It’s 2018, so we all know that strikeouts are part of the game. Hell, even when Ian Happ was striking out 31% of the time in 2017, the Chicago Cubs weren’t too worried. Right now, though, boy does Ian Happ suck.
As it turns out, spring training was too good to be true, as Happ has had one of the most disappointing starts to the season not just for the Cubs, but in all of baseball. Everything has gone downhill for Happ since hitting a home run on the first pitch of the 2018 season.
After 13 games Happ has a 47.2% strikeout rate in 53 plate appearances. Just flat out brutal and the Cubs aren’t helping things out either. Happ has started 10 games this year and they have all come with him leading off. That needs to stop immediately.
We’ve seen this story before with Kyle Schwarber leading off in 2017, but even he wasn’t this bad. At least Schwarber was still drawing some walks when he was awful leading off through the first seven weeks of the season. Happ has only walked four times, while striking out 25 times. He has a .264 OBP so far.
We all know that’s not good enough and I’m not banging the drum, demanding the Cubs to ship Happ down to Iowa, but it’s pretty obvious what Joe Maddon has to do with him.
For starters, I’ve been in favor of just sitting him down for a few games and letting him clear his head. The bigger issue is that when Happ is in the lineup he can’t be leading off. Bat him somewhere down in the order and just have Ben Zobrist leadoff.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a hitting coach, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that Happ looks lost at the plate. Again, it’s a 13-game sample size, but Happ is making a lot less contact swinging at pitches thrown in the strike zone.
In 2017, Happ made contact on pitches in the strike zone 77.9% of the time. So far in 2018, that’s down to 63.2%. He’s swinging at pitches in the strike zone at pretty much the same rate, (74.6%, 74.7%) but Happ’s swinging and missing at a higher rate. (FanGraphs)
So, right now giving Happ the most plate appearances when he’s striking out every other at-bat isn’t what’s best for the Cubs. If he’s going to start, move him down and avoid another disaster like Schwarber last year.
A trip to the minors? Not yet and really only the organization knows how that would impact Happ mentally. Plus, he’s not going to get better by facing Triple-A pitching.
But please, Joe, move Happ down already.