Why Are the Phillies Wasting J.A. Happ?
I wrote an article last week arguing that J.A. Happ doesn't deserve the National League Rookie of the Year. Apparently, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel agrees with me.
It's already Game Six of the World Series, and J.A. Happ has yet to start a game in either the NLCS or World Series. He's been used sparingly as a mid-game reliever and in occasional situations involving left-handed batters.
That's not exactly what someone should expect from a guy who was arguably the most consistent pitcher on the entire Phillies staff. Since May, he went 10-4 as a starter while maintaining a 2.99 ERA.
Cliff Lee is obviously the Phillies' ace, but beyond him, I question whether Pedro Martinez, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels are really better options than Happ.
During the season, Philadelphia had no problem calling on Happ in big game situations. Countless times, he stepped up in important games. More than any other pitcher on the team, Happ was most responsible for keeping the Atlanta Braves from becoming a threat to the Phillies' division lead.
In response, Manuel has said Happ is being used in the bullpen because the Phillies need a long-inning reliever. Here's a novel idea: If you have a pitcher who doesn't get knocked out of the game in a few innings like Hamels, you don't need a long-inning reliever.
Why do you think the Yankees are content with a three-man rotation? Because Girardi intends for all of them to go deep into games. And in every single game of this World Series except one, each of them has done that.
Furthermore, where were the long-inning relievers during the regular season for the Phillies? If that is Happ's strong suit, why wasn't he used as a reliever then?
Why does Manuel assume that Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez are better options than Happ? I can understand why the Phillies would want to give Hamels every chance to succeed. He was the MVP of the World Series last year.
But Blanton? Martinez? Happ had better numbers than both of them during the regular season.
Not surprisingly this postseason, Happ hasn't exactly been that sharp out of the bullpen. But that shouldn't surprise anyone. He was a starter all season, accustomed to pitching on a routine basis.
Now, he's being used on random occasions and people are wondering why he's not his usual self.
Perhaps Manuel is right. Perhaps the Phillies will win the World Series, and no one will question Manuel's decision. But even if he is right, what kind of affect has his decision had on Happ?
There's no way Happ is content sitting in the bullpen watching Blanton and Hamels get beat up. There's no way as a young pitcher he doesn't feel misused in those situations.
He pitched all year for the Phillies, and now during crunch time, he finds out his manager has no faith that he can start in a World Series game.
Other than Cliff Lee, not a single Philadelphia pitcher has shown he can handle the Yankees' lineup. Martinez lost. Blanton lost. Hamels lost.
Happ deserves a chance. It will be a shame if Manuel doesn't give him one.
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