J.A. JAMES ANTHONY HAPP
Image of JAY
Nickname:   JAY Position:   LHP
Home: N/A Team:   BLUE JAYS
Height: 6' 6" Bats:   L
Weight: 200 Throws:   L
DOB: 10/19/1982 Agent: N/A
Uniform #: 33  
Birth City: Spring Valley, IL
Draft: Philles #3 - 2004 - Out of Northwestern Univ. (IL)
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G IP H SO BB GS CG SHO SV W L OBA ERA
2004 NYP BATAVIA   11 36 22 37 18 11 0 0 0 1 2   2.02
2005 SAL LAKEWOOD   14 72 57 70 26 12 0 0 0 4 4   2.36
2005 EL READING   1 6 3 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 0   1.50
2006 FSL CLEARWATER   13 80 63 77 19 13 0 0 0 3 7 0.216 2.81
2006 IL SCRANTON/WILKES   1 6 3 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 1.50
2006 EL READING   12 74.2 58 81 29 12 0 0 0 6 2 0.214 2.65
2007 IL OTTAWA   24 118 118 117 62 24 0 0 0 4 6 0.265 5.02
2007 NL PHILLIES   1 4 7 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0.368 11.25
2008 IL LEHIGH VALLEY   24 135 116 151 48 23 0 0 0 8 7   3.60
2008 NL PHILLIES   8 31.2 28 26 14 4 0 0 0 1 0 0.233 3.69
2009 NL PHILLIES $405.00 35 166 149 119 56 23 3 2 0 12 4 0.244 2.93
2010 IL LEHIGH VALLEY   5 22.1 26 22 15 4 0 0 0 0 1   4.84
2010 EL READING   3 12.1 18 10 4 3 0 0 0 1 0   8.03
2010 FSL CLEARWATER   1 3 3 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1   6.00
2010 NL PHILLIES $470.00 3 15.1 13 9 12 3 0 0 0 1 0 0.232 1.76
2010 NL ASTROS   13 72 60 61 35 13 1 1 0 5 4 0.23 3.75
2011 PCL OKLAHOMA CITY   3 18 11 16 9 3 0 0 0 1 0   1.50
2011 NL ASTROS $474.00 28 156.1 157 134 83 28 0 0 0 6 15 0.265 5.35
2012 AL ASTROS $2,350.00 18 104.1 112 98 39 18 0 0 0 7 9 0.275 4.83
2012 AL BLUE JAYS   10 40.1 35 46 17 6 0 0 0 3 2 0.236 4.69
2013 AL BLUE JAYS $3,700.00 18 92.2 91 77 45 18 0 0 0 5 7 0.25 4.56
2013 IL BUFFALO   3 13.1 17 13 8 3 0 0 0 0 2   6.75
2013 FSL DUNEDIN   1 5 3 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   0.00
2014 AL BLUE JAYS $5,200.00 30 158 160 133 51 26 0 0 0 11 11 0.261 4.22
2014 IL BUFFALO   1 4.2 5 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0   1.93
2014 FSL DUNEDIN   1 5 3 5 1 1 0 0 0 1 0   3.60
2015 AL MARINERS $6,700.00 21 108.2 121 82 32 20 0 0 0 4 6 0.279 4.64
2015 NL PIRATES   11 63.1 52 69 13 11 0 0 0 7 2 0.221 1.85
2016 AL BLUE JAYS $10,000.00 32 195 168 163 60 32 0 0 0 20 4 0.231 3.18
Personal
  • Born James Anthony Happ, the lefthander prefers "J.A. Happ" to appear in newspapers, on baseball cards and elsewhere in print. But don't say "J.A"—he wants to be called "Jay." "I understand that there is a contradiction," he said. "I get that. But that's the way it is." But why insist on using the initials? Why not just go by Jay Happ? "I don't like that spelling, J-A-Y," he said. "J.A. Happ. Jay Happ. It's a good baseball name. Whatever. Just don't call me A.J. That's what bothers me."

  • J.A. was the all-time leading scorer in basketball at St. Bede Academy in Peru, Illinois.

  • In the summer of 2003, Happ pitched well in the Cape Cod League. He then returned to Northwestern where he was one of the best pitchers in the Big 10. He is the first Northwestern player ever to make the all-Big 10 Conference three times, also being the ERA champ twice. Happ has had no trouble adjusting to pro ball.

  • Before 2005 spring training, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Happ as 16th-best in the Phillies organization. In the spring of 2006, they had him at #19 in the Phillies farm system. Before the 2007 spring camps opened, Baseball America moved Happ all the way up to 8th-best in the Philadelphia organization. In the spring of 2008, J.A. was rated as 11th-best prospect in the Phillies farm system. And in the winter before 2009 spring training, they rated Happ as 9th-best in the Phillies' organization.

  • In 2008, Happ finished second in the International League with 151 strikeouts in 135 innings. He allowed just 116 hits. And he ranked first among Triple-A pitchers with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and second with the 151 punchouts.

  • 2017: Happ represented the USA in the World Baseball Classic.

    TRANSACTIONS

  • June 2004: J.A. signed with the Phillies for a bonus of $420,000 after they drafted him in the third round, out of Northwestern University. He was signed by scout Bob Szymkowski.

  • July 29, 2010: The Astros sent P Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, acquiring Happ, OF Anthony Gose, and SS Jonathan Villar. The Astros then sent Gose to Toronto, acquiring 1B Brett Wallace.

  • January 17, 2012: Happ and the Astros avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $2.35 million contract for 2012.

  • July 20, 2012: The Astros sent pitchers Brandon Lyon, J.A. Happ and David Carpenter, and outfielder Ben Francisco to the Blue Jays; acquiring closer Francisco Cordero, righthanded pitchers Joe Musgrove and Asher Wojciechowski, lefthanded pitcher David Rollins, catcher Carlos Perez, and RHP Kevin Comer.

  • January 18, 2013: Happ and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration, signing a $3.7 million contract for 2013.

    March 27, 2013: The Blue Jays and J.A. agreed to a two-year, $9.1 million contract, which adds an additional year and $5.4 million to the deal he had reached in January. Happ's salary remains $3.7 million for 2013, and the new deal adds a $5.2 million salary for 2014 and a $6.7 million team option for 2015, with a $200,000 buyout.

  • December 3, 2014: The Mariners sent OF Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for LHP Happ. Seattle had been looking to trade Saunders since the end of the season after Saunders took umbrage to remarks by general manager Jack Zduriencik.

  • July 31, 2015: The Pirates sent RHP Adrian Sampson to the Mariners, so they could acquire Happ.

  • November 27, 2015: The Blue Jays signed free agent LHP Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract.
Pitching
  • Happ has a lively, sneaky, 90-94 mph FASTBALL that has natural deception and armside run, getting swings-and-misses. He cuts and sinks his 89-91 mph two-seam fastball, and gets it in on the hands of lefthanded hitters very effectively, with the 85-88 mph CUTTER getting flyballs. He also throws an occasional 77-80 mph CURVEBALL when it is on and an 82-84 mph circle-CHANGEUP that has good depth and is effective retiring righthanded batters. He has a lot of backspin on the change. (May 2016)

    His SLIDER has improved. It is tighter, and more like a cutter now.

    Like Randy Wolf, J.A. can elevate his fastball against righthanded hitters and still get them to swing through it. His changeup has excellent fading action. He locates it well to righthanded batters.  

  • 2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 54.7% of the time; Sinker 27.6% of the time; Change 6.5%; Slider 10.4% of the time; Curve 7.5%; and Cutter 2.3% of the time.

  • J.A. has a good, deceptive lefthanded delivery that hitters have trouble picking up. His motion is effortless, coming from a solid delivery.
  • At Happ's best, he keeps hitters off balance with an upright, crossfire delivery of 86-91 mph fastballs and a very good changeup. He'll mix in a fringy breaking ball now and then for shock value.
  • Happ has a real feel and aptitude for the pitching craft. He is a cerebral lefthander who just seems to know what pitch to throw at what time. His mound presence and intelligent approach are impressive.

    J.A. never shows his emotions on the field. He will not allow the opposition, or his teammates, to see what is boiling inside him after he gives up a few hits or a home run. He remains calm, quiet, and reserved. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee sees—and appreciates—it.

    "Inside those lines, you don't want to show any emotion. You don't want to show anything to the opposition. And [Happ's] tremendous at it," he said. "But you see him at other times, off the field and in the dugout, and you know there's a lot of fire there. You watch him pitch through tough situations and you know there's a lot of competitiveness there."

    The truth is, Happ does vent at times. He just does it out of sight, up the tunnel or in the clubhouse.

    "I get very frustrated. I try really hard to keep that in," he said. "But I get to the point where I think my butt is boiling. A lot. But obviously I try not to let that be visible to the other side. If I need to toss something or do something to let a little frustration out, that's usually where it is."  (Paul Hagen-Philadelphia Daily News-10/06/09)

  • J.A. is a flyball pitcher, for the most part.

  • Happ's success early in the 2013 season was the result of turning to his changeup more frequently, something he got away from the previous couple of years. "I think that's going to be a big pitch for me," J.A. said in April 2013.

  • February 19, 2014: Happ went to Jays manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker in search of something—anything, really—to get him back on track.

    He can remember telling Walker and Gibbons, basically, "I want to try to get over the hump.  I was just battling through some tough games and I felt like I was so close and the results weren't necessarily matching up to the way I was doing things," Happ said. "I needed to take a look and see if there was anything I could change to just try to turn the tides a little bit."

    Their suggestion was a slight alteration of Happ's mechanics, moving his arm slot down a few inches from the over-the-top delivery he had been using. Happ said he was willing to give it a shot, and so far, he and the Blue Jays have been encouraged by what they've seen.

    "It's freeing my arm up, and my arm's working a little bit better. I'm not fighting myself trying to get over the top with my higher arm slot," said Happ, who figures to be Toronto's fourth starter this season. "It's something we're working on, I worked on it all offseason, starting to feel more and more comfortable. I like the way it feels as far as it feels a little more free.  It just feels like my arm works a little bit better. It's out here and it feels like it's coming out with a little more ease. It feels a little more fluid, I guess."

    The idea behind the change was that Happ's over-the-top delivery often caused him to miss too high or low. That either left Happ's pitches right where hitters want it, or so low that they could recognize it was out of the strike zone in time to take the pitch for a ball. By throwing from a lower angle, Happ can focus more on his location within the strike zone and force hitters to make a quicker decision. (Berry - mlb.com - Feb. 2014)

  • After going to the Pirates late in the 2015 season, J.A. stopped allowing home runs. With the Mariners, he allowed 13 in 109 innings, but only on in his first 34.1 innings with the Pirates (through August 9, 2015).

    Happ also altered his pitch selection, reducing how often he was throwing his changeup and curve, not throwing more fastballs and slider.

    But perhaps most importantly, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage quickly spotted J.A. using inefficient movement in his delivery. Instead of striding directly to home plate, Happ had too much rotational movement in his motion, which dropped his arm slot and made the ball easier to track for opposing hitters, and hindered his control.

    Happ just raised his arm slot and became more direct to the plate. And he gained two mph, on average, with his fastball.

    “What happens is they are over-competitive and in a hurry to pitch,” Searage said. “Allow your body to set up so you can have quality pitches come out of your hand. Execution of pitches is going to come from the delivery, and you have to give yourself a better chance to get that release point.”

  • Happ is just another in a line of successful reclamation Pirates pitching projects in recent years. The list includes A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, and Edinson Volquez. J.A. improved the angle of his fastball and trusted it more in the strike zone. It’s a common recipe with Pirates pitchers. (Sept. 2015)

  • October 3, 2016: "I think facing J.A., it's a fastball that really gets on you. It's a short-arm that's quick. I know hitters say that all the time. But you have to decide what you're doing. He comes right at you. He throws a lot of fastballs. He's tough, he's really tough. He's a competitor for sure."  -- AL East infielder

  • 2016 season: Happ, who pitched 195 innings over 32 starts, has reinvented himself since his last stint with Toronto in 2014.

    "He was always considered kind of a power pitcher: a lot of strikeouts, throw a lot of pitches; five innings, 100-plus pitches was nothing to him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's just the way he worked.

    "He's more of a finesse guy now. He's a control guy. And he's got some power behind it, too. And he used to elevate the ball. Really, I mean, that was his pitch. Now he does that when he wants to. He keeps the ball down. He can pitch with his fastball with the best of them. That's his primary go-to pitch, and [he] still gets good hitters out with it." (Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com/October 6, 2016)

  • As of the start of the 2017 season, Happ  has a career record of 82-65 with 3.98 ERA, having allowed 144 home runs and 1,153 hits in 1,207 innings.
Career Injury Report
  • 2005: Happ missed some time due to a strained right oblique and hamstring injuries.
  • 2006: J.A. was slowed down by some back injuries.
  • June 2007: Happ missed some time with a bout of left elbow tendinitis. And he pitched with the elbow being tender most of the season, not telling anyone until near the end of the season.
  • September 7, 2009: J.A. was sidelined with a mild right oblique strain. The oblique is a muscle in the lower part of one's side, just above the hip. And when it is paired with the word strain, even if qualified with mild, it triggers immediate thoughts of a long-term absence from baseball games.
  • April 16-July 6, 2010: Happ was on the D.L. with a strained forearm—a strained flexor pronator muscle in his left forearm.
  • March 29, 2011: J.A. had to leave his last exhibition game start after three innings with a strained right oblique.
  • September 4, 2012: Happ was on the D.L. with a fractured right foot. Surgery was required, in which he had two screws placed in his right foot to repair a fracture by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. 

    When it broke was not exactly clear. The working theory is that when he broke off the mound to cover first base in his second-to-last start, August 29 in New York, there was some damage done. But the fracture may well have occurred gradually.

  • May 7-August 6, 2013: Happ had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Rays' Desmond Jennings during a game against the Rays. He was hospitalized overnight, then released the next day after sustaining a head bruise and cut to his the left ear.

    J.A. was hit squarely on the left side of his head by Desmond Jennings' liner. He had suffered a skull fracture behind his left ear, as well as a sore right knee that he tweaked when he dropped to the ground. The sound of a sharply hit baseball striking Happ's skull could be heard all the way up in the press box just before the stadium grew silent.

    "You don't want that to happen to anybody," Jennings said. Jennings met with Happ the next day, after J.A. returned from the hospital.

    "I talked to him and he told me that everything was OK and that everything was doing better," Jennings said. 

    "He just wished me the best and hoped for a quick recovery," Happ said. "Obviously something like that, it's never intentional. I let him know that I knew that and I did appreciate him coming over. It's a scary thing on his end, too, I'm sure, so I did appreciate that."

  • March 27-April 15, 2014: Happ began the season on the D.L.