Chicago Cubs centerfielder Ian Happ didn’t know how he would be used in 2020. David Ross gave him the everyday job and showed in his performance.
Coming into the 2020 season, no one knew where Ian Happ would be in the Chicago Cubs lineup. Would he be the starting centerfielder, or he’d be platooning with Albert Almora? Or would he even be on the Opening Day roster?
It was a battle between Almora and Happ for the centerfield job in spring Training. Both of them got off to a hot start in the spring, making the decision tough on David Ross on who would be the guy. Before the world was shut down because of COVID-19, it was looking like Ross was leaning towards Happ as the guy.
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Then when Opening Day rolled around, Happ was the guy in the lineup over Almora and it proved to be the right decision. Happ ended up going deep on Opening Day and went on to have one of the best seasons offensively for the Cubs, and Almora ended up not finishing the season on the big league roster.
Now, what was the reasoning behind Happ having such a good year? There could be many reasons for it, but one that I believe sticks out is that he was the guy every single day. He was not platooned and was able to play every single day. In the past with Joe Maddon, we saw lots of platooning and moving guys around and in and out of the lineup. This was good to keep guys rested and ready to go later in the year but didn’t let guys get into a good rhythm.
Happ’s 2020 season was outstanding. In 231 plate appearances, Happ slashed .258/.361/.505 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI’s. At one point at the end of August, Happ was in the NL MVP conversation with Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatís Jr.
In his first 163 plate appearances, Happ was slashing .304/.420/.659 with a 182 wRC+. Then Happ ended up taking a foul ball off his eye, which slowed down his production for the rest of the season. After the injury in 68 plate appearances, Happ struggled. He slashed .159/.221/.175 with an 11 wRC+. Before the injury, Happ was dominating.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons for Happ’s big season was the fact that he did get to play every day. It let him get into a grove, and he showed what he could do when he gets into that grove. Moving forward, I believe Happ has solidified his spot as the Cubs every centerfielder.