Early Saturday morning the Blue Jays announced that Brett Cecil had been optioned to AAA and that J.A. Happ had moved into the rotation in Cecil’s place. From 2007, when Happ debuted, until the 10 player trade that landed him in Toronto Happ had started 90 games for the Astros and Phillies.
The last 2 seasons Happ has put up poor ERA’s in Houston partially due to a hitters park and poor defense. As a regular in 2009 and 2010, Happ posted ERA’s of 2.93 and 3.40 while playing in front of a pretty good defensive team in Philadelphia. In those 2 seasons Happ posted BABIP’s of .266 and .262 with batted ball rates that lined up with his low BABIP (~18% LD rate, 40% GB rate, and 12% IFFB rate). In these 2 seasons he posted bbFIP (click here for primer) of 4.17 in 2009 and 3.53 in 2010.
In 2011 his GB rate dropped and his LD rate spiked resulting in an BABIP of .297, which can’t be blamed on defense alone as his 4.68 bbFIP corroborates. Flash forward to 2012 and Happ is posting the highest GB rate of his career at nearly 47% and a low 17% LD rate, yet his BABIP is over 300 at .313. It isn’t exactly a secret that the Astros are terrible this season and have the second worst DRS, or Defensive Runs Saved, of any team in the majors. His bbFIP this season of 3.67 is more in line with what you would expect considering his early years in Philadelphia.
In the end Cecil showed flashes of success and other times he was hit hard. It was just time for the Blue Jays to see what they have in Happ. The Blue Jays have been a pretty good defensive team during the season (65 DRS, so it will be interesting to see if Happ’s numbers improve. In any case, Happ should be more consistent the enigmatic, light throwing Cecil.