Since getting called up back in 2017, Ian Happ has briefly shown flashes of what prompted the Chicago Cubs to select him with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. When he’s hot, he’s as locked in as anybody in baseball. The problem comes when he goes cold – as we bore witness to for much of the 2021 season.
During the entire first half last year, Happ struggled worse than ever before. Like multiple times in the past however, once he got it going and the calendar flipped to August, Happ wound up going on a tear and reminded everybody what he is capable of when he is seeing the ball well. Part of that renewed hot streak to close out the season, especially in September/early October where he slashed .317/.405/.615 over 104 at-bats, can be credited to being able to find consistency at the plate in the form of actually being in the lineup everyday.
Taking a look at how Happ could possibly improve even further and stay consistent is maybe considering the idea that the numbers just haven’t been there as a right-handed batter. Happ has been a switch hitter during his entire tenure with the Cubs and the numbers are pretty eye-opening when you start to really break down his overall production at the plate as a left-handed batter vs. right-handed batter.
For his career as a lefty, Happ has slashed .244/.346/.496 with an .OPS of .842. His ISO sits at .252 and his wRC+ is 121, or 21 points above the league average of 100. Though you would love to see the batting average a little higher, overall these are not bad numbers. On the flip side, as a righty, he has slashed a career .233/.312/.382 with just a .694 .OPS, .149 ISO and only an 85 wRC+. Ideally, a left-handed pitcher struggles against righties more than he does against lefty batters, but in terms of consistency and finding the same approach in every at bat, could Happ actually benefit from permanently staying put as a left-handed batter?
Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ needs to do whatever it takes to be consistent
There is nothing to go on stat-wise in regards to Happ as a lefty, facing a lefty, and my guess is that it would take a lot of getting used to at this point in his career. Perhaps, especially against southpaws that have reverse splits against lefties, Happ can utilize the luxury he has of being able to hit from both sides of the plate and really target individual match-ups better.
It would be interesting to see Happ bat lefty and attack a left-hander at the plate. Given his numbers as a left-handed batter, it may not be the worst idea for him to at least try it out this spring.
At this point, I’m down for whatever helps Happ finally deliver a consistent performance over the course of the season. As cliche as it sounds, he seems to be one player on the Cubs that if he has a good year will definitely stick around, and if not, his time may come to an end rather abruptly on the north side of Chicago. If he can find that same approach that he had in end the 2021 season, he will be one of the more valuable hitters on the team.