7-2 With A 2.97 ERA Doesnt Guarantee You A Spot Nowadays?The Case For Happ

Pat EganCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2009

PHOENIX - JULY 29:  Starting pitcher J.A. Happ #43 of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up in the bullpen before the Major League Baseball game against Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field July 29, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

All James Anthony Happ has done over his career is produce. Ever since he was drafted in the 3rd round out of North Western University the Lefty has put up stellar numbers at every level. The only struggle he had was the 2007 season in AAA Ottawa where he had a 5.03 ERA. But other than that he breezed through the minors with a fastball that MAY top out at 91. So as the left handed rookie gets ready for his start on the 5th against the Rookies, He has to prove yet again that he is worthy.

Let’s not forget back to Happs debut with the Phillies. It was less then stellar against the Mets. In his major league debut he went 4 IP giving up 5 ER's. 3 of which were HR's. To make matters worse this was against the division leading rival. The perception of Happ after that in Philly was that he flat out sucked. First impressions are an important one in any city ESPECIALLY when not many people are familiar with who you are.

So going into the 2008 season Happ started the season off in AAA Leigh High Valley. He finished the 2007 campaign with an ERA of 3.60 and was leading the international league in strikeouts before he was called up.

Many fans balked at the idea of calling up Happ. They had seen him last year and thought he was trash. Another David Coggin. But Happ was called up. I personally was in attendance July 4th when he pitched well enough against the Mets Johan Santana to earn the ND as the Phillies went on to win the game in extras by a score of 3-2.

 Happ finished last season with a 3.75 ERA. He pitched in 31.2 IP and had a 1-0 record. He pitched well enough to make the post season roster as a reliever. Not what he is which is a starter. So then came the 2009 season and a spring training that looked to be a happy one for JA Happ. That is until Chan Ho Park showed up

There was one spot open for the 5th starters spot at the beginning of the season and it was between Carlos Carrasco, JA Happ, Chan Ho Park, and incumbent Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick was awful after his rookie year of 2007. But the Phillies vowed to give him a chance and so they immediately named him the favorite. Carrasco was a 22 year old long shot but a top prospect who the Phil’s thought they could motivate to pitch well enough to grab the spot. JA Happ was on the post season roster and pitched well enough last year as a starter. And then there was the long shot in Chan Ho Park.

The Phillies had signed Park from the Dodgers and thought of him as a reliever. Chan Ho thought of himself as a starter and while this was never confirmed I’m sure one of the main reasons Park signed with the Phillies was because they told him he would be allowed to compete for a spot. They said if he pitched well enough he would earn his place in the rotation. So spring began with a competition.

Kendrick was shockingly sent to AAA before Carrasco was. Carrasco was then sent to Leigh High Valley which left just Happ and Park. While Park had pitched better then Happ in spring training it wasn’t by much and both pitchers had been lights out. Many fans thought the spot was destined for Happ but then the shocking announcement took place with Rueben Amaro announcing Chan Ho had won the 5th starters spot. I give credit to the Phillies for keeping their word and letting Park join the rotation. But this outraged some fans and it especially outraged Happ who reportedly had a meltdown in the clubhouse when he found out he was not going to be one of the starting 5.

All Happ had done in his career was prove the Phillies right for drafting him in the 3rd round. And now he found himself as a reliever in a bullpen that was the best in baseball last season. It was bitter sweet. But it became just sweet when Park pitched a little less like Steve Carlton and a little more like Andy Ashby. And that is when JA Happ was given the keys to the car. He was given the 5th starter spot on the World Champions.

By now you know what Happ has done. He has blown that 88 MPH fastball behind hitter after hitter and amassed an impressive 7-2 record with a 2.97 ERA. That’s all, nothing major. Just numbers that you should expect Cole Hamels to put up......not Happ. But this is what Happ has done in just about every level he has been at (except for the 2007 season in AAA)

He has managed to strike out 76 batters in 106 IP. He’s only walked 35 and in his last 7 games he has pitched 49 innings and only walked 12 while striking out 35. Pretty good walk to K ratio. I would even go on to argue that Happ has been their most consistent pitcher. That ever since he has joined the rotation you know you’re getting a quality start. So why in the world, would a pitcher who has a 7-2 record and a 2.97 ERA, be banished to the bullpen?

Insert Pedro Martinez. He needs no introduction. He has won 20 games twice in his career and signed with the Phillies in July. He feels that he has something to prove and has proclaimed himself completely healthy. He recently pitched in AAA Leigh High where he went 5 IP giving up 4 ER. He is slowly on his way to a return to the majors. Possibly 2 or 3 starts in AAA. So the questions all Phillies fans are asking is who is the odd man out when Martinez joins the Phillies?

Well it’s not Cole Hamels. While he hasn’t pitched like the Ace he thinks he is he is and is getting paid like one. It would be absurd to send him to the Penn. It’s definitely not Cliff Lee. Reigning CY Young award winners don’t get banished to the Pen. It’s not Joe Blanton. He, Other than Happ, Has been their most dependable pitcher who has been lights out recently. That argument leaves three options. Happ goes to the Penn. Jamie Moyer goes to the pen. Or Pedro Martinez goes o the pen.

While Moyer has been our worst pitcher I don’t believe he will go to the Penn. The thing about Moyer is he brings something you can’t teach. He brings experience and knowledge of the game and is more than willing to teach that to any pitcher that will listen. Every time a camera glances over at the dugout there is 46 year old Moyer talking to someone and you know he is discussing something regarding the game. Something regarding baseball. And 99% of the time there is an eager pitcher intently listening. Soaking up information like a Shamwow

Moyer can’t teach if he is in the Penn. He can surely teach the relievers BUT being a reliever is a different animal. It’s like Canada and the United States. While they are similar there are huge differences. The only way he can go and teach the starters out of the pen is by pitching which would allow him to go to the dugout after he is done. I personally don’t feel confident about sending him out there in a jam. In the 6th inning. In a 10 run game. In basically any situation. I think at this point you have to expect Moyer to go 6 IP and give up 4 or 5 ER's. And with this offense and rotation the Phillies can afford to deal with that because of what Moyer brings when he is not pitching.

So that leaves the rotation with: Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, and Jamie Moyer. That means that in August, JA Happ is going to find himself in another battle for the 5th starters spot. Except this time no one is really saying it’s between Happ and Martinez. It’s kind of like the Phillies version of the Cold War.

Let me first say that Happ has deserved his spot in the rotation. He has done nothing but win. Pitched amazingly, and effective every 5th day. To send a pitcher who has been talked about in ROTY talks to the pen would be ridiculous. This is no slight on Martinez but no one knows exactly what you are getting from Pedro but I think it’s safe to say we know what we are getting from Happ. We’ve been getting great performances from Happ and it looks like they will continue

Pitching Coach Rich Dubee has said that Pedro will not go and pitch out of the pen. And my question for Rich is: "Then why are there incentives in Pedro's contract for him to pitch out of the pen" This is a contract Pedro signed. He knew this could be an option. The Phillies made it an option when they included incentives for relief appearances. To act like it’s not an option I think is a bit premature.

All Happ has done is prove that he belongs. The argument that he is the next Kyle Kendrick can only be found from those who obviously have not seen the two pitchers enough and do not pay attention. Kendrick pitched nervous. He pitched with an "I hope" approach. "I hope I induce a groundball and get out of this" But Happ pitches with a purpose. A purpose to show the Phillies why he belonged from day 1. He deserves to be here. Not Pedro. I can’t remember the last time a pitcher with Happ like numbers was banished to the pen.....and I don’t expect to this season.