A Phillies vs. Rockies Series Preview in Which I Mostly Discuss J.A. Happ


After taking on two insanely hot, first place teams in the Braves and the Dodgers, the schedule becomes slightly easier this week when the Phillies begin a four game series against the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies have a losing record, but coming into the weekend, they had been a relatively hot team, having won six of seven games.  That momentum stalled this past weekend when they lost back to back games against the Orioles.  The Rockies problems are essentially the same problems that have long plagued the franchise: They hit for power, but not enough to compensate for a sub par pitching staff.

Phillies vs. Rockies: The Rivalry

The Phillies and Rockies actually had a mini-rivalry for a few years.  The teams squared off against each other in the NLDS in both 2007 and 2009.  The Rockies swept the Phillies in 2007, while the Phillies got revenge with a four-game victory in 2009.  The latter series featured what was possibly the least enjoyable playoff win I will ever get to watch.  The game was ridiculously scheduled to start at 10:07 PM EST, and it convinced me that J.A. Happ was not going to be a successful major league pitcher.  By the game’s end, I wasn’t so much happy that the Phillies had won but just relieved that it was over.

J.A. Happ: The Man, The Myth, The Legend?

Aug 17, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (48) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll take this opportunity to discuss J.A. Happ.  If you were reading this article hoping for more detailed coverage about the Phillies and Rockies, then I apologize, but sometimes when discussing a late-season series between two losing teams, the focus has to shift a little.

Happ’s surprising success in 2009 was one of the reasons why the Phillies were able to win the NL East for the third straight year.  His 12-4 record earned him more than a few Rookie of the Year votes, and the Sporting News even picked him as the winner of their version of that award.

As mentioned earlier, I soured on him when he started game three of the NLDS in Colorado.  The game started late, so I was hoping it would move along quickly, but Happ seemed to have other ideas.  He looked terrified, and seemed to take forever to throw each pitch.  Even worse, he nibbled at the strike zone, resulting in long at bats for each batter he faced.  Thankfully, he was removed after only three innings.

The next season, injuries and statistical regression kept him from duplicating his rookie success.  Partially because of Happ’s inability to match his 2009 performance, the Phillies felt they needed to bolster their starting rotation.  Therefore, they traded Happ (along with some minor leaguers) to the Astros in exchange for veteran All-Star Roy Oswalt.

May 7, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (48) is carted off the field after Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings (not pictured) hit him in the head by a line drive during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happ was abysmal for the Astros in 2011, and was eventually traded to the Blue Jays.  He was performing adequately enough this season, but then suffered an injury when he was struck in the head by a line drive.  The injury looked gruesome at first (Then again, when a pitcher gets hit in the head with a line drive, it is probably impossible for it not to look gruesome) and some believed that it might be career threatening.  To his credit, Happ has since returned to the field.

Happ may have a long career as an average pitcher, but it doesn’t look like he’ll ever live up to the promise he showed in his rookie season.

Tweet of Optimism

OK, that was my own tweet, but for some reason, I have a suspicion that better days are afoot for the Phils.

Tweet of Pessimism

I’m not as sour on Mayberry as many people are.  I think he has good value as a bench bat/backup outfielder, especially considering his low salary.  But there should be no further doubt that he isn’t a viable every day player.

As for Martinez, it should be obvious that he does not belong on a major league roster.

Final Take

Maybe I’m just a ridiculously optimistic person.  Maybe all of the recent losing has driven me slightly insane regarding the Phillies.  But I look at the team and think that the talent isn’t quite as bad as how they’ve played recently.  I think that now that the schedule lightens up a little, we’re going to see some more wins coming the Phillies’ way.