I don’t think anyone was particularly excited to see JA Happ warning up in the bullpen not even a full inning into game two of the ALDS. Everyone was even less excited when he trotted out to the mound in the bottom of the second after 21-year-old Deivi Gracia faced five batters and gave up one run. No one can blame fans for being upset with the strange pitching move, considering how utterly bad Happ was last season and how bad he’s continued to pitch this season. In his measly 49 innings pitched this season, Happ had a 3.47 ERA, giving up 8 homeruns and walking 15.
Why even consider Happ?
It might seem weird that anyone in the Yankees organization would consider bringing Happ out in this situation after his lousy performances over the past season and a half, but he did start to show some signs of being trustworthy at the end of the season. I don’t know if he was trying to prove something or if something clicked with his mechanics, but whatever it was seemed to be working.
Five weeks ago, JA Happ made his 1st start in 11 days. He had a 10 ERA and wasn’t thrilled about being skipped. Since then, Happ has ERA under 2, he’s mixing 4-seam/2-seam effectively and he looks like he could be major playoff factor. In a short time, Happ changed the narrative
The narrative really did start to change for Happ. In his last few outings, he dominated in a way we haven’t seen in quite some time, going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA. After a solid 8 inning performance against the Red Sox late in the season, he ended his regular season against Miami on September 25th, when he gave up 3 earned runs, 1 home run, walked 2 and struck out 3. His numbers over the past few weeks might have proved something to the organization, but because of the sweep in Cleveland, we never got a chance to see if Happ would be the game 3 starter.
When Happ made his way to the mound last night, there might have been some belief he could handle the heat. But any hope Yankees fans had that the most recent JA Happ would emerge from the bullpen quickly faded after he gave up a 2-run homerun 4 batters into the inning.
They got Beef
In case you don’t remember, JA Happ and the Yankees had some public beef earlier this season after the club decided to skip over the pitcher for consecutive starts. Everyone who watched Happ knew exactly why the team decided to do this, but apparently Happ couldn’t see that as clearly. During interviews in late August, Happ hinted that he believed the Yankees were intentionally messing with his starts in order to stop his 2021 vesting option.
J.A. Happ hinted that he thinks the Yankees are staggering his starts to avoid having his $17M option for 2021 kick in.
"It actually doesn't take too much to figure out sort of what could be going on. … I think I can help our team. I'd like to be out there every five days."
Everyone but JA Happ knows that he’s been a complete disaster this season. Many of his starts didn’t last long. Out of his nine game pitched, Happ only received four decisions, two of which were losses. The two wins that came for him this season were thanks more to the Yankee offensive than the pitching. Happ showed pretty early in the season that he’s not someone the team wants to go to, but is someone the team has to go to. They found ways around starting Happ by using rookie pitchers like King, Garcia, and even Schmitt, because unlike what he says in his interviews, the Yankees knew damn well that Happ just wasn’t the best option.
What have you done for me lately?
It seems like all the hard work Happ put into turning this season around was seemingly for nothing. The little trust Yankees fans and the organization may have gained in Happ over his final few starts was washed away by a horrible postseason performance.
I don’t know where end-of-season JA Happ went, but he wasn’t the guy who came out to pitch last night. In the end, the only thing Happ was able to prove with his 2 1/3 innings that resulted in 4 runs was that the Yankees weren’t wrong to continuously skip his rotation spot. Happ clearly has some work to do to get himself back to peak performance and should probably start blaming himself for the $17 million option that never was.
The Yankees clearly planned to use JA Happ in last night’s game, but things certainly didn’t work out of them. Now the questions is, what do they do next? If this series goes five, they will need someone to take the rotation spot that Happ just isn’t ready for. I hate to get ahead of myself, but what about the ALCS? Another best of 5 series with no days off leaves the Yankees scrambling for pitchers who can actually get through 3 innings of a game. Let’s not even get into a potential best of seven series to deal with. What is the solution? Do they try Happ again? I doubt it. They might give Garcia an actual start next time around rather than use him for an opener. Maybe they make Garcia go another inning or two and use Green or Loaisiga as stretched out middle relievers. I don’t have many answers as to what the Yankees next move is; if I did, maybe I would be making more than a teacher’s salary right now. What I do know is that I’m happy not seeing Happ again this post season and I’m sure many disgruntled Yankees fans would agree.