one more year. He becomes a FA after 2014, which will bring up an interesting decision for the Phillies at the end of this season or next. His next contract may change your mind.

  9. LTG

    March 28, 2013 11:04 AM

    Jonny5,

    Right. Last year the league average was ~72%. So, Happ was a little below. And there’s almost no correlation for pitchers’ LOB% from year to year. In Happ’s case he’s got one season where he’s a huge outlier and otherwise he oscillates around the average like every other pitcher. As a result, his career LOB% is just a little above average.

  10. LTG

    March 28, 2013 11:06 AM

    Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting 76.4 in the majors. FG has 74.1 and it does not include MiLB numbers in its career totals.

  11. Cutter

    March 28, 2013 11:10 AM

    Kendrick didn’t complain? I seem to remember him doing a little bit of bitching last season.

  12. Phillie697

    March 28, 2013 11:42 AM

    @Pencilfish,

    No one is saying EVERY move RAJ makes is bad. Most of us here didn’t like Happ anyway. Besides, that trade was a steal when it was made, and it was said so here when it happened.

  13. Jonny5

    March 28, 2013 12:27 PM

    LTG,I did the calculations from fangraphs. His ML only numbers add up to 76.4% so I assumed his total of 74.1% was including MiLB. I have no choice but to conclude it does include those numbers when adding them up myself. It appears fangraphs did include all of his history including MiLB when getting us to the 74.1%

  14. LTG

    March 28, 2013 04:14 PM

    I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but what formula did you use to calculate LOB% and where did you find the raw data?

  15. LTG

    March 28, 2013 05:27 PM

    Also, I should amend my previous post. High K pitchers tend to have higher than average LOB%. But Happ is only a little better than league average in Ks.

  16. Jonny5

    March 29, 2013 04:28 PM

    Formula? Really? I took the mean of all of his ML LOB% data on fangraphs, excluding the Milb data.

    And, yeah, High K pitchers are the cream of the crop when it comes to LOB% It makes a lot of sense for them to be that way when they make many o batter look silly. Usually lower era is going to = higher LOB% as I see it.

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