Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season preview: J.A. Happ
By Samuel Bruce
J.A Happ is back with the Blue Jays in 2016. Though he had a rough time in Seattle, Happ reinvented himself as a Pirate and was a huge factor in their playoff push.
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As the Blue Jays march towards opening day, we will be going through the projected roster (and slightly beyond) to project what could go wrong, what could go right, and how the coming year might play out. Next on the docket is another member of the 2016 Reunion Tour: lefty starter J.A. Happ.
2015 Performance Recap
Last season was a roller coaster ride for Happ. After being traded from Toronto to acquire Michael Saunders last offseason, he posted an ERA of 4.64 with a WHIP of 1.40 in the first half which culminated in a deflated win loss record of 4-6. While Happ had brief signs of brilliance, the inconsistency of the Seattle offense often hurt him more than it helped.
The second half of the season is another story though. After being traded to Pittsburg, Happ posted a sensational 2.19 ERA with a WHIP of 1.02. During this time he posted a win loss record of 7-2. While in Pittsburg, his K’9 also rose 3 points from a 6.8 to a commanding 9.8.
2016 Role and Steamer Projection
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Happ figures to be a key component of the Blue Jays starting rotation. While Toronto doesn’t boast any “wow factor” with their starting rotation, Happ should be a welcome addition to the back end of the rotation slotting in either the #3 or #4 spot. While FanGraphs does not project him to be nearly as solid as he was as a Pirate, he is anticipated to perform well above his career average. With a win loss record of 10-8 and an ERA of 3.93 to go with, Happ is projected to give the Jays some real value. While his K/9 is expected to be 7.64, this represents a major improvement for him overall.
What Could Go Wrong?
While Ray Searage is a genius at revolutionizing pitchers, another prominent factor in Happ’s success as a Pirate was due to the competition. Happ was frequently up against the Brewers, Reds, Braves and all matter of other teams in the process of retooling. This was not a luxury that exists in the American League East. Happ could be in for a rude awaking if not properly prepared for the powerful lineups that he will face all season long.
What Could Go Right?
Even if he’s not as commanding as the Happ the Pirates saw, he can still provide tremendous value for the Blue Jays. While currently he is anticipated to man the back end of the rotation, he was expected to do that in Pittsburg as well. Instead, he commanded the front portion of that rotation with ease. The same could be true for his 2016 season as a Blue Jay, given his familiarity with the organization and Rogers Centre. One other advantage going for him is being behind one of baseball’s best offenses and a fantastic defense
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The Bottom Line
Whether the Blue Jays see more of the Seattle Happ or more of the Pittsburg Happ, somewhere in the middle ground will still be a welcome addition to the starting rotation. With a restocked and retooled bullpen behind him, he should be able to perform well above his career averages. Happ also provides some enticing upside for the Blue Jays. While expected to be a valuable end-of-rotation arm, he could quietly surprise in his second stint as a Jay.