Happy birthday, Ian Happ!
The Chicago Cubs everyday center fielder turns 26 years old today, and that’s great news for Chicago, seeing as he’s still under club control for three years after this one. And that’s especially good news if he keeps hitting ANYWHERE NEAR as well has he has so far this season.
Just take a look at his overall offensive production relative to the best hitters in MLB:
wRC+ Leaderboard 2020
1. Charlie Blackmon: 227 wRC+
2. Donovan Solano: 215 wRC+
3. Bryce Harper: 212 wRC+
4. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 211 wRC+
5. Jacoby Jones: 202 wRC+
6. Aaron Judge: 199 wRC+
7. Nicholas Castellanos: 191 wRC+
8. Ian Happ: 189 wRC+
9. Mike Trout: 189 wRC+
10. Giancarlo Stanton: 188 wRC+
Yes, right now, in the year 2020, Ian Happ and Mike Trout have been equally productive at the plate. That is NUTS, even if it is just a small sample. Fun is fun. Happ is not just producing, he’s earning it. And then some.
Ian Happ is slashing a robust .325/.438/.625 this season, with a 16.7% walk rate (18th in MLB) and a 20.8% strikeout rate that is well below the league average (23.4%). How is he managing that after an early career that was defined by far too many strikeouts? Well his 2020 swing rate on pitches out of the zone is down to 21.0%, 26th best in MLB. His zone contact rate is up to a career-high 85.4%, and his whiff rate is down to a career best 11.2%.
That certainly helps cut down on the strikeouts, but it also leads to a lot more hitter’s counts, which allows him to do even more damage when his pitch comes through.
Speaking of which, Happ’s average exit velocity this year is up to 91.1 mph, which is in the top 8% of all qualified hitters. Combined with everything else he’s got going for him (including a 33.3% line drive rate, nearly double last season’s mark), that means his real life .439 wOBA is actually expected to be closer to .448!
That’s right, Ian Happ is the 8th best hitter in baseball and the numbers say he’s actually been A LITTLE UNLUCKY. Let that sink in.
There will undoubtedly be another adjustment period in his future (pitchers are already throwing him fewer fastballs and more breaking pitches), but if he can weather it even slightly, he’s going to continue setting himself up for massive amounts of success at the plate. The level of impact a highly productive Happ can have on the Cubs near *and* long-term plans is enormous. Let’s hope he’s able to keep it up.
And in the meantime, happy birthday!