I love watching this guy just go about his business and pitch. No drama no meltdowns on the mound. He just goes out there does his thing and stays within himself. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of this trade but hand it to Jack Z. he called this one correct.
Q. First, the most important saber question of all: how is he in the 'Chemistry' department?
A. Looks like Cliff Lee standin' still, don' he? Gorgeous! repeatable motion ... not repeatable, repeating. With repeating release point, 'ain't no thang' body language and all the trimmings. He don't pitch as good as Cliff Lee did, but he thinks he does, and it's better to look good than to feel good.
In the 4th inning on April 22, Happ rocked and fired a pitch to Jed Lowrie. Who smoked it down the RF line. As the ball left the bat, Happ turned his head ever-so-slowly to follow it. You know, like he was pitching with a toothpick in his mouth.
That loosey-goosey deceleration is SOOooo prett-ay. Torso rocks like 180 degrees, back leg kicks way high with zero effort, that centrifugal butter smooth lefty arm comes through with extra clearance ... this with a perfect release point? Dr. D flat enjoys watching him throw a stitched up horsehide.
Which, at age 32, has now suddenly given him "plus" command of his fastball.
Q. Whoa! Before you go too far, how was that pre-season SSI theory on him? Now that we've studied 300 pitches with enhanced ki?
A. Very clever, as of course it would be with anything coming off the Mainframe. But off track, Dr. D must sadly admit. Like Peter told Susan, "You're not trying to be smart. You're trying to be clever."
J.A. Happ suddenly reduced his BB's per ballgame from 4 to 2. If you don't care about that, you're obviously not a pitcher. We assumed that his reduction to Fastball-Curveball was the cause of this.
It wasn't. So, a new theory: time and experience has simply created better command for him. There are all kinds of pitchers who improve their command with age, but most of them lose velocity. Happ didn't.
Q. He threw like 92-95 MPH last year all of a sudden. Is he still doing that?
A. Neg A Tory. He's a solid 91-93 which is fairly quick for a lefty. You saw that and you saw his plus command. Those two things make his fastball a bread-and-butter weapon. Like Chris Young's high "camoflauge" fastball.
Leaving his repertoire the way you saw it Wednesday:
- Fastball = Plus
- Cutter = Mediocre (plays up a little cuz of the FB)
- Change = Mediocre (plays up a little cuz it's snake-tongue 86 MPH vs. the cutter)
- Curve = Average to solid
Q. Is he a TOR?
A. He's a serviceable #3 on an okay team, or a delicious #4 on a 90-win club.
This guy is no ball of fire. His K rate and swing-strikes will confirm that. He ain't going to throw a Cliff Lee hook on 3-and-2. But a lefty with a good fastball who can spot it, and who CAN change speeds decently -- he's going to have a whale of a lot of games where he goes into the 7th and 8th inning.
This year's Chris Young. After all the conversation about roller coasters and blue-chip rookies, it's awfully nice to have a guy who just pitches pretty good.
Q. With his fastball, he threw 42 strikes and 12 balls. And they were on the corners. That's like Kyrie Irving hitting 8 of 9 from downtown. Can he do that all the time?
A. He did shoot 42-for-54, but there was an ... um .... catch to it:
Check out those red dots that the ump gave him! Here's the Brooks image in its own page.
Six extra strikes down low, three wide armside, none taken away. I'll take about a million of those games. (Hernandez, for the Astros, got a fairly generous zone but only two low strikes.) (Lance Barrett, the home plate ump for this game, has a moderately pitcher-friendly ERA, ranking #50 of 83 umps this year.)
Q. So Mike Zunino really does have a gift for stealing low strikes.
A. That's the book on Zuumball, that he frames brilliantly with centered pitches that are 4" low. I think it is because:
(1) he catches the low ball with his mitt in upward motion. The CF camera captures this hilariously, but the home plate ump doesn't have a CF camera.
And (2) Zuumball's body angle gives the ump such a great view of the pitch being over the plate. Any of you guys salesmen? "A confused customer is a customer who ain't buying." Think about it :- )
Did you see the at-bat ta Colby Rasmus in the 2nd inning? Though early, it was a game situation.
- M's up 1-0 on the 'board
- Two Lastros on base
- Two out
- Happ starts Rasmus out THREE BALLS NO STRIKES
- Rasmus had 3 hits the day before (check me on that) and 2 hits in this game
- You're dead
After a gimme strike to make it 3-and-1, Happ missed with the next one. But! Zunino yanked it and the ump called it. Rasmus flipped his head in frustration.
3-and-2, Happ missed even lower -- and the ump rang up Rasmus!
Here's the punch line: it was the first time in my LIFE that I ever remember feeling sorry for an enemy hitter on called strike three. My 0.1 second reaction was to be frustrated with the call, LOL. What is this world coming to.
Q. So Happ got away with a game he shoulda lost.
A. Here is the thing, cupcake (LrKrBoi29). J.A. Happ had a great game, partially because of Mike Zunino. But: that's who he will be throwing to, Mike Zunino.
ALSO: Happ is throwing "too many" strikes -- trading a 1+ walk rate for gopheritis. But, like Chris Young, he's pitching in Safeco.
ALSO: Happ is a "don't beat yourself" starting pitcher who is throwing in front of a home run offense. The better your offense is, the more you want a consistently-solid starting pitcher -- one who gives up runs like 3, 3, 3, 3 not one who gives up runs like 6, 0, 6, 0.
Think you can take it from there? Happ is, in theory, exactly the starting pitcher you want in this ballpark. It's not a question of xFIP and what ERA that he "should" have. It is a question of SYNERGY.
Q. So, objectively speaking, he's a low #3 or high #4. What is he in context?
A. In Safeco? With Zunino? Probably a high #3.
And don't forget, when you calculate Mike Zunino's WAR, to include his defense. Not his saber defense, his real defense.