Mediocre night for Happ, impressive one for Penny 

September, 2, 2009
J.A. Happ is probably going to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, barring some major reversal of fortune in September. He was mediocre Wednesday night, giving up four runs to the lousy San Francisco offense, three of them coming on two long balls in Happ's last inning of work in the Phillies' 4-0 loss.

Happ sat at 88-90 mph all night, going as high as 92, cutting some of them, and moving the ball all over the zone to keep hitters off-balance. He still has very good deception in his delivery, and showed a solid-average changeup he should have used more often. He had no breaking ball to speak of Wednesday, bouncing a few curveballs and then hanging one that ended up in the left-field seats, and throwing a couple of show-me sliders without much confidence. He's a back-end starter, maybe a No. 4 if you really believe in the deception and his feel for pitching, otherwise a very good No. 5.

I said he's probably going to win the rookie of the year award, but not that he deserves to. Happ's 2009 season has been respectable, but his sub-3.00 ERA in no way reflects how well he's pitched. Happ has benefited from some absurd luck in the timing of all the hits and home runs he's given up; he came into Wednesday night's game having surrendered a .120/.225/.157 line with men in scoring position, including a .138 BABIP. That's not the result of some special skill at suppressing production with men on second and/or third; it's luck, and it's not going to last over the long term. Even if Happ had a big fastball or an out-pitch curveball, he'd still be headed for a regression. Happ's ERA should be somewhere in the mid-4s, and if that was the case, no one would be talking about him as a lock for rookie of the year; the award would be up for grabs with players like Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen leading the pack.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer

Insider, MLB