BOSTON, MA - JULY 21: J.A. Happ #48 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the game on July 21, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
You might remember a little optimism attached to a J.A. Happ article of mine, from a little earlier in the year. The question was asked: Is J.A. Happ starting to come together? This was back on May 23, when Happ had some things going for him despite a gaudy ERA:
The 2012 season has been up-and-down for him to this point, but there's plenty of reason to like what he's done. His ERA and FIP are in line for the first time ever. His 8.4 strikeouts per nine is a career-high, and his 3.5 walks per nine are the lowest they've been since he threw 166 innings with the Phillies in 2009. Maybe most importantly, he's inducing far more grounders than in the past. While he's given up more homers than you'd like him to, at 1.6 per nine, that's uncharacteristic for him, especially given he's in a less hitter-friendly park and more forgiving division now than he was in years prior.
Emphasis at the end there is my own. Well, all of the above is my own, but that particular nugget is my doing at this moment. More grounders, striking hitters out, early-season candidate to see some improvement in the ERA department. All to the good, and the 4.83 ERA he left Houston with was better than what he was toting last we spoke of him, but he's got something of a new scary piece of baggage attached to him now, in that he's in the AL East, and has to face the lineups of the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rays constantly.
Happ was part of a 10-player trade with almost no one exciting in it, hence his being talked about a few days later. As of now, there's no room for him in Toronto's rotation -- a fact that's somewhat odd, given that Carlos Villanueva has had to make four starts after spending the whole first few months in the pen -- but it's not a given Happ will be in the pen forever, either. If he's a reliever, unless he closes, you shouldn't be paying attention to him even in AL-only. But as a starter... well, it's debatable if you'd want to pay attention to him then, either, given the competition he'll have to face. But he'd at least pile up innings, a currency as valuable as salt in the old world when you're talking AL-only.
For now, you can ignore him -- he was owned in just 20 percent of leagues even before the trade. If Toronto pushes him as a starter soon, pay attention, as it will be interesting to see how much of the grounders and strikeouts translate in the tougher division. He could still prove useful, although not to the degree some believed he would be years ago, but he'll need a job before he can get to work on that.