Last night, 33-year-old JA Happ became the first 20-game winner for the Toronto Blue Jays since Roy Halladay in 2008, and the second 20-game winner in Major League Baseball this year.
Anybody have Happ as a 20-game winner before the season? Anybody? Did Happ’s family even think he was going to win 20 games? No? Happ’s career high in wins prior to this year was 12 back in 2009. From 2010 up until last year, Happ averaged 8 wins per year over those six seasons, to go along with a 4.36 ERA, and a 1.39 WHIP. Simply put, this season came out of nowhere. You could say the same about Rick Porcello, that his 20-win season came out of nowhere, but he’s also six years younger than Happ, and has had double digit wins in seven of his eight major league seasons. For Porcello, the potential was certainly there, especially with Boston having the best offense in the majors.
In Happ’s case, he’s also benefited quite a bit from run support. Porcello leads the majors in run support (6.68), but guess who’s second? Happ (6.17). Less than a week before David Price signed with the Red Sox as a free agent, the Blue Jays signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal. Blue Jays fans collectively groaned, because they had fully embraced Price, who helped carry that 2015 team to the postseason down the stretch, going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts. Despite having one of the richest owners in the sport, the Blue Jays weren’t in on Price, didn’t even make an offer, and Happ was the consolation prize.
Happ’s no Price, but they’ve had very similar seasons. Price has a 1.18 WHIP this year, and Happ’s is 1.17. Happ is 10th in the American League in average game score (56.3), and Price is 11th (55.8). Happ is averaging 15.6 pitches per innings pitched, and Price is averaging 15.7. Price has pitched about 30 more innings than Happ, but you can’t argue that the Blue Jays have gotten more value out of the Happ signing than the Red Sox have gotten out of the Price signing in 2016.
But when you see a 20-game winner, you automatically wonder where they fit in the Cy Young conversation, and Happ’s just not going to be a factor in this one. He’s 9th in the league in ERA (3.28), 9th in WHIP, 16th in strikeouts (160), and 15th in innings pitched (181.1). That’s not a Cy Young season. The wins are great. It’s a nice little line to put on your resume that you’re a 20-game winner. But as far as the Cy Young goes, Happ isn’t going to factor into the decision. And that’s fine, because it’s not about individual awards, it’s about going out there and winning ballgames, and that’s what Happ has done for Toronto this year. In the 30 times he’s taken the mound, the Blue Jays are 23-7.