Despite starting off the season desperately slow, J.A. Happ has found a way to turn his season around with the Yankees, but how exactly did he do it?
When the Yankees resigned J.A. Happ this offseason, we were all expecting to see the pitcher that was 7-0 with the Yankees. But Happ started the season 0-2 with an 8.76 ERA. Fans were starting to turn on Happ, saying we shouldn’t have wasted money on him. But since then Happ has turned his season around well. As of his last start, Happ is now 5-3 with a 4.83 ERA. Here is a breakdown on how Happ turned around his season.
Velo and command are back
Early on in the season, Happ struggled with fastball command. Happ doesn’t have a fastball that will light up the radar gun, therefore command is vital for his success. He didn’t have that early on in the season as his fastball was slower than normal, around 90 MPH when he is usually around 92-93 and he showed no signs of commanding it.
Happ was leaving his fastball over the middle of the plate and teams were making him pay. But since that rough start, Happ’s fastball is starting to show that late life that we all fell in love with last year and the stats are backing it up. He has struck out 15 batters in his last two starts. His fastball is back up to around 93 MPH and the late life is back. But what has really helped Happ turn his season around is the more frequent use of his sinker.
Using his sinker more
Happ has always been a 4-seam fastball pitcher. In 2018 with the Yankees, Happ threw that pitch 60% of the time according to baseball savant. But this year his 4-seam was getting hit a lot more and he had to start throwing his sinker which he only threw 14% of the time last year. The sinker is a ground ball pitch, the batter will get on top of it and hit it into the ground and it’s a very hard pitch to a homer off of. Happ has thrown this pitch 25% of the time this year.
After his 4th start, he mentioned that he was starting to use it more. Since then, Happ has lowered his ERA from 7.23 to 4.83. With each start, Happ is slowly looking like the guy that went 7-0 with us last year.