On Sunday, August 19, the Blue Jays will finish a short three-game series in New York. The game will be a tough one for Jays fans as J.A. Happ will make his first start against the team since being traded. Ryan Borucki will take the ball for Toronto.
J.A. Happ was beloved in Toronto, making it harder to see him leave. However, it made sense for the team to move him. As a refresher, Toronto sent the starter to New York in return for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. For Blue Jays fans, this felt like a small return for one of the most consistent starters on their staff. Yankees fans felt their favourite team had overpaid for the starter, though.
While he was not pitching well at the time of the trade, the lefty has been lights-out for the New York Yankees this year. Through three starts he has posted a 1.89 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 0.737 WHIP, and 233 ERA+. Interestingly, all three of his starts with New York has occurred in the big apple.
While the trade was generally bemoaned among fans of the Bronx Bombers, the left-handed hurler has stolen their hearts quickly with his stellar play. However, before he could win back the New York faithful, he experienced some time on the disabled list.
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On August 2, the Yanks placed Happ on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to July 30. The pitcher was put on the shelf as he was dealing with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Thankfully, the starter was able to make a quick recovery and was activated for a start on August 9. Amazingly, two of the most well regarded ex-Blue Jays pitchers—Noah Syndergaard being the other—contracted the disease within a few weeks of each other.
The left-hander has had a good season, overall, this year. Through 23 starts with both the Blue Jays and Yankees, the starter has managed a 3.86 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.113 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. In total, he has been worth a decent 2.4 fWAR.
The lefty has offered a familiar mix of pitches through his time with the Yankees. This year he has alternated between a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, change-up, and curveball. Interestingly, despite many sites recording a slider, the pitcher actually calls his breaking ball a cutter.
Happ has thrown his four-seam fastball 56.27% of the time this season. The four-seamer maintains an average velocity of 92.89 mph. The heater has not allowed many hits this year, surrendering a good .196 BAA. However, the pitch has been hit relatively hard, giving up a .196 ISOA and .392 SLGA.
The southpaw has offered up his sinker 18.14% of the time this season. The sinking fastball is just a few ticks behind the four-seam fastball, averaging a speed of 90.92 mph. The pitch has done its job well this season, producing ground balls at a crazy rate of 67.37% of balls in play. However, as with many sinkers, these grounders have found holes, leading to a .277 BA against the sinker.
The former Blue Jays starter has thrown his cutter (slider) 12.14% of the time this season. The cut-fastball is not that hard, maintaining an average velocity of 86.05 mph, with sharp arm-side cut and drop. The breaking ball has been by far his best pitch, posting a .141 BAA and .296 SLGA.
Happ rounds out his pitching repertoire with a change-up and curveball. The change and hook have seen action 11.3% and 2.2% of the time, respectively. The off-speed offering has allowed a .231 BAA—but a criminally small .019 ISOA. The curve hasn’t been nearly as effective, coughing up a .500 BAA and .667 SLGA.
The left-handed hurler is having a career year, in terms of strikeouts. This season he has posted a 26.5% K-rate and 9.81 K/9. As well, he has limited walks fairly well, allowing a 7.5% BB-rate and 2.77 BB/9.
The Blue Jays have hit decently well against their former teammate. Kendrys Morales has four hits—including a double and home run—in eleven trips to the plate. Also, Brandon Drury has gone two-for-four with a double against the Northwestern product. However, both Russell Martin and Justin Smoak have taken the collar in two at-bats against the Yankees hurler.
Sunday will bring an odd sight for Blue Jays fans. J.A. Happ pitching against the Jays will always look slightly off. However, one of the most exciting kids to come up from Buffalo, Ryan Borucki, will look to outduel the former Blue Jays ace.