Ian Happ feels confident with things at the plate finally ‘falling into place’
The Cubs outfielder is slashing .357/.426/.738 with four doubles and four home runs in his last 13 games.
The Cubs have given outfielder Ian Happ every opportunity to show he’s a building block, and after his breakout 2020 season, it looked like he finally had unlocked the potential the team has been waiting for.
But this season hasn’t been what the 26-year-old had in mind. He has had a hard time putting together the type of offensive season that he and the team wanted.
As the season has begun to wind down, Happ has started to heat up, looking like the player who led the team in home runs, walks and OPS last year.
Not only has he found his swing, but his numbers in August show a player who’s gaining confidence at the plate. Happ is slashing .357/.426/.738 with four doubles and four home runs in his last 13 games.
“There’s a lot that goes into the work and finding what you think is gonna work for you on a daily basis,” Happ said this week. “The other part is kind of getting away from mechanics and just finding a way to be on time and trusting that you’re on time and you’re going to have the ability to have success.
“There’s a couple of mechanical things that are kind of falling into place. But it’s more just being on time and not missing some of those pitches that I was waiting for.”
Happ has never been one to lack confidence in his ability. But going from being an every-day player at the beginning of the season to more of a platoon role as the struggles continued could affect any player.
After the changes the team made at the trade deadline and as his approach at the plate slowly returned to form, Happ has found himself back in big spots, such as the one Wednesday when he hit a game-tying three-run homer in the Cubs’ eventual 13-10 loss to the Rockies.
Happ’s 2021 season has resembled his 2019 season, when his struggles led to a demotion to Triple-A before he returned to have a red-hot finish to the season. While he has endured ups-and-downs before, the cause is not always the same.
“There’s definitely differences from year-to-year,” he said. “It might look exactly the same and feel completely different. ... It can be helpful to remember some of those feelings, but it’s not always the answer.”
The Cubs are using the last five weeks of the season to evaluate their roster, figuring out who will be a part of their future. For a player like Happ, showing the Cubs that he still can be a productive piece of a winning team will be crucial.
“I think with [Happ’s] situation, he’s got a track record of success but hasn’t had the year he wanted,” manager David Ross said. “Expectations and what we all feel like guys can do are important. But at the end of the day, you gotta go out and do it. It’s a production-driven game. But [he’s] starting to show a lot of those signs that we’ve been waiting to see and hopefully continues that through the end of the season.
Even with pressure increasing from the outside and team evaluations being an important part of the final month of the season, Happ doesn’t want to put pressure on himself to try to perform or change the way he goes about his work.
“It’s not helpful. It’s not going to make you play any better,” Happ said. “It’s not going to get you going in the right direction. I think you have to be really confident in what you’re doing and confident in yourself.”