MisHapp: The Story of James Anthony Happ


Posted by Danielle Wilson

Photo courtesy of Zimbio.com

I still remember where I was when I got that text from a beat writer on Twitter; James Anthony Happ had been traded to Houston for starting pitcher Roy Oswalt. My heart was broken. J.A. was coming off of his best year in the majors, 2009, the year where he was just a few votes shy of  National League Rookie of the Year, coming in second behind Florida Marlins’ outfielder Chris Coghlan, who is now in Triple-A New Orleans, the same level of baseball that J.A. recently played for, only for AAA Oklahoma City.

You can’t help but to feel terrible for him, he was a fan favorite during the 2009 postseason, behind Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez, of course. 2007 was the year in which he debuted. He only pitched four innings that season, allowing five earned runs on seven hits, striking out five and walking two in one game. He also allowed three home runs in that game, yikes. I don’t take that season into account though, seeing that it was so short for him.

2008 however, the championship year, was a different story for James. He started four games, but appeared in eight. Altogether, he pitched 31.2 innings, allowing 13 earned runs on 28 hits. He boasted 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, but also walked four batters per nine, and allowed eight hits per nine. In those 31 innings, he struck out 28 batters and walked 14. Not terrible.

The Phillies were in need of pitching in 2009, there was no doubt about that. With Cole Hamels struggling, and Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton giving their all on the mound, J.A. Happ was in a position where a lot of pressure was on him. Before Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez were added to the rotation, J.A. Happ did a whole lot of heavy work. His miniscule 2.93 ERA was surprising coming from him. He went 12-4 that season, pitching 166 innings. He finished three games that he started, shutting out  the opposition in two complete games. He allowed  54 earned runs on 149 hits, walking 56 and striking out 119 batters. This was his career season.

In his last season in Philadelphia, he suffered a forearm strain early in the year, and it took him quite some time to get his velocity back. He pitched in three games, taking the win in just one of them, and getting a no-decision in the other two. In 15.1 innings, he allowed three earned runs on 13 hits, walking 12 and striking out nine.

After the trade to Houston, he went 5-4 in 13 games with a 3.75 ERA. In 72 innings, he allowed 30 earned runs on 60 hits, walking 35 and striking out 61. He walked four batters per nine innings pitched in Houston, and it’s no secret that he has a few control issues, which has been a career-long problem for him.

This season, things simply did not go his way, as he takes the title of being arguably the worst starting pitcher in the majors. As of August 6th, he had gone 4-14 with a 6.26 ERA in 22 games started. In 119 innings, he allowed 92 runs to score on 135 hits, while walking 63 and striking out 100 batters. Per nine innings pitched, he would allow 10.2 hits, walk 4.8 batters, and strikeout 7.5.

Before the Astros game on August 6th, James Anthony Happ was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City to “regain his confidence” as his General Manager told him. Happ insisted that he just needed to clear his head. His last Major League win had come on July 19th against the Washington Nationals. In his last start in the majors, he pitched four innings, allowing six runs to score on seven hits against the Milwaukee Brewers. Another game in which he would allow at least five runs to score, which makes that eight straight games with that feat.

Here’s where we begin to question his talent. Is this the end of J.A. Happ? Are his better days behind him? If he pitches with the Astros, I say yes. He’s on his own there, and his influence comes from the rest of the starting rotation: Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Henry Sosa, Jordan Lyles, and Bud Norris.

If you ask me, that’s a bit pathetic compared to Roy Halladay, Cliff lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Vance Worley.

Vance Worley, a rookie whose respectable idols pitch on the days that he gets to sit and observe. Worley is making quite a name for himself, and is brought up in many Rookie of the Year discussions. Young Vance has been lights out this season, boasting a 2.65 ERA in 16 games started. The last ten games that Vance has started, the Phillies have won. Vance has put up fantastic numbers, allowing just 78 hits in 98.1 innings pitched. He has allowed 29 earned runs while walking 32 and striking out 83. His 9-1 record is the second best among rookies in the National League behind the 12-5 Dillon Gee. Worley has held his opponents to a miniscule .218 batting average.

One would have to think that J.A. Happ could have had a year such as Vance Worley’s had he been surrounded by Cy Young award winners, and straight up aces. Then again, Vance Worley is becoming an ace, something that I don’t believe J.A. Happ will ever be considered.

However, James was called up from Triple-A baseball on August 26th to face the Giants. In the minors, Happ went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts. In his final start in the minors, he tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just one hit.

His first game back against the Giants turned out to be one of his better starts of the season. In six innings, he allowed one earned run on four hits, walking four and striking out two. Not great, but not terrible.

Now that J.A. is back, what do we expect from him from this point on? This season has been quite the rollercoaster, experiencing time in both the majors and minors, suffering some of the worst games of his career. As a fan of J.A., seeing him succeed and pitch quick games without allowing more than three runs would bring great felicity. But, I can’t predict how he’ll continue his career, I can only hope that he gets his act together sometime soon.

There’s no doubt that the Houston Astros will miss the postseason this year, so with 26 games left to play, I wish J.A. Happ the best of luck in his future start, and luck in the 2012 season, a season in which I would like to see be a repeat of his impressive 2009 season.