You can read plenty of doom and gloom in the paper today, so we'll start this morning with one of the few positive aspects that has emerged over the past three weeks, when the Phillies have lost 14 of 18 games to fall into a tie with the Marlins for first place in the National League East.
His name is James Anthony Happ, but you can call him J.A., as long as you pronounce it "Jay," and not Jay-dot.-A.
"Wins" might be the most overrated stat in baseball, regardless of what those Saberwhateveryouwannacallems will tell you about batting average. Nevertheless, Happ has now gone 11 straight starts over two seasons without being charged with a loss. To put that in perspective, the most games Cole Hamels has gone in his career without being charged with a loss is 11. Factor in another 16 relief appearances, and Happ has gone 27 consecutive appearances without being charged with a loss.
But like I said, wins are over-rated. What isn't over-rated, though, is make-up, and if you want to look for one reason why Happ has slid seamlessly into the rotation, it is the gooey mass in between his ears. Witness the seventh inning last night, when he had the go-ahead run on third base, two outs, and one of the best switch-hitters of All-Time, and perhaps the best not named Mantle, at the plate. Happ was over 100 pitches at the time, five days after the first complete game of his career, and J.C. Romero was warm in the pen. But Charlie Manuel decided to give his young starter a test.
"He passed," Manuel said.
After falling behind 3-1 in the count, Happ threw a change-up and got Jones to fly out to center field. He also worked out of a couple of jams earlier in the game.
Happ wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in his complete game shutout. He struggled at times with his command. He gave up several leadoff hits. But he battled. I've watched Happ for two years now pitch in some very difficult circumstances, and the thing that impresses me most about him is the fact that he never seems rattled, never seems to exhibit any extreme, whether it is high or low. Coaches will tell you that they can't teach stuff like that. You either have it or you don't. And while Happ might not have a 95 mile per hour fastball or an ACL-demolishing curve ball, he has the type of mentality and attitude that a big league pitcher needs to stick around for an extended period of time.
Anyway, just felt compelled to point all of that out. You can return to your suffocating depression now.