There is a lot of baseball still to be played and so it’s important not to draw any sweeping conclusions. However, through one quarter of a season, Ian Happ is having the most productive year of his career. In batting average (.286), on base percentage (.399), BB% (15.7), K% (20.3), wOBA (.371), and wRC+ (138) he is posting the best numbers of his career.
The one bit of ice water that can be thrown on those numbers is that he also has the second-highest BABIP (.344) of his career. For comparison, he has a career number of .316. So that’s definitely a significant and surely unsustainable amount higher. But the context is important as Happ is a fast player who makes hard contact. That can allow a sustained higher than average BABIP. League average is usually somewhere in the vicinity of .300, so Happ does check out higher than average. But no question some regression is a near certainty this year.
Statheads will note immediately that there are a few numbers I didn’t list. Notably, slugging percentage and ISO. Ian is having a statistically odd season. He’s having a breakout year at the plate without his usual power. Many of you watch more of the games than I do. Does it appear that Happ has significantly changed his approach? Sacrificing some of his power for contact? Or is all of this a little fluky?
Or maybe, he just hasn’t faced the Reds yet. I kid, mostly. But Happ, a draftee out of the University of Cincinnati, has always crushed Reds pitching. Excepting three games and eight plate appearances against the A’s, Happ has a higher OPS (1.109) against the Reds than any other team. If we use 50 plate appearances as a minimum, the Cardinals are next (.990). That’s a wide gap. And also kudos to Ian for doing his best work against division foes (the Pirates are next at .969). Ian does even better when those games are in Cincinnati where he has a 1.272 OPS.
So it should come with little surprise that Ian came up with the big blast in the series opener, a three-run homer just as the Reds had pulled close and it looked like another lead might have gotten away. Ian’s season looks to be one of the fun things to watch as the rest of the season unfolds. Certainly for him, you don’t assume anything, but you have to love being off to a great start and still having 18 games left against the team you do best against.
Let’s take a look at three positives from Monday’s series-opening win.
- Three up three down. Scott Effross and David Robertson each faced three batters and retired all three. Effross did it in the seventh after inheriting a runner on first and Robertson closed out the game for his sixth save. After a rocky weekend from the bullpen, a confidence building shutdown for each was just what the doctor ordered.
- Ian Happ. Double, homer, walk, two runs, four RBI. Peak performance.
- Alfonso Rivas and Seiya Suzuki. Both players have been slumping, but both had good nights at the plate. Rivas had a hit, a walk and a run scored. He did strikeout twice. After a hot start, the league caught up to him a bit. Hopefully, he’s turning a bit of a corner. Suzuki has a similar story. After a blistering start, he’s really cooled off. Last night, he a double, two walks, two runs scored and stole a base. When things were good early on, he had a near perfect command of the strike zone. So the two walks may be as important as the double.
Let’s take a look at the Heroes and Goats from last nights win.
Game 41, May 23: Cubs 7 at Reds 4 (17-24)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.338). 2-3, HR, 2B, BB, 4RBI, 2R
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.182). 1-4, HR, 3RBI, R, 2K
- Sidekick: Alfonso Rivas (.074). 1-3, BB, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Jonathan Villar (-.086). 1-5, SB, 2K
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.080). 0-4, K
- Kid: Rafael Ortega (-.060). 1-4, BB, K
WPA Play of the Game: No doubt about this one. With two on and two out in the seventh inning, the Cubs holding a 4-3 lead, Ian Happ took Luis Cessa deep and blew the game wide open. (.250)
*Reds Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the sixth, Aristides Aquino batted against Cubs starter Drew Smyly with the Cubs leading 4-1. Aquino homered, cutting the lead to one. (.196)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Willson Contreras +12.5
- Ian Happ +12
- Scott Effross +10
- Yan Gomes/Kyle Hendricks -6
- Patrick Wisdom -9
- Jason Heyward -11.5
Up Next: Game two of the four-game set in Cincinnati. Marcus Stroman (1-4, 4.88) makes his second start since coming off the injured list. Tyler Mahle (2-4, 5.23) is the opposition. The Cubs will look to continue the upswing on the recent roller coaster that saw them win four straight, then lose four straight. They’re now looking for a third straight win.