Tuesday, March 10, 2020

As J.A. Happ progresses, the question becomes, "Is it him or the ball?"

With half of spring training in the books, the mighty Yankees have stroked 12 home runs. Twelve. Leading this sluggers' barrage is Kyle Higashioka, with  - gulp - two. Yes, Higgy has a pair.

It's worth noting that last spring, the Yankees team hit... let's see now, adding them up, carry the two, um... 49. Forty-nine. 

Aaron Judge hit six. Troy Tulowitski, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit each hit four. Greg Bird and Brett Gardner contributed three apiece, and Higgy - bless his heart - whacked a pair. When the regular season began, the onslaught continued, with home run records shattered across the game. The Yankees hit so many that a 20-HR season became a meh, and part-time utility players regularly contributed 10. If you didn't hit 10, you didn't matter.

And last season nearly destroyed J.A. Happ. 

Happ finished 2019 with a 4.91 ERA, leaving him shunned in the playoffs rotation and in the center of trade rumors throughout the winter. The problem: home runs. He gave up 34, the most by far in his career. In a typical start, he'd coast through a few innings, then give up a pair of three-run shots, exiting with six runs on the board and Hal Steinbrenner flogging Cooperstown Cashman with his checkbook.

But as the season progressed, and veteran banjo players like Gardy closed in on 30-homer totals, questions shifted from whether the problem was Happ or the super-balls being used by MLB, which transformed the game into a tedium of strikeouts, walks and moon shots. By the end of the season, both Happ and Masahiro Tanaka showed signs of adjusting to the new baseball reality. But in Happ's case, it was too late.

But maybe not too late for 2020. 

Yesterday, Happ showed another nice outing against the Phillies. Over four innings, he gave up one run - of course, a HR. The Yankees have been touting his resurgence, and if he were to return to 2018 form - 175 innings with a 3.65 ERA - it would do wonders for the rotation. 

Happ is clearly a cagey vet. He's twice rejiggered his career - in 2010 with Philadelphia and 2015 with Pittsburgh. At 37, heading into both his twilight and his contract year, he has one last shot at a decent payoff. But the question might not be whether he's redone his curve. Everything might hinge on the balls in play. They can be warning track outs, or they can be soul-crushing, three-run shots. Thus far, we're not seeing the HR explosion of 2019. And maybe we're seeing the Happ we wanted.

And maybe we'll see a vast difference in our own offense. Only 12 home runs this spring. Are the baseballs made of lead?


ranger_lp said...

Clearly we're headed toward the Modern Dead Ball Era....

TheWinWarblist said...

I ... I ... why? Just fucking why?

JM said...

Tulowitski...that name is familiar for some reason...

I've been out of commission with the same lousy cold I had for a month in January. But now that Sanchez is officially injured, I feel it's safe to return.

Good thing we let that Romine guy walk. We don't need him. Nahhh.

Anonymous said...

Feel better JM.

I'm back as well after my 3 month walkabout in Spain ended after 2 weeks due to them closing entire countries and a fear that I would be on the wrong side of the ocean if my family needed me or I them.

To sum it up, as I said when I pulled back into my driveway in Sacramento...

Worst. Episode. Of. The. Prisoner. Ever.

Doug K.

Carl J. Weitz said...

You brought back memories with The Prisoner, Doug. Summer of 1968 summer fill in for CBS. Great show and way ahead of its time.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Hilarious, Doug K., but glad you're back. And yes, Ioved The Prisoner, too, though I was disappointed—being 9—that it didn't have the action or the great theme song of "Secret Agent Man."

Patrick McGoohan rocked!

HoraceClarke66 said...

By the by, Sanchez is being tested for the coronavirus.

Time to shut the season down! At least until our guys heal—c. 2023.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Portmeirion, Wales was "The Village". It's a tourist attraction now for a show that ran for a total of 17 episodes over 50 years ago.

Sorry I've been hiding for a while. Is there a meetup scheduled for this year?

Carl J. Weitz said...

Of course in England the show was called Danger Man.

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