Chicago Cubs: Taking a glass half-full approach
It’s become exhausting to watch Happ perform at the level he has this season. His swing-and-miss tendencies are frustrating, to say the least. That being said, there is still a way to see the glass as half-full.
Happ is just 24 years old. Let that sink in for a moment. He has less than two full seasons at the Major League level under his belt. Happ also moved through the minor league ranks incredibly quickly, playing just 26 games at Triple-A before making the leap to the Show.
Merely looking at the positives, we can see that there is still a world of potential there, which has not yet been unlocked. It could be on the horizon, however.
One example is Happ’s walk rate and his increased patience for outside pitches at the plate. Last season, Happ walked at a clip of 9.4 percent, which is nothing too impressive. This season, Happ is walking at a 14.7 percent rate, which is respectable if you think about the strikeout rate. If you look at Happ’s plate discipline, you’ll notice it has become better. His O-Swing%, represented by the number of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone has decreased from 31.5 to 24.6 percent year-over-year.
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Happ’s strikeout percentage has increased exponentially from 31.2 percent to a near league-worst 36.7 percent. Naturally, Happ’s contact percentage has also decreased from 67.3 percent in 2017 to 63.3 percent in 2018. Seemingly, this means that Happ does have a better eye for the strike zone, but he, unfortunately, can’t seem to make contact.
While Happ is undoubtedly producing at a much lower level this season, as well, it should be noted that he is still above the league-minimum clip regarding overall offensive production. It is not pretty. However, Happ has posted a .325 wOBA and a 103 wRC+. As it stands, there is a bevy of teams which would kill for production such as this.
Ian Happ feels like a carbon copy of Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. In each of their first two seasons, Happ and Story struck out at near identical rates. The power was also nearly identical, as well as the RBIs, walk rate, and wRC+. Looking ahead to this season, Trevor Story has found a way to turn it around, leading the Colorado offense.
Story, last season, struck out at a 34.4 percent rate. He has found a way to decrease his strikeout percentage this season and has become a perennial MVP candidate. For a guy who is measured so much like Ian Happ, it could be something that Happ could learn from Trevor Story.