Analysis

Yankees’ J.A. Happ Must Build on Solid Outing vs. Blue Jays

New York Yankees SP J.A. Happ was solid despite getting the loss Saturday, and it’s necessary for him to build on that progress for the second half.

While there have been doses of magic from New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ this season, it has also been met with frustrating inconsistencies—leaving many to wonder what type of pitcher will toe the rubber each start.

In Saturday afternoon’s 2-1 loss at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays—Happ’s former team—the southpaw had one of his best performances. It shows there is promise in the future for better starts. If the Yankees want to continue their trek for the best record in the American League, Happ must continue to build off this outing.

Though his final line isn’t astonishing, Happ went 5 ⅓ innings with five hits, one walk, five strikeouts and two earned runs. The two runs allowed following his exit would eventually be enough to win the game for the Jays.

For the majority of the afternoon, Happ was in control of the game. He was keeping hitters off balance with a nice command of his fastball while using both his changeup and slider effectively. 

“I’m trying to keep my conviction on every pitch,” Happ said after the game. “Some games I had conviction on some pitches, but not on every one. I have to stay convicted. I would say this was one of my best games this year regarding execution and conviction.”

It hasn’t been quite the season Happ was hoping for in 2019. Even with the solid outing Saturday, his ERA is sitting at a bloated 5.02. His K/9 rate is down while he’s on pace to allow the most home runs of his career.  He needs a big second half.

There have been encouraging moments lately. Saturday’s was the combination of pitch command to go along with the fact that he was able to keep the Blue Jays in the yard. That’s not a huge feat, but baby steps are needed right now. It helps that he controlled both sides of the plate. Even when he missed, he missed outside of the zone, rather than grooving the pitch thigh-high over the plate.

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The Yankees have everything they need for a World Series run—save for consistent starting pitching. Happ is a part of that problem and despite the gaudy lineup and tremendous bullpen, he’s going to need to extend his outings into the seventh inning if that goal is to come to fruition.

Happ has taken the ball into the seventh inning just five times in 17 starts this season. Three of those came in the month of April. The 36-year-old has to build on this solid performance and string together a strong second half if the Yankees are to keep pace with the best record in the American League.

It wasn’t always pretty on Saturday, but Happ gave the Yankees a chance to win in an encouraging outing. Now, he needs to build on that progress and continue to take steps forward to help push the Yankees into October.

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