Sunday, July 19, 2009

Time to start the J.A. Happ Rookie of the Year talk

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The Phillies aren't going to need Pedro Martinez, or Roy Halladay for that matter, if this keeps up. J.A. Happ, considered the Phillies 5th starter and likely a target by the Blue Jays in a trade for Halladay, put yet another solid effort together on Sunday, shutting out the Marlins in 7 innings to lead the Phillies to a 5-0 sweep over Florida. The win gives the Phillies a commanding 7 game lead in the NL East, their biggest division lead since 2001.

Happ gave up 5 hits and worked his way out of several jams to move his record on the season to 7-0. Couple that unbeaten record with a 2.68 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a batting average against of .222, and you have a pitcher who is having a great rookie campaign. Is it strong enough for Happ to be considered Rookie of the Year?

I would say yes. There aren't a lot of strong candidates in the NL this year, from Colby Rasmus to Andrew McCutchen, there isn't a rookie having a dominant campaign. Jayson Stark of ESPN felt that Rasmus was the first half NL Rookie of the Year, but looking at his numbers, 11 HR, 34 RBI and a .270 average, those aren't nearly as impressive as what Happ is doing with the Phils.

The only thing that may work against Happ is how difficult it is for a pitcher to win the award. Since 2003, only 3 pitchers have won a ROTY award in either league, and those three pitchers had to put up big-time win or save totals to even be considered. It's kind of like the MVP award, if a pitcher is going to win it, he has to be truly dominant above the rest of the candidates. Happ will need several more starts like today to be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

Of course, there is also the possibility that Happ is traded to the Blue Jays and never gets a shot at ROTY. As the Halladay to the Phillies rumors continue, you can be the Jays will insist that Happ is included in any deal. I would still be fine with Happ being dealt for a known ace like Roy Halladay, but it would be even better if the Phillies found a way to hold on to Happ and still got Doc. A rotation of Hamels, Halladay, Blanton, Happ and Moyer/Martinez would be phenomenal.

Now that the Phillies have a 7 game lead in the division, however, they may not feel the need to make any drastic changes, and who could blame them. With the emergence of J.A. Happ, possible Rookie of the Year, the Phillies rotation is looking better and better.

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