J. A. Happ

J. A. Happ

Happ with the Blue Jays in April 2013
Toronto Blue Jays – No. 33
Starting pitcher
Born: (1982-10-19) October 19, 1982
Peru, Illinois
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
June 30, 2007, for the Philadelphia Phillies
MLB statistics
(through 2016 season)
Win–loss record 82–65
Earned run average 3.98
Strikeouts 1,022
WHIP 1.33
Career highlights and awards

James Anthony "J. A." Happ (born October 19, 1982) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has also played in MLB for the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Though his name is James Anthony and his initials are "J. A.", he pronounces his name as "Jay".[1] He is 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) tall and weighs 205 pounds (93 kg).

Early life and amateur career

Happ was born in Peru, Illinois, and raised with two older sisters. He attended high school at St. Bede Academy, where he was a four-year letter winner in baseball and basketball. He was named Bureau County Athlete of the Year during his senior season.

After graduating from high school in 2001, Happ enrolled in Northwestern University, where he majored in history. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, during which he compiled a 16–11 win–loss record, an ERA of 2.88, and a 251/90 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 228.1 innings pitched.[2] Happ chose to forgo his senior season and entered the 2004 Major League Baseball draft, where he was selected in the third round (92nd overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies.[3]

Professional career

Pitching style

Happ throws five pitches: a four-seam fastball (89–95 mph), a two-seam fastball (89-93), a slider/cutter (83–86), a curveball (76–79), and a changeup (82-84). Happ relies on all of his pitches against right-handed hitters, but does not use the changeup against left-handers. He commonly mixes his curveball with his fastball in two-strike counts.[4]

Philadelphia Phillies

Minor leagues

Immediately after agreeing to terms with the Phillies on June 16, 2004, Happ was assigned to the Batavia Muckdogs of the Short-season A-level New York–Penn League, where he posted a 2.02 ERA in eleven starts, averaging more than one strikeout per inning pitched. Happ again impressed in 2005 with the low-A Lakewood BlueClaws. While Happ played for only half of the season, he compiled a 2.36 ERA in 72⅓ innings. He was promoted to Double-A for a single game at the end of the season, in which he gave up only one earned run in six innings and struck out eight.

Happ during warmup for the Philadelphia Phillies

In 2006, Happ began the season for the Clearwater Threshers of the High-A Florida State League, but earned a promotion to the Double-A Reading Phillies at midseason. He also pitched one game at the end of the season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, then the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate. Combined for the year, Happ went 10–9, with an ERA of 2.69, 162 strikeouts, and 49 walks in 160⅔ innings. He was rewarded, during the following offseason, with his first appearance in Baseball America's "Top Ten Prospects" list for the Phillies organization, in which he was ranked eighth. (Prior to this, Happ had rarely been identified as a prospect despite his impressive performances in 2004 and 2005 due to his average pitch velocity.)

After pitching in the Arizona Fall League in the fall of 2006, Happ moved with the Red Barons to Ottawa for the 2007 season.

Major league debut and return to Triple-A

On June 30, 2007, while suffering from a spate of injuries to their starting rotation, the Phillies purchased Happ's contract from the Lynx. At the time, Happ's record in Triple-A was 1–2 with a 4.02 ERA. He made his major league debut against the New York Mets and allowed five runs, all earned, in four innings. He was then returned to the Lynx and did not pitch at the major league level again that season, thus ending the year with an 11.25 major league ERA.[5]

Happ struggled upon his return to Ottawa. Despite striking out 36 batters over five starts in the months of July and August,[6] Happ's ERA ballooned to 5.02 by the end of the season. It was later revealed that he had been pitching that season with elbow fatigue. As a result, he did not participate in any fall or winter leagues during the following offseason.


Happ began the 2008 season with the Phillies' new Triple-A affiliate in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He went 5–6 with a 3.54 ERA in his first seventeen starts, striking out 104 batters in 101⅔ innings.

On July 4, Happ was called up to take the place of Brett Myers in the Phillies' starting rotation, after the struggling Myers went to the minors in an effort to regain his form. That same night, Happ made his season debut against Johan Santana and the Mets. He fared better in his second major league start, pitching 4⅔ innings, giving up three hits, two earned runs, four walks while striking out three. He earned a no-decision as the Phillies went on to win the game, 3–2. Happ was also awarded a no-decision in his third career start (second of the season), in which he pitched 6⅓ innings and gave up two runs, but the Phillies went on to defeat the Cardinals by a 4–2 score. He was then optioned back to Lehigh Valley, as the Phillies would not need a fifth starter for two weeks.[7] Myers regained his place in the rotation on July 23.

Happ was recalled to the major leagues on July 29 when the struggling Adam Eaton was demoted to Lakewood.[8] However, Happ never took Eaton's spot in the rotation, as the Phillies had already acquired starter Joe Blanton from the Oakland Athletics on July 17. Happ instead pitched out of the bullpen, appearing in two games (in which he struggled), and was then sent to Triple-A once again. He ended the Triple-A season at 8–7, with a 3.60 ERA. He was second among International League pitchers with 151 strikeouts in 135 innings.[9]

Happ joined the Phillies for the third time in 2008 on September 1 when the rosters expanded. On September 16, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel announced that Happ would start on the following night against the Atlanta Braves, replacing the struggling Kyle Kendrick. Happ pitched six shutout innings in the game, earning his first major league win in a 6–1 Phillies victory. Happ was named to the postseason roster, and pitched in one game in the National League Championship Series. In total, Happ posted a 1–0 record in 2008, with an ERA of 3.69 and 26 strikeouts over 3123 innings.[5]


J. A. Happ fielding a pop-up on April 16, 2009

Happ became a member of the starting rotation after fifth starter Chan Ho Park struggled in his starts and was sent to the bullpen. Happ threw his first career complete game and shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27, 2009. He got his first major league hit on July 2, against the Atlanta Braves. It came during the fifth inning with two outs and no one on base. On August 5, Happ pitched his second career shutout, giving up four hits and striking out ten in a home game against the Colorado Rockies. In that game, he also collected his first career extra-base hit, an eighth-inning double off Rockies pitcher Josh Fogg. He became the first rookie pitcher to 10 wins on August 22 against the New York Mets. He made his first career post-season start against the Rockies on October 11, 2009.

On October 20, 2009, Happ was named Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year.[10] He was also named by his fellow players as Players Choice Awards NL Outstanding Rookie. Baseball fans voted him the MLB "This Year in Baseball Awards" Rookie of the Year.[11] He came in second in balloting for MLB's Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.[12][13] He was also selected as the left-handed pitcher on the Topps MLB All-Star Rookie team. Baseball America chose him as one of the five pitchers on its All-Rookie Team.[14] The Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America presented him the "Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher" award. In 2009, Happ posted a 12–4 record, 2.93 ERA, 119 strikeouts, and a 1.24 WHIP.[5]

With the Phillies in 2010, Happ made three starts totaling 1513 innings and earned a 1–0 record, 1.76 ERA, nine strikeouts, and a 1.63 WHIP.[5]

Houston Astros

On July 29, 2010, Happ was traded to the Houston Astros along with minor leaguers Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar in exchange for Roy Oswalt.[15][16] He would make 13 starts with Houston in 2010, going 5–4 with a 3.75 ERA, 61 strikeouts, and a 1.32 WHIP in 72 innings.[5] The following season, Happ would post his worst career numbers, with a 6–15 record, a 5.35 ERA, 134 strikeouts, and a 1.54 WHIP in a career-high 15613 innings pitched.[5]

On June 13, 2012, Happ earned a place in history as the opposing starting pitcher for Matt Cain's perfect game. Happ pitched 313 innings, gave up 11 hits, and 8 runs, all of which were earned runs. With Houston in 2012, he posted a 7–9 record with a 4.83 ERA, 98 strikeouts, and a 1.45 WHIP in 10413 innings.[5]

Toronto Blue Jays

Happ in July 2012

Happ was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 20, 2012, along with Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter, for Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins, Joe Musgrove, Carlos Pérez, and Kevin Comer.[17] Happ worked as a reliever for the Blue Jays until the demotion of Brett Cecil allowed him to be promoted to the vacant starting role.[18] On September 7, the Jays announced that Happ would undergo surgery on a fractured right foot and miss the rest of the season. Happ made 10 appearances (6 starts) with the Blue Jays in 2012, and finished with a 3-2 record and a 4.46 ERA.[19] On January 18, 2013, it was announced that the Blue Jays had avoided arbitration with Happ, signing him to a one-year contract worth $3.7 million.[20]

On May 7, 2013, in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Happ was hit in the head by a line drive hit by Desmond Jennings. He collapsed immediately, but remained conscious and after lying on the mound for 11 minutes, he was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to Bayfront Medical Center.[21][22] The nursing supervisor told the Associated Press that Happ had been admitted to the hospital and was in stable condition.[23][24] Happ remained in hospital overnight, and was released the next morning with a head contusion and a laceration to his left ear.[25][26] Happ was placed on the 15-day disabled list after being released from the hospital.[27] He was then transferred to the 60-day disabled list on May 24 to make room for Sean Nolin.[28] Happ was activated from the disabled list on August 5, and retook his role in the starting rotation.[29] After making his start on August 12, Happ was placed on the bereavement list due to the death of his grandfather.[30] In his first start at Tropicana Field since he was struck by a line drive, Happ recorded the win, pitching 513 innings and giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits with 5 strikeouts.[31][32] In total in 2013, Happ made 18 starts totaling 9223 innings, and posted a record of 5–7, a 4.56 ERA, 77 strikeouts, and a 1.45 WHIP.[5]

On March 26, 2014, Happ was placed on the disabled list.[33] He began the season pitching out of the bullpen. When Dustin McGowan was removed from the rotation, Happ was given the 5th starter spot and made his first start of the season on May 5. On August 7, he set a career-high for strikeouts, with 12, in a 2–1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.[34] Happ earned his 50th career win on September 22, when the Blue Jays defeated the Seattle Mariners 14–4. He pitched 7 innings and yielded 2 earned runs, while also earning his 700th strikeout. He made his final start of the 2014 season on September 27, against the Baltimore Orioles. Taking the win, 4–2, Happ leveled his record for the season at 11–11, and finished with a 4.22 ERA, 133 strikeouts, and a 1.34 WHIP in 30 appearances (26 starts) totaling 158 innings pitched.[5] On November 1, the Blue Jays picked up Happ's $6.7 million option for the 2015 season.[35]

Seattle Mariners

On December 3, 2014, Happ was traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Michael Saunders.[36][37] Happ made 20 starts and 1 relief appearance for the Mariners, compiling a 4–6 record with a 4.64 ERA and 82 strikeouts.[5]

Pittsburgh Pirates

On July 31, 2015, Happ was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Adrian Sampson.[38] In 11 starts for Pittsburgh, Happ posted a 7–2 record, 1.85 ERA, and 69 strikeouts.[5]

Second stint with Toronto

On November 27, 2015, Happ signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Blue Jays.[39] He became the Blue Jays' first pitcher to earn eleven wins prior to the All-Star break since Roy Halladay in 2008, when he defeated the Cleveland Indians 17–1 on July 3, 2016.[40] In his next start, Happ recorded his 12th victory of the 2016 season, 6–0 over the Detroit Tigers, which tied his career-high and matched the twelve wins Halladay posted before the All-Star break in 2006.[41] On July 24, Happ earned his 13th win of the season, defeating the Seattle Mariners 2–0 and establishing a new single-season high in wins.[42] Happ tied Stephen Strasburg for the MLB lead in wins on August 4,[43] and took the outright lead with his 16th victory of the season on August 10.[44] Happ earned his 20th win of the 2016 season on September 20, defeating Seattle 10–2.[45] In doing so, he joined Halladay, Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, David Wells, and Jack Morris as the only pitchers to win 20 games or more for the Blue Jays in a single season.[46] Happ finished the 2016 season with a 20–4 record, 3.18 ERA, and 163 strikeouts in 195 innings.[5] Happ started game two of the 2016 American League Division Series and earned the win, pitching five innings and allowing a single run on nine hits with five strikeouts. The win gave the Blue Jays a 2–0 series lead over the Texas Rangers.[47] Happ finished sixth in voting for the 2016 American League Cy Young Award, receiving three third place votes, two fourth place votes, and one fifth place vote.[48]


  1. Winston, Lisa (November 14, 2008). "Phillies rich in outfield prospects". MLB.com. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
  2. "Player Bio: J.A. Happ :: Baseball". Northwestern University Athletics. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
  3. Rakov, Abraham (April 6, 2005). "From Cold Weather to Clearwater". The Daily Northwestern.
  4. "Brooks Baseball · Home of the PitchFX Tool – Player Card: J.A. Happ". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "J.A. Happ Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  6. "Biography and Career Highlights: 2007". Philadelphia Phillies. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  7. "Phillies option Happ to Triple-A". Philadelphia Phillies. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  8. Mandel, Ken (July 29, 2008). "Phillies recall lefty Happ from Triple-A". Philadelphia Phillies. Retrieved August 1, 2008.
  9. "2008 Career Highlights". MLB.com. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 23, 2009. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  11. Go to 2009 This Year in Baseball Awards and click on "Rookie" for results and video. MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  12. Lauber, Scott (Nov 17, 2009). "Happ 2nd in 'rookie' voting". Courier-Post. Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Retrieved November 17, 2009. Happ, who had the eighth-best ERA in the NL, got 10 first-place votes and finished with 94 points. Two writers from each NL city voted for the award. ... Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ was the only player mentioned on all 32 ballots in the rookie of the year voting. ... Last month, Happ was crowned Sporting News' NL Rookie of the Year in a vote of 338 players. The 27-year-old left-hander also won the honor from his peers at the MLB Players Choice Awards.
  13. Carroll, Will (Nov 16, 2009). "Voting For Real: NL Rookie of the Year". Baseball Prospectus. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  14. "2009 All-Rookie Team: The 2009 rookie team as selected by Baseball America". Baseball America. October 28, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  15. Astros' official website confirming trade Retrieved July 29, 2010
  16. Phillies' official website confirming trade Retrieved July 29, 2010
  17. "Astros make 10 player trade with Toronto". July 20, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  18. Fletcher, Jeff (August 5, 2012). "Blue Jays move up Happ as Villanueva takes leave". Bluejays.com. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  19. Drellich, Evan (September 7, 2012). "Surgery on foot to end Happ's season". MLB.com. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  20. "Blue Jays avoid arbitration with Happ, Bonifacio". TSN.ca. January 18, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  21. Chisholm, Gregor (May 8, 2013). "Happ hospitalized after being struck in head by liner". MLB.com. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  22. "Blue Jays: J.A. Happ hit in head with line drive". thestar.com. May 7, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  23. Chisholm, Gregor (May 7, 2013). "Happ leaves game after struck in head by line drive". MLB.com. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  24. "J.A. Happ hit in head with liner". ESPN. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  25. Chisholm, Gregor (May 8, 2013). "Happ released from hospital after liner to head". Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  26. "Blue Jays' Happ released from hospital after being hit in the head". TS.ca. May 8, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  27. Davidi, Shi (May 8, 2013). "Blue Jays' Happ on 15-day disabled list after taking liner to head". CityNews.ca. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  28. "Blue Jays shift J.A. Happ to 60-day". ESPN.com. Associated Press. May 24, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  29. Liebeskind, Josh (August 5, 2013). "Happ reinstated, to start Wednesday". MLB.com. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  30. Franzoni, Kyle (August 13, 2013). "Blue Jays Playe J.A. Happ On Bereavement List". JaysJournal.com. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  31. "Happ leads Jays to win over Rays at scene of scary injury". TSN.ca. August 17, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  32. Hawkins, Jim (August 17, 2013). "Happ conquers Trop in return to site of injury". MLB.com. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  33. "Blue Jays' Happ headed to DL". March 26, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  34. Chisholm, Gregor (August 8, 2014). "Dominant Happ provided little support vs. O's". MLB.com. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  35. "Jays trade Adam Lind to Brewers". ESPN.com. Associated Press. November 2, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  36. Thornburg, Chad (December 3, 2014). "Blue Jays reportedly acquire Saunders for Happ". MLB.com. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  37. "Seattle sends Saunders to Toronto for Happ". ESPN.com. Associated Press. December 3, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  38. Gleeman, Aaron (July 31, 2015). "Pirates acquire left-hander J.A. Happ from Mariners". hardballtalk.nbcsports.com. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  39. Chisholm, Gregor (November 27, 2015). "Happ signs 3-year deal to rejoin Blue Jays". MLB.com. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  40. Ravjiani, Alykhan; Bastian, Jordan (July 3, 2016). "Blue Jays dominate at plate in lopsided finale". MLB.com. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  41. "Sportsnet Stats on Twitter". Twitter. July 9, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  42. "Happ, bullpen strong as Blue Jays shutout Mariners". Sportsnet. July 24, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  43. McTaggart, Brian; Chisholm, Gregor (August 4, 2016). "Edwin homers, Happ rolls to AL-best 15th win". MLB.com. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  44. Ravjiani, Alykhan; Chastain, Bill (August 10, 2016). "Happ first to 16 wins as Blue Jays shut out Rays". MLB.com. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  45. Chisholm, Gregor; Johns, Greg (September 21, 2016). "Blue Jays alone atop Wild Card after 4-homer rout". MLB.com. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  46. Chisholm, Gregor (September 21, 2016). "Happ joins Blue Jays elite with 20th victory". MLB.com. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  47. Sullivan, T.R.; Chisholm, Gregor (October 7, 2016). "Four! Homer-happy Toronto tees off in Texas". MLB.com. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  48. Rogers, Phil (November 16, 2016). "Scherzer, Porcello earn Cy Young honors". MLB.com. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
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Preceded by
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Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year
Succeeded by
Jason Heyward
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