Could Happ Be Odd Man Out Again?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, September 14, 2009 12:35 PM | Comments: 56
Posts, Raising Questions

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Pedro Martinez looks skyward before pitching in the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)You witnessed the tenacity and fire still burning inside Pedro Martinez as he launched 130 pitches Sunday night. Whether he was just getting up for a big game against his former team, or he’s been chugging from the fountain of youth, Martinez has officially become part of the fabric of this team.

The schedule says there are only 20 games remaining for the Phillies.  Within those 20 are six against Florida, who stand six-and-a-half back in the NL East, and 11 more against sub-.500 opponents (Washington, Milwaukee, and Houston).  The final three-quarters of a month will certainly put Pedro on display as he gears up for a run at the postseason roster.  But is that all he has warranted?

Three spots in the rotation are locked up, with the fourth still as mysterious as ever.  Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton will start the first three games of the Phillies first round series; that much is certain.  Each has earned it.  However, what becomes cloudy is the final piece to the four-man rotation.

J.A. Happ could very well be tossed back into the position he came from earlier this year.  His record would indicate that he deserves to be the Phils second starting pitcher in any foursome in October.  Happ’s star has shone brightly since swapping with Chan Ho Park, going 10-4 through 19 starts, posting a 2.77 ERA.  Unjust as it may be, Happ’s oblique strain could force him to into yet another demotion.  If you recall his exceptional Spring Training, the lanky lefty was certainly thought of as the fifth guy, until Park was handed the keys.  Now, this scenario could be playing itself out once again.

The job may be given to Pedro.  A stalwart during fall baseball, Martinez is absolutely dealing right now, which could set him up for the final turn after the top three.  In his career, Pedro is 6-2 in postseason play, with an ERA in the mid-three’s.  Layer that onto his 5-0 regular season here in 2009, and it provides the makings of an interesting coup.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ reacts after giving up a home run to San Francisco Giants' Aaron Rowand in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 2,2009, in Philadelphia. San Francisco won 4-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Adding fuel to the combustible situation is J.A. Happ’s inning total.  It has now reached 149.2, and some believe the Phillies are proceeding with caution when it comes to that figure.  Last year between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the Phillies, Happ threw 166.2 innings.  His oblique injury has given the team the ability to monitor the innings pitched, although no one is really sure as to how serious the ailment is.  It’s possible the Phils are using this time to rest him for the playoffs, keeping that prized extremity as fresh as possible.

To make matters worse for Happ is his skill out of the bullpen.  That is uncharted territory for Martinez, but has become a familiar scene for Happ over his year-plus in the majors.  And looking at the current status of the pen illustrates a beaten and broken crew.

Any way you look at it, this has become another pitching staff controversy.  Charlie Manuel is a visceral creature, so to handicap a conclusion here would be a mistake.  He’s shown his love for the young gun, but also gives his veterans every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately for J.A. Happ, he could ultimately be on the wrong side of this debate once again.

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About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1714 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 phils_ftw

    It’s a shame we didn’t get Pedro earlier in the season. The problem with obtaining him in August is we didn’t get to see how he pitches against teams we’re going to face in the playoffs.

  • Posts: 0 Mark B

    “His oblique injury has given the team the ability to monitor the innings
    pitched, although no one is really sure as to how serious [Happ's]
    ailment is. ”

    The Philles don’t have the medical expertise at their disposal to figure
    this out?

  • Posts: 0 Brett

    As I recall, he did pretty well out of the ‘pen the last time he pitched in the playoffs. I don’t see anything wrong with him in there again.

  • Posts: 0 Karen

    As a happ fan, it is just expected that he will once again be the one pushed aside. My problem is the consistency of the rest of the rotation. Hamels, lee and blanton have not be consistently solid. If it isn’t last year, then that would be an issue to consider

  • Posts: 0 The Little Guy

    Being at that game last night, Pedro pitched out of his mind good, and think he could be in the rotation, esp. to off-set all the LH starters going against primarily RH dominant lineups, LA and STL.

  • Posts: 0 Duffie_D

    I don’t like to say it, because I think Happ has clearly earned the right to start for this team in the playoffs, but I think Pedro should get the spot. I don’t think Pedro would be effective at all coming out of the bullpen. Also, it certainly looks like we’re going to need another lefty in the bullpen at this point, so Happ fills a need there.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    If Happ comes back strong and pitches well, I would either use him or Pedro depending on the opposing line-up (righty-lefty)

  • Posts: 0 Ben

    i don’t see how we can keep pedro out of the post season roster. he is a big game pitcher, no doubt about it.

    for reference, here is happ has done against the good teams this year

    team IP HITS RUNS Result
    NYY 6 4 2 L
    BOS 5.2 7 5 W
    TOR 9 5 0 W
    STL 6 10 5 L
    COL 9 4 0 W
    CHI 6 7 2 L
    SFG 6 8 4 L

    his win loss is not great, but overall i would say he’s done pretty well. his four losses are part of this group also, which means he has been thriving on the bad teams.

    but, at the end of the day, pedro has shown that he can rise to the occasion. albeit against not very good lineups. its a tough decision, but my gut says pedro.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I would say that Blanton has been DEFINITELY been consistent this season..

    and that Pedro vs. Happ debate was the first thing that I thought of last night.. because you want your starting rotation to be balanced.. combined with the fact that Happ is hurting right now, and probably not going to have his arm-strength when he gets back..

    Bad situation for him.. BUT.. he is in the big leagues, he’s done a great job, and he will continue to have a spot in the rotation for years to come.. so its not that big an issue if he is or isn’t our #4 start in the postseason.. that guy only gets two starts anyway

  • Posts: 0 phils_ftw

    Happ for closer! hahaha

  • Posts: 0 Phan in Tn

    I agree with one of the “Chuck’s” on this topic. I’m not so sure about what the other “Chuck” will say.

  • Posts: 0 George

    The whole situation probably will come down to health, and not only the health of Happ. He’s missed two starts already, no mention has been made of when he will pitch again, and there will soon be no farm teams to rehab with. His arm strength may be down when he comes back; his command spotty. He may belong in the bullpen.

    But even if he returns soon and has good velocity and control, he may still need to be relegated to the ‘pen because the Phils may still be without Eyre and Romero.

    It’s too bad the issue has to be determined that way, as Happ has certainly done well starting, but I fear that’s how it will go down.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    FYI Rich Dubee was on the espn baseball today podcast…

  • Posts: 0 Jeff H

    I think Happ may best help the Phills in the bullpen for the playoffs. If Romero or Erye aren’t healthy, the only lefty in the bullpen is Moyer. Plus you gain Pedros post season experience.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I agree….right now Pedro seems to be “in line” for that 4th start. Happ will be just fine in the bullpen. Plus…that gives the Phils one more lefty out of the pen.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    It’s not like if we “lose” Happ to the pen, that our rotation for the playoffs is all that compromised. Lee, Hamels, Blanton and Pedro isn’t a rotation to be embarrased about. And, I’m not necessarily going to feel bad for J.A. Happ, either. He’s a good young pitcher with lots of promise moving forward. He’s hopefully part of this team and rotation for many years to come.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    I would see the matchups and pick one. I like that better. Well folks last night was a special night. I have been to seven home games this year. We lost 6 of them. Last year we I went to 5 and we lost 5. Yes I know you think I should not go. We finally won one with me there. My last game was against Penny and the Giants. 0 runs. Last night 1 run. I have now seen 18 innings of us scoring 1 run in person. I think I will stay home. Tickets 100 bucks, 17 dollars for a bag of peanuts and two hot dogs plus one sprite. Watching PEDRO PRICELESS…..

  • Posts: 1376 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    Mark B. – The Phillies obviously know how serious his injury is. What that statement was meant to say is that the fans are left in the dark about it. There hasnt been much information shared, only that his starts keep getting pushed back.

    Here is the Dubee podcast link: http://sports.espn.go.com/stations/player?context=podcast&id=4472519

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Well, obviously we have yesterday’s outing fresh in our minds… and we haven’t seen Happ pitch in approx. two weeks. So….. we just gotta wait and see.

    First of all, I do not expect Pedro to throw 100+ pitches every time out and I really don’t see him going deep into games consistently. In addition, we have to wait for Happ to come back and start again. What if he comes out and gives you 7 shutout innings? What if he continues to impress as he’s been doing ALL season long?? Then we might forget last night’s outing and we’ll all want Happ to start. This dilemma will sort itself out.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Actually, I do expect Pedro to be able to throw 100 pitches. He threw 125 or 130 last night didn’t he? He hasn’t pitched all season and his arm is rested. His arm thinks its May right now. Gotta, just gotta let him pitch.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Mark B

    Pat – good point, I should have read between the lines a little better.

  • Posts: 1376 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I agree that there is no reason why Pedro cant throw 120+ as long as his arm doesnt fall off or he doesnt suck later in the game. His arm is relatively fresh, but the Phillies also know they have nothing to lose.

    They owe him little money to the end of the year, the chances of him being back are slim, and at the same time he gives the bullpen rest. He’s not in the Phillies future plans (most likely), so think of him as C.C. with Milwaukee last year. Use him til it hurts, because he won’t be back.

  • Posts: 0 Brett

    Pedro’s arm is very, very well rested right now. Having him heating up as opposing pitchers might be burning out puts us in an awesome situation.

  • Posts: 1376 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    To be honest though, and I didnt really leave my opinion in the post, is that you have to feel for Happ. Is this going to sour him to the organization if he’s again left out? I would think it has to.

    Thats basically saying, yes, you’re the best at what you do, but your being demoted anyway. None of us would like to hear something like that.

    Would he work well in the bullpen? Absolutely. But it pains me to say that because I would love to see Happ work 8 solid in the playoffs against the Dodgers. But that may never happen.

    I guess we should just hope the Phillies get there first…maybe we are looking too far ahead.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Expectations too high for Pedro around here???

  • Posts: 0 Phan in Tn

    To be hirsute, it may take a few WS games for me to like Pedro.

  • Posts: 0 Karen

    As a fan, I am very frustrated and irritated with how happ always seems to be the one up in the air about his role. I am not sure if this is just how the phillies are bur it’s bad. I realize it’s a business but he is also a young pitcher trying to fit into a role. He just seems to be the one who is easily moved around. I wonder if there are times he wanted to be traded. I have felt that way too…..

  • Posts: 578 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Not sure if this changes the argument much, but Happ is only 8-4 as a starter. His first 2 wins came in relief.

  • Posts: 0 Ben

    the reason we are saying move happ isn’t b/c we aren’t upset or feel like he has been inadequate, but you have to make the good baseball move here. if happ doesn’t have the semi rough outing against houston and doesn’t get hurt, i say you have to let him pitch. but when you go down, and the odd man out outduels the last years cy young award winner (and probably this year) and then pitches 130 pitches of 8 scoreless what can you do? you left the door open, and pay-dro kicked it in.

  • Posts: 0 Megary

    Agree with Manny here. It’s way too early to be discussing this. Pedro could get rocked from here on out and Happ’s injury could be more serious than we all know. Heck, we could be discussing Moyer/Kendrick in two weeks.

    That’s not a prediction, just a possibility. The playoff rotation (knocking on wood) will shake itself out and I wouldn’t lock any pitcher into any spot at this point.

  • Posts: 0 JeffS

    I’m with Megary’s post, but I didn’t want to say it for fear of a jinx. Now if something like that happens, it’s not my fault! ;-p

  • Posts: 0 bob

    I guarantee if Pedro gets rocked next start, certain people will say how much he sucks, etc.

    My opinion if Happ is 100% healthy and not worn out, he should get the #4 slot. If there is ANY doubt about this, they should turn to Pedro.

    Now, if Romero and Eyre can’t return then Happ needs to shift to be the lefty out of the bullpen.

    Either way I think they will both thrive in their roles.

  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    You think Happ might feel disrespected? How do you think Tim Wakefield feels? The guy flip flops from starter to reliever all the time. He has his preference, all pitchers do but he goes about his business and does what is best for the team. I think in the end Pedro or Happ would gladly do the same. Might it sour Happ a little bit. Maybe, but he hasn’t been around long enough to really feel like he should deserve anything…ask Jamie Moyer about what years of service means. Granted Happ is performing and Moyer did not but at the end of teh day, you do what is best for the team. If Eyre or Romero can not go in time for the playoffs then Happ may have to go to the pen so we have at least one lefty, possible two in the bull pen. We already have Hamels and Lee, we don’t need 3 left handed starters. Especially with teams like the Cardinals and Dodgers and Rockies who as a team hit lefties much better than they hit righties.

  • Posts: 0 bob

    People had no problems with LH starters when Lee and Happ were shutting teams down.

    Sometimes the LH/RH stuff is overrated.

    If you are a good pitcher you can get any hitter out. Happ and Pedro are both very capable of doing this in the postseason, so it’s a good problem to have.

  • Posts: 0 T Mac

    Can we have a post and corresponding thread to discuss the biggest issue the Phillies face going into the postseason, which is their serious offensive issues?

    A few stats to consider:

    Phillies averaging less than 3 runs/game in September
    Ryan Howard still hitting under .200 against Lefties
    Jimmy Rollins under.300 OBP for BOTH Halves of season but still leading off
    Woeful bench production (.174 PH batting average for season)
    Team batting .214 with RISP and 2 outs

    My solutions:
    Move Jimmy down to #6 or 7 in order and let him run wild when he does get on base
    Victorino bat lead off
    #2 – Ruiz when he starts, otherwise Werth (look at both of their OBP)
    #3 – Utley
    #4 – Howard vs. RHP, Werth vs. LHP
    #5 – Ibanez
    #6 – Howard vs. LHP; Jimmy vs. RHP
    #7 – Felix or Jimmy
    #8 – Backup C or poor bench play spotting starter or Felix

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Talking about Jimmy…. his average is lower than Chooch’s… who would’ve predicted that during spring training? No one. I want to the see the J-roll that played for the U.S. during the World Baseball Classic.. Where did HE go?

  • Posts: 0 T Mac

    I should also add that the BP problems have been overblown.

    Of the Phillies 22 second half losses, only 5 have come from the bullpen.

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I’m thinking that the spot is Happ’s BUT (and a big one) he’s gotta be healthy and he’s gotta prove it… there’s no way I’m throwing him back out there if he’s not 100%. He has to give me at least two starts before I declare him ready for the postseason. The playoffs are not the time to figure things out… no question marks. The innings issue is an issue but it shouldn’t be the driving factor. If he’s healthy, he should pitch. The guy has earned it… the great thing about having a guy like Pedro waiting on the bench is that you can afford to proceed with caution. These things have a way of working themselves out… there are three weeks left and we’ll have a better idea by then.

  • Posts: 0 Jack

    Ruiz’s OBP is that high because pitchers either pitch around him to get to the pitcher

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Exactly, The Original. Good points.

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    World Champs… it’s amazing how good it STILL feels to say that!

  • Posts: 0 Karen

    The huge problem right now is not scoring runs. The lineup should not be leaving the Amt of runners on base that they have. Without runs, iit will be impossible to win regardless of the pitchers. Give some of the bench guys at bats…..mayberry, Cairo, Francisco, Tracy…..I am sick of Matt stairs, Matt stairs and beardo

  • Posts: 0 Jonathan

    Hey guys, let’s cut the BS. Bullpens win championships, we showed that last year. And in September, 2009 the Phillies’ bullpen is close to collapse.

    It’s no demotion if either Happ or Martinez end up in the bullpen. It may be the heroic role that saves this season.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    3 weeks is an eternity with the way things have been changing. We could still end up with Moyer as our 4th if Pedro’s arm goes dead. The only certainty is Lidge cannot and should not be allowed to pitch from the stretch. He just can’t do it.

    great to see Tracey get a hit off the bench and win us a game the other night. We really could’ve used a couple of bench bats for the POs, but I digress.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Hey Jonathan, you cut the BS. Starting pitching wins championships. Happ will pitch out of the pen if all holds true into October. To me, its not even an issue. All things even, Happ can pitch out of the pen, Pedro can’t. JA can’t feel bad ceding his position in the rotation to a Hall of Famer, WS winner and 74 time Cy Young winner. JA knows its gotta be him and he’ll be fine.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Johnny Cakes

    1. How healthy will Happ be when he returns?

    2. Happ is not going to be insulted if he loses his starting spot to the best pitcher of the last 20 years. Happ will likely be happy to contribute to another ring.

    3. Happ is very good early in the game (1st inning opp ba: 0.182, 0.280 obp). He also has a 2.50 ERA as a reliever. Happ is effective without the need to settle in to the flow of the game.

    4. Happ is younger, pitching on short rest is not a problem.

    5. Pedro needs time to settle in to the game. He has allowed 5 HRs in his 7 starts, 3 came in the first inning. Pedro’s first inning BA against is over .355 (means he makes batters look like Hall of Famers in the 1st inning). His 1st inning OPS is 1.181. Pedro’s 1st innings are his biggest weakness this season. Not good for a reliever.

    6. Can Pedro warm up and give you a couple solid innings of relief on a tuesday, and then do the same on thursday? Maybe, I do not know.

    7. The rotation will shake itself out over the next month, and may not finish with the same look that it starts with.

    Happ’s health is uncertain at this point. Happ does not need as much time to get into his groove. Happ is proven reliable as a reliever. Pedro’s biggest weakness is the start of the game, is that what we want from our reliever?

    I think it is better to have Pedro starting and Happ relieving, but i would not be surprised if Happ becomes a very valuable part of this postseason.

    On another note: How great is it to be arguing over two guys with sub-3.00 ERAs for our #4 starter role? That is a beautiful debate to be having.

  • Posts: 0 karen

    I would like to see some explanation of when Happ will actually be returning to the lineup….its been silent

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Dip? Our starting lineup has been terrific the second half. But going into the playoffs and into the later innings holding a lead, slim lead or keeping the game close is major. The BP was the major reason why the Phils won it all last year.
    I do agree if we are looking at a BP addition, Happ would be more effective than Pedro or Jamie or Kendrick.

  • Posts: 0 Miles

    It’s certainly too early for this argument, but I understand why people are talking about it (because we don’t have much else to talk about).

    It will play itself out fairly obviously in my opinion. Either way, I don’t necessarily see it as unfair to Happ. If he was 100% healthy than yes, but since he isn’t there are other factors involved. Also, for a guy who lost the 5th starter’s job out of spring training, he’s probably just happy to know he will be on the playoff roster and has a starting spot locked up for next year.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    Ed R. – mr. wakefield. i would say he’s the last of his kind but the dodgers, like a month or two ago, pitched a knuckleballer (think they might have aquired him from the ChiSox). After reading your post, I checked out Wakefield on Wikipedia…talk about a team player :
    “In 2004, Wakefield helped the Red Sox exact revenge by winning the ALCS against the Yankees, a best-of-seven series to advance to the World Series. He helped save the wearied Boston bullpen by pitching 3 1/3 innings in a blowout Game Three defeat, which put the Red Sox in a 3–0 series hole. Wakefield volunteered for this relief duty despite being slated to pitch in Game Four the following day, knowing full well he was giving up his start. Derek Lowe got the start in Game Four, which the Red Sox ultimately won. In Game Five, Wakefield was the winning pitcher in a 14 inning thriller, throwing three shutout innings as the Red Sox won 5–4. He pitched Game One of the 2004 World Series but did not get a decision as Boston defeated the Cardinals, 11–9.”
    I’ve been told that before the modern era, knuckleballers were primarily used in relief. Kinda of risky considering it’s an either or type of pitch. I guess with during their warm-up tosses they could see just how much affect the weather and air quality was having on the ball’s flutter. These unique properities in particular it’s unpredictability is a puzzle many physists and aerodymanics engineers who love the game, can’t resist. I know it’s considered a gimmick pitch but to me it’s the Drunken Monkey of pitching. Did you ever play with or against a knuckerballer when you pitched?

    Johnny Cakes – nice analysis of the Happ/Pedro stituation.

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