New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is behind his fifth starter. J.A. Happ is here to stay and will be the team’s fifth starter.
Now, Cashman has given a statement that he believes Happ will be better then he was in 2019. He’ll need to be if the lefty hurler wants to find keep his spot in the starting rotation.
Happ was dreadful in 2019. He was worth just 1.3 fWAR, which is bad enough for 63rd in the league out of 66 pitchers who threw at least 160 innings. His 5.22 FIP was the second-worst amongst the same group of pitchers.
Still, Cashman believes in Happ and the improvement he showed during the second half of last season. There’s an issue with that line of thinking though—Happ didn’t really improve in the second half.
Opponents slashed .263/.312/.480 in the first half and .251/.321/.454 in the second half. His FIP did drop from 5.37 to 5.04, but Happ also walked a full batter more in the second half. He was basically the same pitcher.
Cashman has to say these things. He doesn’t have a better replacement for the fifth spot right now. Jordan Montgomery is coming off Tommy John surgery and Deivi Garcia has never pitched in the majors and struggled mightily in Triple-A. The only real option would be Domingo German, but he’s suspended until midway through May.
Happ is going to play a major role in the rotation the first month and a half of the season. So, Cashman is doing damage control knowing that fans will be upset by the decision.
The one silver lining that Yankees fans can look to is Happ’s successful September in which he pitched to a 1.65 ERA and 3.10 FIP. It’s possible he carries that over into the start of 2020 and that would be the Yankees’ best-case scenario.