Ian freaking Happ, man. Dude is extremely ready for the regular season, and extremely ready to lead off.
Here he is hitting his seventh homer of the spring, FIVE OF WHICH have led off the game:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 25, 2018
The seventh homer of the spring for Happ tied him atop the leaderboard with Yonder Alonso and Frank Schwindel.
That’s not a great pitch – wang high, out over the middle of the plate – and King Felix got punished for it. But the thing is, not every leadoff hitter is ready and willing to pounce on that very first get-me-over strike of the game. They want to see pitches for their teammates. They don’t want to make the day easier on the opposing pitcher by making a quick out.
That perspective, however, is usually wrong. When you get a good pitch to hit, whatever your role, you have to be ready to hammer it. You also have to be OK with the fact that even when you’re right to swing at a pitch like that, more than half the time, you’re going to make an out. And sometimes, a few of those outs will be strung together consecutively, and outside observers will tell you to “just take a pitch.”
There’s no glory in going down 0-1 in the count, taking a meatball. If it’s there, you swing, regardless of what’s happened before. And if it’s not there, you take it.
So far, Happ really seems to get this idea, and deploys it well, even when hit quick-strike swings turn into outs. Hopefully that carries on into the regular season – both the aggressive early swings at tasty pitches, and also early takes if and when the pitchers start working him backwards and out of the zone early.