StrategyJuly 23, 2009

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The Sustainability of J.A. Happ

By R.J. White

If you picked up J.A. Happ early, you’ve gotta be very happy with his production so far. 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA, the Phillies pitcher has certainly paid dividends in 2009. Some of his owners are optimistically envisioning a fantasy championship on the way, with Happ playing a major role in their title run. Shrewd owners are shopping him right now, as Happ is due for a major course correction. Let me tell you a bit about why the hopes of sustainability for Happ are false hopes indeed.

While Happ’s ERA sits at a pretty 2.68, his fielding independent ERA checks in at an average 4.36. One of the reasons for the massive disconnect in the two numbers is Happ’s BABIP, which is tied for the lowest number in the league at .242. And while a pitcher like Dan Haren has great peripherals to support a low ERA, Happ’s peripherals are anything but great. His K-rate is average, his walk rate is bad, and his K/BB ratio is under 2.0. When looking for indicators of good future potential, you generally want to target SPs with a K/BB ratio over 2.0.

Happ also has benefited from stranding an unusually-high amount of runners on base. In fact, his 87% strand rate is second only to Matt Cain, another pitcher that’s performing a little over his head. This, along with the lucky BABIP, has given Happ the biggest positive difference between his ERA and fielding independent ERA. Ricky Nolasco still has the biggest negative difference of the two, and he has proven that while his surface numbers might have been awful for a while, eventually real talent shines through. For Nolasco, that’s been a good thing. When the hammer falls on Happ, it’ll prove to be a bad thing.

Sell Happ now. Somebody will be eying that great record and good ratios and be interested. Get something of value for him now, and you’ll be very happy when he hits the inevitable wall — and that day is coming.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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