Ian Happ’s steady performance through one month this season earned him some high praise from his manager.
“The MVP of our group probably would be Ian Happ for me,” David Ross said before Wednesday’s game against the White Sox.
Happ has been a streaky hitter in his career with dramatic peaks and valleys at the plate — 2021 perhaps being the best example.
Through July 31 last season, Happ held a .180/.294/.326 slash line with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs. From then on, he batted .288/.363/.581 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs
He picked up where he left off so far in 2022 and has been the Cubs' most consistent hitter. Happ entered Wednesday hitting .304/.424/.435 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
His strikeout rate (18.8 percent) and walk rate (16.5 percent) would both be career bests.
It’s obviously early and there’s a long way to go this season, but Happ’s performance all-around has stood out to Ross. Defensively, he entered Wednesday tied for third among all left fielders in Outs Above Average.
He made a pair of impressive catches in left field over the weekend against the Brewers.
“The defense has improved so much,” Ross said. “The way he’s playing outfield for us, the way he’s moving, the way he’s running the bases.”
Not to mention the switch-hitting Happ — who’s traditionally been much better left-handed — has hit well from both sides of the plate this season.
“I thought from both sides of the plate, obviously right-handed much improved,” Ross said. “The home run [last Tuesday] off [Braves starter] Max Fried, going the other way, multiple hits to the other side early on in the season from the right side.
“And obviously his continued patience at the plate from the left side and driving runs in, taking his walks.
“He’s been a real staple to the middle of our lineup and a real big piece for us.”