Ian Happ has been the most dominant Cubs hitter so far this season. He is putting together a fantastic 2020 campaign. This comes after the Cubs started Happ in Triple-A at the beginning of last season. Since he was called up on July 15, 2019, Happ has been one of the most consistent Cubs hitters in the lineup.
The former first-round pick and ninth overall selection in the 2015 MLB draft is starting to look like a valuable pick for the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a deep dive into Happ’s numbers this season and why he has been so successful in 2020.
Ian Happ 2019
Happ has always been a key bat in the Cubs lineup. However, in 2019 he started the season in Triple-A after Cubs former manager, Joe Maddon, felt that Happ “rosed to the Majors too quickly.”
Happ’s response, when asked about this, was very straightforward.
“No,” said Happ. “I don’t feel that way.”
Happ starting the season in Triple-A in 2019 came as a major surprise. However, he would eventually be called up at the end of July and stay on the Cubs’ roster for the duration of the season. Last season, Happ only appeared in 58 games, but still managed to finish with 11 home runs and 30 RBI. Even though his 15 walks in 156 plate appearances was low, that was a result of chasing low pitches outside the strike zone.
Happ would finish his 2019 campaign with a slashing line of .264/.333/.564.
Ian Happ 2020
Happ seems like the only Cub hitter that has been consistent all season long. From his first game in 2020 against the Milwaukee Brewers, Happ has had an eye for the ball. His two-run shot on opening day lifted the Cubs over the Brewers by a score of 3-0.
“I knew Ian Happ was going to have to play a big role for us,” said Cubs manager David Ross. “I thought his success and being consistent was going to be a real factor for us.”
Why has Happ broken out in 2020, especially with little spring training?
“Just putting together good at-bats, really focusing on that,” said Happ. “Really making sure that that’s my goal day in and day out is putting together really quality at-bats.”
For starters, he has become more disciplined at the plate in 2020. Looking at the graph on the right, Happ is taking fewer swings lower in the dirt than the previous year by a significant margin. Not only has Happ been laying off pitches in the dirt, but he also has a more careful approach at the plate. As a result, Happ has had fewer swing and misses.
According to Statcast, his average hard-hit rate in 2020 is 54.5 percent, which is about 14 percent better than his career average. Furthermore, Happ has been able to make incredible contact resulting in a faster average exit velocity.
Happ currently has 12 home runs with 28 RBI on the season. His 28 walks are a major increase from last season as his careful approach is deeming to be successful. His .572 slugging percentage ranks fifth in all of the majors. Also to note, his 2.0 wins above replacement (WAR) ranks 24th in the majors. All this done in just 48 games for Happ.
What’s Next for Ian Happ
Happ will try to win his first World Series ring in his young career in 2020. Although the Cubs won back in 2016, Happ wasn’t a part of the club as he was only 21-years-old.
For Happ, he has had such an incredible season that his name has been talked about in the NL MVP conversation. Although it is unlikely he wins, due to Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto‘s excellent seasons, putting him in elite conversations like that is a high accomplishment for Happ. Finishing as a top-5 NL MVP candidate makes Happ’s season a success.
His numbers thus far have been tremendous, but Happ and the team have one goal in mind, win the World Series.
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