Toronto southpaw J.A. Happ is having the best month of his career, posting an incredible 1.48 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 1.99 FIP and 2.82 xFIP in 24.1 innings of work. Those results are further supported by a 32.6% K% (11.47 K/9), a 6.3% BB% (2.22 BB/9), a 26.3% K-BB% and a 0.37 HR/9 rate. Happ has also pitched well at home this season where he owns a 3.22 ERA with a 3.60 FIP and a 3.86 xFIP (22.2% K%; 7.0% BB%).
After enjoying a phenomenal second half with the Pirates last season under the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Searage, Happ has continued those gains in 2016 despite facing American League bats (and a designated hitter).
The 33-year-old posted decent but unspectacular numbers in the first three months of this season (3.70 ERA & 86 ERA- and 104 FIP-), but he has recently returned to what made him so successful in Pittsburgh.
In four MLB starts in July against Cleveland, Detroit, Oakland and Seattle, Happ has posted a 1.48 ERA and a1.99 FIP in 24.1 innings. His strikeout rate has sky-rocketed in those starts (32.6% K%), which is impressive in light of his career 19.8% strikeout rate.
So, what has changed for the veteran MLB hurler? In short, he has relied more on his four-seamer, which he threw 72% of the time in Pittsburgh at the insistence of pitching coach Ray Searage.
According to Baseball Prospectus, of the 85 starting pitchers to throw a minimum of 500 four-seamers in 2016, only two have a higher swinging strike rate than Happ on that pitch. Equally important, Happ is posting contact and strikeout rates similar to those he garnered in the second half of 2015 in Pittsburgh.
Ready to be blown away? If you take Happ’s 11 starts in Pittsburgh and combine them with his four starts this month, you get the following stat line: 87.2 IP, 1.75 ERA, 29.1% K%. Wow!
Meanwhile, Baltimore right-hander Yovani Gallardo toes the rubber with a 5.37 ERA and 1.62 WHIP this season, including a 6.94 ERA and 1.74 WHIP on the road. Gallardo also owns a 5.22 FIP and a 5.65 xFIP away from home, together with a really bad 3.1 K-BB%. The 30-year-old has also posted a 5.52 FIP and a 5.87 xFIP in July, together with a 2.4% K-BB%.
With Toronto standing at 17-5 in Happ’s last 22 starts, including 11-1 in his last 12 home starts and 5-0 in his last five starts in game 2 of a series, take the Blue Jays as Oskeim Sports’ Free MLB pick for Saturday, July 30.
Oskeim Sports’ Free MLB Pick: Toronto Blue Jays (-172) over Baltimore Orioles