Chicago Cubs: Cutting down the punchouts key for Happ
It’s worth noting that Happ tied for the team lead in strikeouts with Javier Baez at 167 last season. Why is that significant? Baez racked up his 167 punchouts across 645 at-bats. Happ did it in nearly 200 fewer, at 462.
Happ has a very long swing that’s caught up to him to this point in his career. With the offseason the Cubs have had, there’s been so much trust and pressure placed on internal improvement. In fact, the team’s offseason plan seemed predicated around that very concept: improve or else.
"“He’s not happy and he shouldn’t be happy,” Maddon told MLB.com over the weekend. “I really don’t blame him. The guy has really performed very well for us at different periods of time on the Major League level. He is so ingrained in the culture within the building and within the clubhouse. Great teammate. A lot of the veterans have accepted him very readily, which doesn’t happen often with young players."
Chicago both wants and needs to see Happ take a big step forward this season. With the disappointing spring they saw from him, they made arguably their only choice, demotion. He needs to spend time shortening his swing, improving his contact rate and decreasing his strikeout rate. Playing sporadically at the big league level will not afford him the time to do so – but a trip to Triple-A will. It may not be what he wants, but it’s what he needs.