In order to “qualify” for all the awards (and on all the stat pages) in MLB, a player must record 3.1 plate appearances per game their team has played so far that season. For the Washington Nationals (15-25), then, a player must have 124 plate appearances to qualify. Juan Soto (117 PAs) falls just short, and so his 209 wRC+ this season is not technically the best mark in baseball. Perhaps eventually, if he can keep it up, he’ll qualify and force his way onto the list, but for now, that honor is shared by Fernando Tatis Jr., and the Cubs’ very own Ian Happ.
2020 wRC+ Leaderboard
1. Tatis/Happ: 181 wRC+
3. Nelson Cruz: 179 wRC+
4. Mike Trout: 178 wRC+
5. Michael Conforto: 175 wRC+
6. Trea Turner: 172 wRC+
7. Mookie Betts: 171 wRC+
8. Dominic Smith: 171 wRC+
9. Corey Seager: 169 wRC+
10. Paul Goldschmidt: 168 wRC+
This stat, wRC+, attempts to quantify a player’s entire offensive performance into a single number with 100 wRC+ is exactly league average. Every digit above 100 is equal to that percent better than the league average hitter and every digit below, worse than. This number also includes park factors and, by default, is era-adjusted so it’s a really nice way to compare how much better a hitter was than his peers across seasons.
And I bring up the explanation, because FanGraphs has a special new 60-Game Span Leaderboard page on their site, which allows us to filter performance by 60-game stretches for every player in the league. This allows us to take a look at how Happ’s current pace compares to some of the recent Cubs best 60-game stretches overall.
As you might imagine, he’s right up there at the very top:
Some of the #Cubs best 60-game stretches by wRC+
1. Bryant: 197 wRC+ (2016)
2. Rizzo: 188 (2015)
3. Baez: 172 (2018)
4. Zobrist: 167 (2016)
5. Fowler: 163 (2016)
6. Contreras: 160 (2017)
7. Schwarber: 158 (2019)
Ian Happ is at 181 wRC+ through 41 games in 2020.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 8, 2020
Happ is at just 41 games so far this season, but his 181 wRC+ during that stretch would be behind only Anthony Rizzo’s 2015 season and Kris Bryant’s MVP 2016 season. And for what it’s worth, Happ actually put up a 150 wRC+ for 60 games in 2018, as well. But that’s the least of it.
Going back to last season (thanks to some friendly replies on Twitter), we can see that Happ’s last 60 games overall dating back to 2019 give him a 186 wRC+. And that’s not only great relative to the Cubs best stretches over the past ~6 years, it also makes him the single best player in MLB over the last calendar year, by offensive production alone AND overall fWAR!
Also, there’s this over that same time frame. pic.twitter.com/WxwztEyRjT
— Brad (@ballskwok) September 8, 2020
And in case you were worried he was just riding an early-season hot streak and has since cooled off, don’t be. Happ is slashing .354/.436/.813 (222 wRC+) over the last two weeks with 6 homers, a 12.7% walk rate, a 23.6% strikeout rate, and a .458 ISO! These numbers are truly bonkers, but he’s been doing it for a good long while and after very serious adjustments in the minors last season.
I doubt he’ll be able to keep up THIS level of offensive production for a very long time (if he could, he’d be a Hall of Famer), but if his changes can keep hold, the Cubs may just have their leadoff man or a middle-order slugger for the next several years (and hopefully even longer after that). Also, he takes walks, switch-hits, can play all over the outfield, and runs well. He’s really good.
Just the facts.
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) September 2, 2020