This is a little series I'm hoping to start throughout the month of January. Naturally, when the calendar turns to a new year, many people set New Year's resolutions. You know, new year, new me! That said, the Cubs On Tap gang applied this to our end-of-year episode and Cody asked me about Ian Happ's New Year resolution. It made me ponder, but it was something that felt pretty easy to answer.
Before diving into the resolution, let me preface this series. This series will analyze a number of Cubs' players and their potential "New Year's resolutions". That could be expectations, things to change, or just things we as Cubs fans hope to witness. We'll start with Happ, and work our way around the roster.
Back to our originally scheduled programming. Ian Happ's New Year resolution is consistency. Sure, it sounds simple, but there are numbers to back it up from 2021. Let's dive into the numbers and discuss why this is Happ's resolution for 2022.
Ian Happ's 2021 Season
It's no secret that 2021 was a tough year for a number of Cubs players, specifically some members of the old core. Ian Happ was unfortunately one of those players. For the season, Happ slashed .226/.323/.434 with 25 home runs and 66 RBIs. Happ's power numbers were solid, but his slash line was down from his career norm (.241/.338/.467). However, over the course of the lengthy season, it came down to three bad months for Happ that ruined what could have been a great campaign.
Ian Happ hit over .255 in three (four if including October's three games) of the six months this season. On the other hand, in the other three months, he hit below .170 with two of those months being below .140. It was truly a hot and cold season for Ian Happ in 2021.
In May, August, and September, Happ slashed .292/.387/.585, .255/.314/.543, and .323/.394/.615, respectively. On the flip side, in April, June, and July, Happ slashed .133/.293/.173, .132/.203/.294, .169/.290/.271, respectively. A Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde split kept Happ's overall numbers down. However, even if those three sub-.200 months become .200 batting average months, Happ's season could have seen him hit 30 home runs, drive in well over 75 runs, and cement himself in the Cubs' lineup for the foreseeable future.
Despite the crazy splits, Happ's months of August and September saved his season. In August, Happ was hitting as low as .176 as of the 15th. From there on, he raised his average roughly 50 points by the end of the season on October 3. That late-season surge was more than enough to give him a look as the everyday left fielder in 2022.
What's the Secret?
The question that must be asked is what can Happ do to become more consistent at the dish? There may be a multitude of factors at play.
Once the sell-off occurred at the trade deadline, Happ was bumped up in the lineup, many days hitting either third or fourth. In addition, he also received protection from the red-hot Frank Schwindel and home run-blasting Patrick Wisdom. Those two players bookending Happ in the lineup helped him see more pitches that he could hit. As a result, his numbers turned around and opened up Happ's offensive ability. If Happ can receive that level of protection in the order again, a late-season version of him is possible.
As of now, with the MLB under lockout, the Cubs haven't made many significant additions on the offensive side of the house. The team acquired Harold Ramirez from the Cleveland Guardians, re-signed Michael Hermosillo for one year, and signed Yan Gomes to back up Willson Contreras. Aside from those three moves, all the other significant additions have been pitchers. Realistically, Happ has a chance to hit in the meat of the order again in 2022 and perhaps replicate 65-70% of his September production over the course of a full season.
In my opinion, the one thing that will keep Happ from hitting somewhere between third and fifth in the lineup next season is the addition of any power bats. There are faint rumors of Kris Bryant's return, and many fans are keeping their eyes on a pair of former Cubs in Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos. In addition, names such as Michael Conforto, Trevor Story, and the highly desired Carlos Correa are on the market and could be Chicago Cubs in 2022. If any of these names come to the North Side, then Happ's position in the lineup suddenly becomes uncertain.
That said, there are still a lot of what-ifs to play out the remainder of the offseason. Although the Cubs will likely add a bat, we don't know who just yet and that speculation alone has to be mentioned when considering Happ's 2022 production.
What's On Tap Next for Happ?
As of now, Ian Happ enters the season as the Cubs' everyday left fielder and No. 3 hitter. As mentioned, that could change, but the numbers above support that his production increased when he was protected by other strong hitters in the lineup.
If the likes of Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel, and possibly someone like Carlos Correa are there to protect him, Happ could flourish and look more like the September version of himself in comparison to the April version. However, in order to get there, Ian Happ needs to consider consistency as his New Year resolution.