J.A. Happ Scouting Report

The Toronto Blue Jays recently completed a 10 player trade with the Houston Astros. The Jays sent over a few veterans and a handful of prospects for three pitchers, with the focus of the trade being left-handed strikeout pitcher JA Happ.

You can find mini bios and breakdowns on the various Jays blogs (which can be found via our link bar at the top of the screen).

Here at MopUpDuty.com, we’re going to take advantage of the great ESPN True Media scouting service and provide two separate in-depth breakdowns of Happ’s 2012 pitching approach, the first vs RHB (right-handed batters) and the second vs LHB.

Pitch Velocity: Happ throws his FB at 89 MPH (ticking up to 92), his curve at 77, Slider is around 85 MPH and his change-up clocks in at 82

 

2012 Stats: 18 starts, 104.1 IP, 112 Hits, 17 HR allowed, 39 BB, 98 K, 4.83 ERA, 1.447 WHIP

Coming up: Statistics vs batters, then a breakdown of each individual pitch, it’s location and expected returns.

Against RHB:

 


P PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS K% BB% HR% BABIP wOBA
Totals 1378 339 0.278 0.349 0.502 0.851 0.209 0.097 0.043 0.323 0.361
In Play 234 234 0.364 0.361 0.658 1.019 0 0 0.057 0.323 0.418
Fastball 899 202 0.305 0.412 0.617 1.029 0.223 0.149 0.072 0.351 0.427
Change Up 184 47 0.311 0.34 0.422 0.763 0.064 0.043 0 0.333 0.335
Curveball 176 57 0.246 0.246 0.298 0.544 0.281 0 0 0.341 0.239
Slider 119 33 0.133 0.156 0.367 0.523 0.212 0.03 0.033 0.13 0.203

ALERT, DANGER ZONE: Fastball

Yikes, .305/.412/.617 line against his Fastball. Within the internal pitch statistics — strike rate, swing rate, that kinda stuff — nothing jumps out as particularly positive or negative.

The problem with the fastball is opponents are able to get the ball in the air. And when they do, they drive it.

In 2011 225 fastball were put in play: 105 were flyballs, 49 were line drives, the rest were ground balls and bunts.

In 2012 RHB put 126 fastballs into play: 66 of these were flyballs, 21 were linedrives , 31 were ground balls and 8 bunts.

So in a nutshell, Happ allows roughly 2 flyball/linedrives for every ball on the ground vs his fastball. For a pitcher with a very high HR to flyball ratio (13.1% on his FB over 2 seasons), this raises a red flag. Deep, dark red.

Change-Up

Produces about a 1.0 GB/FB ratio. Like his fastball, Happ keeps this pitch away from righties. He hasn’t been hurt with this pitch, as he has allowed 0 HR with his change. On the flip side, opponents are hitting .311 on the pitch with a reasonable .333 BABIP, hitting the offering into the OF for singles and a handful of doubles.

Curve:

Throw primarily as a chase pitch, Happ likes to bury the curve low & inside.

He’s had great success with the pitch vs RHB, allowed 0 HR and a .246 BA against. Of the 17 hits allowed to RHB, 14 have been singles.

Slider:

Against RHB he’ll actually throw this pitch for a strike. He’s found a great degree of success with this pitch, holding RHB to a .130 BABIP. Is it just luck? I’m not sure. In 2011 RHB with 1.161 OPS against the slider, although in a small sample of 48 PA.

Conclusion vs RHB: He’s getting killed on his fastball. He limits extra bases with his off-speed offerings.

Against LHB:

 


P PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS K% BB% HR% BABIP wOBA
Totals 462 118 0.266 0.304 0.422 0.726 0.229 0.051 0.037 0.321 0.308
In Play 85 85 0.354 0.354 0.561 0.915 0 0 0.049 0.321 0.376
Fastball 293 69 0.267 0.333 0.533 0.867 0.188 0.087 0.067 0.279 0.352
Change Up 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Curveball 68 22 0.227 0.227 0.273 0.5 0.409 0 0 0.385 0.22
Slider 98 25 0.32 0.32 0.32 0.64 0.2 0 0 0.4 0.288

Fastball:

While the OPS against is high (.867), Happ is able to keep his GB/FB ratio in check, coming in around 1.0 to LHB. He’s still allowing a high percentage of HR on the pitch, with 4 HR in 69 PA against. In 2011 this pitch was more effective, as only 1 HR was allowed in 73 PA.

Curve:

Designed to loop across the zone, the curve is Happ’s strikeout pitch against LHB. He’s done a good job with this pitch, as he has an astronomical 40.9% K-Rate on outcomes on the pitch.

Slider:

Throw in a similar fashion as his curve, the slider is designed for strikeouts or at worst, weak contact. He hasn’t allowed an HR on the pitch all season.

Conclusion vs LHB: Happ is at his best when facing LHB. He keeps the ball away, and does a great job changing eye levels with a high fastball and subsequent low & away off-speed offerings.

The Fix:

In a nutshell, Happ’s struggles can be attributed to his fastball against RHB.

I discovered an interesting breakdown of the pitch.

Inside Location:

 


P PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS K% BB% HR% BABIP wOBA
Totals 167 47 0.316 0.447 0.632 1.078 0.255 0.17 0.079 0.391 0.457
In Play 26 26 0.462 0.462 0.923 1.385 0 0 0.115 0.391 0.576
Expected 167 47 0.25 0.446 0.464 0.91 0.252 0.248 0.079 0.391 0.412
Line Drive 5 5 1 1 1.4 2.4 0 0 0 1 1.036
Fly Ball 15 15 0.4 0.4 1.067 1.467 0 0 0.2 0.25 0.593
Ground Ball 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bunt 1 1 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 0.9

Middle Location:

 


P PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS K% BB% HR% BABIP wOBA
Totals 229 70 0.295 0.368 0.787 1.155 0.186 0.1 0.115 0.268 0.452
In Play 50 50 0.375 0.375 1 1.375 0 0 0.146 0.268 0.531
Expected 229 70 0.242 0.365 0.512 0.877 0.266 0.156 0.115 0.268 0.377
Line Drive 6 6 0.667 0.667 1.333 2 0 0 0.167 0.6 0.832
Fly Ball 31 31 0.419 0.419 1.258 1.677 0 0 0.194 0.28 0.667
Ground Ball 9 9 0.111 0.111 0.111 0.222 0 0 0 0.111 0.1
Bunt 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Outside Location:

 


P PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS K% BB% HR% BABIP wOBA
Totals 503 85 0.309 0.429 0.456 0.884 0.235 0.176 0.029 0.404 0.39
In Play 50 50 0.438 0.429 0.646 1.074 0 0 0.042 0.404 0.447
Expected 503 85 0.234 0.46 0.398 0.858 0.243 0.288 0.029 0.404 0.399
Line Drive 10 10 0.6 0.6 0.6 1.2 0 0 0 0.6 0.54
Fly Ball 20 20 0.474 0.45 1 1.45 0 0 0.105 0.389 0.578
Ground Ball 17 17 0.294 0.294 0.294 0.588 0 0 0 0.294 0.265
Bunt 3 3 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 0 0 0 0.5 0.3

It ain’t pretty but outside location is the clear winner. Yes, I’m going to advocate throwing a pitch that allows a .438 batting average on balls in play. Why? Because it limits the amount of HR allowed.

HR Rate, Fastballs vs RHB by Location:

Pitch Location OPS Against OPS Against in Play HR Rate HR in Play Rate
Outside 0.884 1.074 2.90% 4.20%
Middle 1.155 1.375 11.50% 14.60%
Inside 1.078 1.385 7.90% 11.50%

Happ needs to steer clear of the middle and inside locations with his fastball. I mean entirely. Why risk a mistake pitch?

This scenario will have opposing batters leaning out over the plate. To counter-act this, Happ needs to increase his percentage of curves and particularly sliders (both are thrown primarily inside) for strikes to righties. This late into the season Happ should be interested in merely surviving against RHB. During the off-season the Jays staff can create a more cohesive plan moving forward.

What do you think? Do you like the acquisition of Happ? Do the numbers against his Fastball change your outlook on Happ and the trade in general?

Sources: ESPN True Media, Photo via http://brianmctaggart.mlblogs.com

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has written for mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Matthias on Twitter, Facebook and Google +