The next time by J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Yankees, they will have passed the season's halfway point.
The Yankees' eight-game winning streak
That means, in turn, that it's officially OK to be concerned about Happ and his contract. screeched to a halt in the form of a 9-4 bludgeoning at the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, souring the good vibes created by Mariano Rivera's inside-the-park home run during Old-Timers' Day. Happ's third pitch of the main event, a slider to Jose Altuve, went over the fence in the left field, and in all, the 36-year-old recorded only 12 outs and got hammered for eight runs in his worst start of the season, and his ERA now stands at 5.23
Brian Cashman's search for starting pitching help remains real even after a total spectacular week
"I just think I've been a little inconsistent," Happ said. "That's certainly fair to say. I felt good about some [starts]and I felt like I could have been a lot better in [others]. Over the last few years, I've been more consistent than I've been this year. I'm trying to nail that down and be more consistent for the team.
Happ's recent track record ̵
The southpaw has performed poorly relative to his own high standards. His 66 strikeouts in 84 innings rank as his lowest strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio (7.0) since he averaged 6.5 per nine in 2009. The 20 homers he had surrendered, including three on Sunday, gave him a 2.1 per-nine (19659002) A key problem, clearly, was the reduced effectiveness of Happ's four-seam fastball, his bread-and-butter pitch. According to FanGraphs, its value has dropped precipitously from 14.5 runs over average last year to just 0.5 heading to Sunday's start. His hard contact has increased dramatically, from 30.9 percent last year to over 40 percent before Sunday's stinker.
"Fastball command," Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said, through an interpreter, when asked what he saw as the common theme to Happ's
"If we do not have that available, it's just tougher."
"A fly ball pitcher, the key to him being precise," said Aaron Boone. "That's what he's been good at throughout his career, and when he's been good for us this year too. So when you miss a bit or maybe like today you do not have some kind of secondary to keep them off balance, those fly balls can hurt you when you make mistakes with it. … I think he's been hurt a little bit by some balls here that just gotten out. "
Thirteen of the 20 homers Happ has been allowed to hit the Yankee Stadium hitter, and homers are up everywhere, of course, with
"The last thing I'm going to do today is try to make a scuffle about that," Happ said of the balls. "I just think that stuff is what it is. Whether it's true or not, I've got to deal with it either way. "
He did reveal some frustration with Sunday's pitch selection, saying," I'm out there trying to compete, and sometimes you're trying to to some stuff that maybe did not use it or maybe I tried to do some stuff to pitch to a report, "before backing off and falling on his sword again. Notably, Altuve's homer came off and a slider, and Tyler White's fourth-inning, game-breaking grand slam off and a two-seam fastball
"I can execute better," Happ said. "I know that much."
Now it's time to do what he knows, and honor his paycheck with results.