Chicago Cubs: A red-hot Ian Happ is exactly what the doctor ordered

Chicago Cubs (Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Cubs (Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) /

Don’t look now, but Ian Happ is suddenly one of the hottest hitters in the Chicago Cubs lineup. And it’s no coincidence the team has won five of their last seven games. In his last five games, the Cubs centerfielder is batting a robust .393 with five home runs and 10 RBI’s.

In Thursday’s series finale with the Nationals, Happ hit his fifth and sixth home runs on the season, driving in three runs and helping the Cubs take three-of-four from Washington at Wrigley Field.

Happ returned to the lineup last Saturday after colliding with Nico Hoerner in the outfield, but the 26-year-old says his hot streak began in the Reds series at the beginning of the month.

“Getting back to the approach of hitting the ball hard and in the air and letting that play,” Happ noted after the Cubs 5-2 win on Thursday. “When you get to a ballpark like Cincinnati, for me, where I’ve had success, it’s the old question. What comes first, the confidence or the success? And I think that was able to give me a little bit of confidence and then doing it coming back home.”

Ian Happ can finally fill the void left from Dexter Fowler in the Chicago Cubs lineup.

It’s no secret the Cubs have struggled to fill Dexter Fowler‘s role atop the batting order since he walked in free agency after the incredible 2016 postseason run. A whole slew of players from Kyle Schwarber to Anthony Rizzo to Kris Bryant to Albert Almora to Happ himself have tried to fill that role.

Happ spent the majority of the 2019 season in the minors, getting his timing back. He returned at the end of July and closed the season with a .264 average (.898 OPS), including 11 home runs and 30 RBI’s in just 58 games. That success carried over to the shortened 2020 season, posting a .258/.361/.505 slash line with 12 home runs and 28 RBI’s while earning MVP consideration.

Happ is striking out at a 31.7 percent clip this season, but he’s shown some improvement in May in that department. As the player himself noted, the biggest improvement is he is getting the ball up in the air more than he was in April. Per Fangraphs, Happ has a 45.5 percent home run to flyball ratio to go along with a 56.5 percent hard-hit rate in the second month of the season.

The combination of those two advanced metrics has led to positive results on the field, and Happ has been the catalyst for the Cubs 11-6 record in May.

Next. Future of Big Three hangs on results in May. dark

The northsiders will turn their attention to a critical three-game series in St. Louis this weekend, a ballpark that Happ owns a .333 average (1.196 OPS) with six home runs and 12 RBI’s in 19 career games.