Chicago Cubs: It’s time to make a decision on Ian Happ

(Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have struggled on offense all throughout 2021. Ian Happ had a great year in a shortened 2020, and everything he did last year has been undone by an abysmal 2021. Some of the old issues he had have resurfaced. Given the front office is turning over the roster here at the trade deadline anyway, now is the time for the Cubs to make a decision on his future with the team.

Entering action Wednesday, Happ is slashing just .177/.292/.319, which is unplayable on an everyday basis. This is his first really bad year in the Majors, as every year has been above average. Heck, Happ has slugged .500 or better three times. His strikeout percentage is right in line with career norms, as is his walk rate, so what’s went wrong?

For starters, his BABIP is just .220, and league average is .300. His groundball percentage is way up at 51.2 percent, his previous career-high was 45.2 percent in 2020. In fact, it’s increased every year since 2019. His hard hit rate is the lowest it’s ever been at 31.8 percent, according to Fangraphs.

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Happ’s contact percentage is the highest it’s ever been over his career, at 70 percent, and he has the lowest swinging strike percentage of his career. Looking at these numbers, a conclusion could be drawn that he has been a little unlucky with the low BABIP, high contact numbers, but the power zap with the groundball trend is very concerning.

He was already sent down to Triple-A in 2019 to work on some of these things, and came up in late July and hit well, and carried that over in the shortened 2020. Nobody saw this 2021 coming, and it’s unfortunate for him because there’s not a clear option for him. After the presumed trades that are coming, Happ is going to have every opportunity to play every day down the stretch and audition for 2022.

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ might not have a spot on this team next year

The Cubs’ roster will look much different in 2022, presumably. With the likely trades and assuming the team doesn’t re-sign Javier Baez, Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, there is no reason to assume anybody’s roster spot is safe for 2022, except for Kyle Hendricks and maybe Willson Contreras. Nico Hoerner may have a roster spot too, as somebody would need to play shortstop.

The Cubs have a decision to make with Happ, if he continues to be this bad they can’t have him taking up a roster spot, but do they want to part so quickly with a guy that’s had a ton of past success after one bad year? They did it with Kyle Schwarber, so there is history with players being non-tendered after a down year.

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The good news for Happ is that he has an opportunity in the last two months of the season to prove that he should keep his roster spot. The Cubs need bodies, and Happ would love to be one for the future.