Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come. Get ready for the J.A. Happ experience. Now that the Chan Ho Park era is over in Philadelphia, we can look forward to much more success from our new 5th starter. I doubt very much that Happ will become the next Steve Carlton or Randy Johnson, but he should help stabilize this Phillies rotation that is sporting a robust 6.35 ERA. In the case of Chan Ho Park, shit happens. Luckily J.A. Happ has been there to mop it up.
The Phillies are not a team that needs great pitching in order to be successful like the Giants or the A's. They count on their offense to get the job done. They just need a guy that can go out there every fifth day, pitch about 6 innings and keep the team in the game. More often than not the Phils bats, especially the bat of Matt Stairs, will do the rest. The problem with the Phillies rotation so far has been the amount of innings that they have pitched. Several times the triumvirate of Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park have failed to go even two or three innings, making it extremely difficult for the bullpen to stay rested and forcing the offense to play catch up all the time. The offense has certainly been able to catch up several times this year, but this is not a recipe for long term success. The Phillies just need a few guys that can stay out there for a while and hold the other team to 4 or 5 runs. J.A. Happ can do that I think.
When the Phils rotation has faltered this year, Happ has been there to stop the bleeding. In 21.2 innings of relief this season, Happ has only allowed 6 runs to cross the plate. Happ also struck out 17 in those 21.2 innings. He has done just what the Phillies needed from a starter, but in the bullpen. In terms of a starting pitcher, the 26 year old definitely has some upside. He is a mountain of a man at 6'6" and about 200 pounds, and he has good velocity on his fastball at about 94 mph. The main question for Happ will be can he sustain his effectiveness over 5 to 6 innings? Moreover for the Phillies, can Ho fill in for Happ adequately in the bullpen? Last year Chan excelled in the bullpen, so hopefully he can find his mojo again in relief. Also, the team will be buoyed by the addition of J.C. Romero in a week or two which will give the bullpen another live arm. All things considered this is a good move for the Phillies.
Hopefully young Mr. Happ can provide a more reliable starter than Chan Ho did. I also expect much more from Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer than they have shown so far. They don't have to pitch great, just eat up innings and keep the team in the game. If they can do that, then they will have done their job. If they can do their jobs, expect the Phillies to really take off in the NL East. If not, look for guys like Carlos Carrasco or Kyle Kendrick to be brought up, or for the Phillies to make a signing or trade. Good luck Mr. Happ. And remember, shit happens.