Is J.A. Happ The Answer to The Phillies Pitching Questions?

July 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

When Brett Myers went down with an injury in late May, many believed that the Phillies would need to trade for a quality replacement. It is beginning to seem like the player they needed may have been on their roster all along.

J.A. Happ is currently 7-0 and has a 2.68 ERA—seventh best among major league pitchers. The more quality starts he strings together, the more apparent it becomes that his early success is no fluke. 

The 26-year-old lefty has pitched seven quality innings in each of his last four starts, including a shutout on Sunday. In the start before those four, he pitched a complete game shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays. 

On Sunday, Happ pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning without allowing any runs.

“When he gets in a jam like that, it’s good for him,” explained Charlie Manuel “When he gets out, it shows he keeps his composure, and that right there is how you learn to really be a good pitcher. Anytime he does things like that, it builds confidence and shows him how good a pitcher he could be.”

Happ is tied with C.C. Sabathia for thirteenth in the MLB in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) at just 1.15.

WHIP is a statistic that many baseball analysts and scouts consider to be more important than ERA because it measures how dominant a pitcher is. Many consider Sabathia to be among the three best pitchers in baseball, so tying him in WHIP is a sign that Happ is performing like an elite pitcher so far. 

Manuel compared Happ to Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, saying “He has great arm speed and his ball has a little velocity. The ball gets up on the hitters. Although he’s throwing 89 or 90 [mph], the ball sneaks up on them. Jim Palmer was like that. He threw downhill and Happ throws downhill all the time. He’s got some movement on his ball.”

Many suspect that the Phillies are the frontrunners in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. I believe a trade for Halladay would make them the favorites to win the World Series. If Happ can continue to dominate though, they may be able to win it all without making any trades.

With a 6.5 game lead in the division, it is time to start looking at the Phillies as a playoff team. The only change in the top four of the their rotation from last year is that Brett Myers is out and Happ is in. It is beginning to look like Happ may be capable of performing on the level that Myers did in last year’s playoffs.

If he can do that and the team’s other pitchers can repeat anything close to the performances of last year, the starting rotation in this year’s playoffs could be just as good as last year’s. 

In fact, if Happ can continue to pitch effectively, this year’s rotation could be much better.  This is because Brett Myers may be back in the rotation in time for the playoffs. Myers, who had hip surgery in early June, is ahead of schedule and expects to be back this season.

“Realistically, I think I can possibly be back by September, as of right now,” said Myers “The way I’m starting to feel, barring any setbacks. You’ve just got to do what your body will tell you to do.”

If Myers can return, the rotation for the playoffs would likely be as follows: Hamels, Myers, Happ, Joe Blanton. If Happ can pitch well in the playoffs, he would be a major upgrade over Jamie Moyer, who was 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA in postseason last year. 

The only new everyday player this year is Raul Ibanez, who is replacing Pat Burrell. He has been a major upgrade at the plate as well as in the field. Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz have also been hitting much better this year. Now that Jimmy Rollins is heating up, it appears that the Phillies still have championship caliber hitting and fielding. The bullpen also appears to be very good once again. 

If the Phillies can trade for a top of the rotation pitcher at what they feel is a reasonable price, they should do it. If they don’t, however, it wouldn’t mean that they can’t repeat as champions. If J.A. Happ’s performance so far this year is any indication of what is to come, the Phillies may paint the town red and parade down Broad Street once again this October.


Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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