James Anthony Happ
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 6", Weight 200 lb.
- School Northwestern University
- High School St. Bede Academy
- Debut June 30, 2007
Pitcher J.A. Happ was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round of the 2004 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Bob Szymkowski and made his pro debut that summer with the Batavia Muckdogs. After splitting the next season between the Lakewood BlueClaws and the Reading Phillies, he made three stops in 2006: the Clearwater Threshers, Reading again, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. He began 2007 with the Ottawa Lynx and was called up to the majors to make a start for the Phillies on June 30th. He gave up five earned runs in four innings against the New York Mets and was then returned to AAA.
In 2008, Happ was back with the big club at the end of the season, making 4 starts in 8 appearances and picking up his first major league victory while posting a solid 3.69 ERA. In AAA, he went 8-7, 3.60 in 24 games with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He was on the Phillies' postseason roster and made one appearance in long relief in Game 3 of the NLCS, when Jamie Moyer was knocked out early by the Los Angeles Dodgers; he pitched three innings, giving up one run on 4 hits and 2 walks. He was not used in the World Series, which the Phillies won against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Happ had an excellent rookie season in 2009, going 12-4, 2.93 in 35 games (23 starts) for the Phillies. His two shutouts were tied for the National League lead. He started Game 3 against the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS but was not involved in the decision, then was used solely out of the bullpen for the remainder of the postseason, making one other appearance in the Division Series, 3 in the NLCS and two in the World Series, which the Phillies lost to the New York Yankees.
On July 29, 2010, Happ was sent to the Houston Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade. Bothered by injuries, he had only made three starts for the Phillies, as well as nine minor league appearances before the trade. With Houston, he went 5-4, 3.75 in 13 starts. He was then a part of the Astros' rotation for all of 2011, but was only 6-15 with a 5.35 ERA. He turned things around to some extent in 2012, improving to 7-9, 4.83 after 18 starts. He was then sent to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a 10-player blockbuster trade on July 20th. With Toronto, he started 6 times in 10 appearances, going 3-2, 4.69 in 40 1/3 innings.
The Jays made massive changes to their roster before the 2013 season, including acquiring a number of veteran starting pitchers such as Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, in an all-out bid to make the postseason. Happ appeared to be one the players on the outs as a result of the moves, and headed into spring training unsure if he would have a place on the revamped team. He seemed destined for the minor leagues, but former Jays ace Ricky Romero struggled in the spring and was sent to the minors, opening the fifth starter's job for Happ. Not only that, but Toronto then offered him a two-year contract extension, indicating that his place on the team was safe for a while. He rewarded the Jays with a very good first start, facing the Boston Red Sox on April 6th. He gave up only one hit and no runs in 5 1/3 innings to be credited with his team's 5-0 win. When he won his second start on April 12h, 8-4 over the Kansas City Royals, he was still the only Jays' starter with a win as the team was off to an unexpected rough start. On May 7th, he suffered a scary accident in a start against the Rays as Desmond Jennings lined a hit off the side of his head and into the outfield. Happ immediately fell motionless to the ground as his teammates and trainers were unsure whether to play the ball or attend to him; the hit ended up as a two-run triple, and Happ had to be removed from the game on a stretcher after lying bloodied on the ground for 10 minutes. He did manage to wave to the crowd and to teammates as he left, and initial reports from the hospital were that he was conscious and responsive. He was discharged less than 48 hours later, with only skin lacerations and contusion resulting from the blow, including a small fracture behind his left ear, while also spraining his knee when he fell down in a heap; he had managed to move to turn his head slightly away from he ball, limiting the full impact of the hit. Worst of these was the knee issue, which pushed the Jays to place him on the 60-day disabled list, as he was not expected to be back until early July. In fact, the rehabilitation took longer than anticipated, as he finally made it back to the mound for the Jays on August 7th. Facing the Seattle Mariners, he had a 7-2 lead by the 3rd inning, but was unable to hold on to it, as he gave up another run in the 4th and then allowed the first four batters in the 6th to reach; all of them scored, but he got off with a no-decision. He did much better in his next outing on August 17th, when he defeated the Rays, 6-2, pitching 5 1/3 innings to earn credit for his third win of the year. He finished the season with a record of 5-7, 4.56 in 18 starts,
In 2014, he showed he was fully over the effects of the injury when he made 26 starts in 30 appearances and pitched 158 innings, his highest total since 2009. His record was 11-11, 4.22, comparable to other members of the staff, such as Dickey and Buehrle who were also around .500. His ERA was his lowest since 2010 and he had 133 strikeouts, all positive indicators. On December 3rd, however, the Blue Jays decided to trade him to the Seattle Mariners, in return for OF Michael Saunders, targeted to become the starter in left field. The trade turned out to be a bad one for Toronto, as Saunders was injured in spring training and hardly played during the first half, whereas they were short of reliable pitchers. Happ did okay with Seattle in the first four months of 2015, starting 20 games in 21 appearances and putting up a record of 4-6, 4.64 while logging 108 2/3 innings. The Mariners had expected to contend for a postseason slot, but were well behind the division leaders at the end of July, so they traded Happ to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31st, in return for prospect Adrian Sampson. Pittsburgh was in need of another starter as A.J. Burnett had gone on the DL right before the trading deadline. J.A.'s acquisition may not have been much heralded, but it turned out to be one of the best deals of the season as he won five consecutive starts beginning on August 19th, as the Pirates consolidated their hold on a wild card spot. He allowed only 3 runs in 36 innings during that stretch. He went 7-2, 1.85 in 11 games as a starter for Pittsburgh, to finish the year with a combined record of 11-8, 3.61 in 32 games.
On November 27, 2015, he returned to the Blue Jays as he signed a three-year free agent contract worth $36 million. It turned out to be an inspired move by the Blue Jays, as J.A. continued on his momentum from his stint with the Pirates, putting together the best season of his career. On July 24th, he combined with three relievers on a one-hit shutout of his former team, the Mariners for his 13th win of the year, setting a new career high with over two months left to go. On July 30th, he won his 8th straight decision as he defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 9-1, with another solid performance. That win was particularly important as it allowed the Jays to take over the AL East division lead from Baltimore, capping an outstanding month of July for both J.A. and the Jays. On August 10th, he became the first 16-game winner in the majors with another sparkling performance, this one a 7-0 win over the Rays in which he allowed only 4 hits in 6 scoreless innings. He improved to 17-3 by defeating the Yankees, 7-4 on August 17th. He became a twenty-game winner for the first time on September 20th, when he defeated Mariners, 10-2. He was the second pitcher in the majors to reach the total that season, following Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox. The last Blue Jays pitcher to record 20 wins had been Roy Halladay in 2008.
- 2009 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- NL Shutouts Leader (2009)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)
- Won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 (he did not play in the World Series)