It’s still quite early in this season for any kind of meaningful data analysis – we’re gonna need closer to 100 plate appearances, at least, before we can start say this or that about hitters.
So, then, pointing this out about Ian Happ’s hot start to the year is less about “what he is” here in 2020, and more about continuing the conversation from 2019:
Ian Happ is slashing .286/.375/.679 (183 wRC+) so far, by hitting the ball hard, in the air, up the middle, and striking out less.
2020 Numbers (Career numbers)
– 47.4% hard-hit rate (35.6%)
– 36.8 GB% (40.3%)
– 28.1 K% (32.4%)
– 52.6 Cent% (35.1%)
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 3, 2020
Recall, Happ’s 2019 season started with the surprising Spring Training demotion to Iowa, which wound up also lasting a surprisingly long time. But you then also recall that when he came up, he looked like a different hitter:
Speaking of that group, just a random reminder that Happ was sent to AAA to open the 2019 season for a long, long stretch of work on improving his contact rate while still manifesting his excellent patience and power. That, despite having spent most of the previous two years as a “ready” player in the big leagues (following a very brief minor league development process). And what do you know, Happ came back with a strikeout rate down 11(!) percentage points from the year before, hitting .264/.333/.564 over 58 games with a 127 wRC+. Points there being, don’t sleep on (1) the value of a stretch at AAA for development, and (2) Ian Happ.
Happ’s results weren’t a fluke either – the only Cubs last year who had a higher expected wOBA (based on quality of contact and plate discipline) were Anthony Rizzo, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber.
Oh, and one more on the demotion development: yes, sometimes you need to face BIG LEAGUE pitchers to work on your issues, but consider some other Cubs who went down after being in the big leagues: Anthony Rizzo (got better), Javy Báez (got better), Kyle Schwarber (got better), Victor Caratini (got better).
Among players with at least 180 PAs since Happ’s return to the big leagues in late July last year (i.e., guys who’ve gotten starting playing time), Happ’s 136 wRC+ is 15th best in the National League.
Keep it going, Ian.