There wasn’t a lot for Cubs fans to cheer about during the 2022 season as their team was a whopping nineteen games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central division and thirteen games out of a Wild Card playoff spot.
However, one bright spot in a depressing season was the play of left fielder Ian Happ who on November 1st was announced as a Gold Glove recipient, as we predicted already in September. Beating out Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich and Tampa Bay Rays’ David Peralta, Happ added his first Gold Glove award to his resume which also saw the twenty-eight-year-old receive his first All-Star Game nod.
As one of fourteen first-time Gold Glove winners, Happ adds his name to the short list of Cubs outfielders to win the award, including Bob Dernier (centerfield 1984), Andre Dawson (rightfield 1987 and 1988), and Jason Heyward (rightfield 2016 and 2017).
Selected ninth overall by the Cubs in 2015, and making his debut two years later, Happ would become the Cubs’ first Gold Glove winner since shortstop Javier Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo each received the award in 2020.
Add a Gold Glove to Ian’s resume! pic.twitter.com/41anDZlp3D
— The Compound (@thecompoundpod) November 2, 2022
By The Numbers
Breaking down Happ’s award-winning year by the numbers, the sixth-year vet had a career year at the plate, and his defensive numbers were even more impressive.
- Set a career-high 158 games played, including an MLB-best 142 starts in left field. Of those 158 games, Happ played in a career-high and MLB second most 1,233.1 innings at his position (San Diego Padres’ Jurickson Profar played 1237.2)
- Only three National League outfielders had better Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) numbers than Happ’s 14. Cincinnati Reds’ Aristides Aquino led all NL outfielders with 20 (combined between left and right field), Arizona Diamondbacks’ Daulton Varsho finished second with 19 (playing center and right field) and Mookie Betts recorded 15 playing in right field for the LA Dodgers.
Happ’s 14 DRS (13 in left field, 1 in center) placed him seventh overall among MLB outfielders and his left field total was tops in the National League.
- Happ’s eight assists ranked tied for sixth (seven players tied) in the National League and third among left fielders, Tommy Pham (Cincinnati / Boston) led the way with 15 followed by Profar’s 10 helpers.
Happ’s ability and willingness to play where Chicago’s bench boss David Ross needed, earned him points in his coach’s books. “He identified what he wanted to be.
Part of that was being consistent, part of that was expanding his game, being versatile. I know a lot of that has to do with getting the at-bats in his mind and moving over the left field, a consistent spot.
He played center a lot, probably not his ideal position, but we had a hole there. Now we put him in left and he’s owned that and become one of the best left-fielders in the game.”
2022 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Winner – Left Field – NL: Ian Happ #RawlingsGoldGloveAwards pic.twitter.com/rpzcW4qNBd
— Rawlings Baseball (@RawlingsSports) November 1, 2022
At The Plate
As a switch hitter, Happ found a better rhythm at the plate during the 2022 season, making the necessary adjustments to post a career-high .271 batting average, making good on 155 hits in 573 at-bats.
Although his home run numbers took a bit of a hit from last season, Happ posted a career-high in RBI and extra-base hits with 42 doubles and improved both his On Base Percentage (.342) and his Slugging Percentage (.440).
Unlike previous years, Happ managed to avoid any lengthy offensive slumps in 2022, which could have translated to his success in the outfield.
Tyler Anderson on home plate confrontation with Ian Happ:
"Yeah, I shoved him. He deserved it. You don't truck Tyler." pic.twitter.com/iMx6l4l0Mn
— FAX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFAX) July 9, 2022
A Look Ahead
After making $6.85 million this past season, Happ certainly justified an increase in pay for future seasons whether it be in Chicago or elsewhere.
Talks of his 2023 arbitration numbers are in the neighborhood of $10.5 – $11 million, which by all accounts based on his impressive 2022 performance might be a bargain deal.
That gold looks real good https://t.co/AuyCL1XUtG pic.twitter.com/lv8nz8l8SC
— Ian Happ (@ihapp_1) November 11, 2022
Will Happ Stay At The Cubs?
With the Cubs looking to compete for a playoff position or even further in 2023, the need to maintain a player of Happ’s talents is vital, despite what MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand states. According to the executive reporter, he believes that there is a good chance that the Cubs will trade the All-Star left fielder before the start of next season.
Considering how well Happ played with his glove and at the plate in addition to being one of the team’s locker room leaders, there is an argument that it makes sense for the Cubs to bring him back for another season.
While the team could probably reap future benefits in a deal, it doesn’t make sense in their “win-now” plan as Nelson Valazquez and Patrick Wisdom aren’t ready for full-time minutes and Brennen Davis, Kevin Alcantara and Pete Crow-Armstrong, who are three of Chicago’s top young outfield prospects are still a few years away from being impact players.
Ian Happ leads MLB outfielders with a .387 OBP and ranks 2nd among NL OF with his .854 OPS.
He has hits in 18 of his last 20 games, batting .375 with 11 XBH and 10 walks.
Make @ihapp_1 an All-Star: https://t.co/iq0lKgoH7i pic.twitter.com/TVPqeNNZ2m
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 22, 2022
Credits on Featured Image: Ian D’Andrea from Philadelphia, PA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons