It’s wonderful to see a young man like Ian Happ, who won’t turn 23 until August, handle himself so well on a public stage. After all, he was called up in band-aid fashion to a team that won the World Series last year and has largely the same roster. He’s impressing their cerebral manager along with the rest of the Cubs’ brain trust, who would have sent him back to the minors by now had he not picked up where he left off in spring training. And Ian in his interviews gives a hint of what makes him such an effective student of the game.
Opposing pitchers will adjust to his tendencies, and Ian in turn will recognize their adjustment and make his own corrections. That is the nature of the game for players who are able to adapt successfully. Here is an example, toward the end of Friday’s game :
One of Ian’s calling cards is patience, and many of his ABs find him working to a 3 ball count. But he won’t shy away from swinging at the first pitch if he thinks he can drive it. In this at-bat, Ian goes in the hole quickly at 0-2, and swings and misses on a pitch in the dirt. If he has any weakness at the plate, it’s in laying off those sinkers in the dirt that they’ve been throwing him on two strike counts. No doubt that’s been pointed out to him, and no doubt he will learn to recognize that because he’s such an effective student of the game.
Like all ballplayers, Ian has a routine at the plate. As he steps away in between pitches, he holds the bat vertically on the midline, gazing at the barrel during a conscious breath and visualizing how he’ll make contact before re-setting himself in the box. He exhibits an economy of movement, and a quiet confidence as he readies himself to recognize the pitch.
Ian is a stealthy five tools player. He isn’t flashy or demonstrative, which is why you almost have to be a student of the game to realize how well he does everything from running the bases to taking effective routes to the ball in the field.
Above all Ian seems to be fitting in quite well with the clubhouse culture that the Cubs have cultivated, emerging as yet another catalyst on a team with enviable chemistry.