Clap your hands? I’ll accept it. (Was that ever in doubt?) The real question everyone should be asking is if Ian Happ was reading this (lol) would he actually clap? I mean, I would hope so, since no one else can really clap. Well, except for someone else named Ian Happ, which I consider rare, much like me having a truncated meandering, but it is what it is. But at least this specific Ian Happ, the Happ we’re focusing on, has had an interesting baseball season thus far. And by interesting, I mean that Happ has seemingly both taken a step forward and a step back from last season, and we’re here to find out if this is actually good or actually bad.

Currently ranked as a top-30ish outfielder generally, so far this year, Happ has produced a nice .279/.357/.439 triple-slash and has cut his K% substantially, both from last season (29.2%) and his career (29.3%), all the way down to 23.3%. But, that’s also come with an inflated BABIP at .354, second-highest of his career, and more importantly, a huge dip in homeruns produced, going from 25 to 10 so far in 2022.

Drafted ninth overall from the University of Cincinnati in 2015, Happ was known as a versatile player, able to defensively handle most of the diamond, a switch-hitter and he ultimately played well, if not spectacular, throughout the Cubs minor league system. The operational word for him was “polished” as you couldn’t go through any scouting report without seeing that word. I mean, I’ve read like several, not all, but believe me, they weren’t all talking about car polish. During his development and ultimately call-up, Happ held above-average grades on all of his tools with advanced plate approach, and for what it’s worth, his intangibles were also raved about. Much like how I rave about your mother’s intangibles. Compared to Ben Zobrist back then (blast from the past), I think that comp actually fits quite well. Essentially, he was projected as an above-average hitter that was versatile in the field and average to good at everything, but not great at anything. And I don’t think that’s changed much, as even Rotographs described Happ as a “boring (and) steady play with a secure role and projected for a balanced 25 HR, 8 SB, and a .240 AVG” in the preseason.

And so here we are, watching a dude play out the dude he was supposed to be. But the more important issue… where’s the rest of the homeruns? It’s true, about 15ish are still missing and despite the step forward in 2021 with 25 homeruns (the most since his debut 2017 season when he hit 24), and that’s where anyone’s main concerns should lie. Yes, as I mentioned, he’s still basically the same hitter, but this year’s version is funky for sure. Solid 80’s band name as well. But yeah, the drop in power is obvious, but delving into the numbers, his SLG (.439) is actually higher than last season’s (.434). This is mostly driven by his uptick in doubles (30 already this year, 20 total in 2021) but power is power is power as they say. They being me.

More importantly and probably more relevant is his Statcast data, which shows the same hitter, and the same power hitter we know. True, his LA is down a bit, but the EV, maxEV and HardHit% are all within line in his career. If you combine this with his improvement in both contact and SwStr% (including his remarkable K% drop mentioned earlier), you have a player who actually might be improving despite the lack of dingers. Sounds like your mother’s love life!

It should be noted that recently, Happ has struggled a bit, both in striking out and the continued lack of power. But I still like the player behind all the statistical noise this year, whether you think it’s good or bad, I think it’s solid. Obviously, we want more homeruns, and maybe even at the cost of some of his ratios, but I think that guy still exists and still has a chance to pad the stats a bit. Though the Cubs may not make that easy, his production should still be a net positive.

A solid hitter is still a solid hitter, even if he’s hitting differently. So if that’s something you can clap at, then you don’t have to be Ian Happ to do it. Does that even make sense?

 

 

Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him on Twitter @jaywrong.