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Is Happ the NL Rookie of the Year?

After tossing seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 win over the Mets on Saturday night, J.A. Happ improved to 10-2 with a 2.59 ERA (4th in the NL) and 1.17 WHIP (10th). He has the lowest earned run average by rookie pitcher since Hideo Nomo’s 2.59 ERA mark in 1995. Even more impressive,Todd Zolecki of MLB.com foundthat only 10 rookie pitchers in the past 50 years have finished the season with an ERA lower than the 26-year-old southpaw. From a franchise perspective, the last Phillies rookie have an ERA lower than Happ’s was Eppa Rixley (2.50) in 1912.

Now, it must be pointed out that has gotten a bit lucky behind a .225 batting average against aided by a .251 BABIP. He has held the opposition to a .125 clip with runners in scoring position, resulting in a stingy 85.7% strand rate (nearly 16 points above the league average). Naturally, it’s no surprise to see his FIP sitting at 4.15. But while the one-time ROY favorite Colby Rasmus has faded over the last two months (.230 with six homers and 13 RBI), Happ has pitched his best ball of the year (5-2 with a 2.20 ERA over his last 10 starts).

Here’s a quick look at the top National League rookies (batters&pitchers) according to VORP:

1. J.A. Happ (PHI) - 44.9
2. Randy Wells (CHC) - 32.4
3. Dexter Fowler (COL) - 22.6
4. Tommy Hanson (ATL) - 22.6
5. Garrett Jones (PIT) - 22.5
6. Andrew McCutchen (PIT) - 20.2
7. Seth Smith (COL) - 20.1
8. Brian Sanches (FLA) - 18.5
9. Everth Cabrera (SD) - 17.9
10. Casey McGehee (MIL) - 17.7

Wells (9-6, 2.84 ERA) is easily Happ’s biggest competition at this point, and certainly deserves consideration regardless of whether the Cubs make the playoffs, but if the Phillies lock down another NL East crown, I just can’t see the Rookie of the Year award going to anybody else.

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