Elbow inflammation sidelined J.A. Happ early in the season, but he hit his stride shortly after his return in late May, allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of 12 starts spanning the course of two months. He endured a couple hiccups in August, but Happ finished strong with a 1.99 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 32:8 K:BB in five September starts (31.2 innings). The peripherals were even better than they were in 2016, as Happ added more than a full strikeout to his K/9 and only gave a little back with the walks (2.9 BB/9) and homers (1.1 HR/9). He nearly doubled his changeup usage, upping it from 6.5 percent to 12.1 percent, and that helped keep opposing hitters off the low-90s fastball. He was still a little too hittable against right-handers and the offense may not be any good next year, but Happ has made 25-plus starts in each of the last four seasons and his performance has been steady since Ray Searage worked his magic a few years ago.
Happ (10-11) struck out nine over seven sharp innings in Tuesday's 9-4 win over Boston, giving up just a single run on four hits without a walk. This pitching matchup looked tilted Boston's way with ace Chris Sale taking the mound, but Happ's hitters got to his fellow lefty for four homers. With only four games left in their season, the Jays won't send Happ to the mound again in 2017, so he'll finish with a 3.53 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 142:46 K:BB in 145.1 innings -- solid numbers for a guy who didn't come at a premium on draft day and missed time to injury.
Happ (9-11) took the tough-luck loss Thursday against the Royals despite allowing only one run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts over 6.2 innings. The only damage against Happ was a third-inning RBI single off the bat of Melky Cabrera, but that was enough to stick the southpaw with a loss as Toronto's offense failed to break through against Kansas City's Jason Vargas. This outing ended a three-game winning streak for Happ, who has also tossed quality starts in four of his past five outings while coming up just one out short of reaching that achievement in his lone failure. He'll look to get back in the win column Tuesday at Fenway Park in what will likely be his final start of the season.
Happ ranks fifth among MLB starters this season in swinging-strike rate on four-seam fastballs (minimum 750 thrown), at 12.5 percent, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. That rate more than doubles, to 27.3 percent, when Happ gets his four-seamer to the upper-third of the strike zone. Now in his 11th MLB season, the veteran's average fastball clocks in at 92.9 mph -- that's more than a tick up from his career average of 91.8 mph. Happ serves his heater on 42.8 percent of pitches this year, matching the lowest frequency rate of his career from 2010, and well below his 51.1 percent career average. A major reason for the effectiveness of his fastball has been the rebirth of his changeup, a pitch he used on 11.5 percent of deliveries in 2017, his highest usage rate over the last four seasons. The 34-year-old got injured in the first half and had a 5.33 ERA upon his June 5 activation, but has since returned to form with a 9-6 record and a 3.39 ERA over 18 starts.
Happ (9-10) allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts through 6.1 innings to earn the win Friday over the Twins. Happ has now tossed quality starts in three of his last four outings, a stretch in which he is 3-0 despite a mediocre 19:10 K:BB. Happ's ERA sits at 3.76 and he is looking like a strong bet to finish his third consecutive season with at least 125 innings pitched and an ERA below 4.00.
Happ (8-10) earned the win Sunday over six innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out nine. Toronto would prevail 8-2 over the Tigers as Happ took advantage of a cupcake matchup to win his second straight decision. The southpaw now holds a solid 3.73 ERA on the year with 8.8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 across 125.1 frames. He'll take those into a scheduled Friday outing at the Twins.