Ian Happ came into yesterday’s game in the 8th inning, spelling Jason Heyward in right field once the game got into blowout territory. Heyward’s been battling a sore ankle, so it was appropriate, even if atypical.
As baseball does, Happ was challenged immediately by a sky-high fly ball that took him all the way to wall, where he made a fantastic catch:
That catch is so, so, so much harder than it looks.
First of all, consider that although Happ plays almost exclusively in the outfield now, he almost never plays right field. Second of all, consider that the corner outfield spots at Wrigley Field are tricky beasts when you get over there into the corner of the well, where the wall juts back out to create the hitter-friendly power alleys. Third of all, consider that the wind was blowing out a bit in that direction, carrying the ball further and further as Happ was tracking it. Heck, there was probably also some sun impact.
And finally, consider that the ball was hit at a 47-degree launch angle at nearly 100 mph off the bat, which means it had a TON of time to carry its 333 feet. That’s a long time to track a ball that just keeps drifting further and further and taking you closer and closer to the trickiest part of one of the trickiest walls in baseball.
For a guy who just came into the game, that’s a heckuva catch, and I thought it deserved some special mention today … even if it only preserved a 9-0 lead.
Funny thing: Statcast had that ball with a mere 2% hit probability, which makes sense: in a context-neutral environment, that’s about as routine as a deep fly ball can possibly get. In their systems, Happ wouldn’t get credit for doing anything other than making a catch that any other outfielder should make with their eyes closed. In the systems that use eyes-on reviewing, I wonder how much “credit” Happ is given for the unique difficulties that Wrigley Field poses on a play like that. I honestly don’t know the answer, but he gets plenty of credit from me.