St. Louis Cardinals: J.A. Happ is proving doubters wrong

The St Louis Cardinals were questioned for trading for J.A. Happ, a struggling veteran lefty. So far, however, he has silenced critics.

When the St. Louis Cardinals acquired left-hander J.A. Happ from the Minnesota Twins, there were a lot of doubters. And I mean a lot. But there was no doubter greater than me, questioning why the Cardinals would go out and acquire a veteran lefty who was clearly deep into the back nine of his career and struggling mightily in 2021.

Boy, have I been wrong.

To be fair, the Happ deal had plenty of logic. The Cardinals had a clear need for a starting pitcher, given the injuries to Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and others in the rotation. Happ, 38, could be an innings eater and would come off the books after the 2021 season, freeing up room for a veteran addition, Alex Reyes or Jordan Hicks, or even top prospect Matthew Liberatore as he looms in the minors.

But no one could have expected this level of production from Happ. While Happ had a 6.77 ERA in 98.1 innings with the Twins, he has a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 innings (three starts), with the Cardinals going 2-1 in those games. There is some evidence that his fortune will eventually change, with his FIP being a significantly higher 4.32. Even then, that is still significantly better than his numbers in Minnesota, and makes him a valuable starter at the back-end of the rotation.

Happ’s resurgence has helped the Cardinals bounce back of late, going 8-2 in their last 10 games, and coming off two consecutive sweeps of the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Their postseason chances, according to FanGraphs, are only 5.8 percent. But they have 13 games remaining against the National League Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, so nothing can be ruled out, though their most likely postseason avenue is through the second NL wild card spot.

The Cardinals, however, will need Happ to keep it up the rest of the season as they fight for a postseason berth, but if the early returns are any indication, he should be up for the challenge.