Cubs' Ian Happ Looks To Learn From 2018

"My goal is to be more consistent in everything I do," Happ says.

Bruce Levine
February 21, 2019 - 3:47 pm
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MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- The ability to make adjustments often determines the success that MLB players have in their careers. In the case of Cubs infielder/outfielder Ian Happ, he hopes to grow from and eventually be defined by his adjustments that he has made coming out of 2018, when he struggled in for long stretches.

Happ, 24, hit .233 with a .761 OPS and 36.1 percent strikeout rate. After hitting 24 homers in 115 games as a rookie in 2017, Happ's power turn a dip, as he homered just 15 times in 142 games. As so patient at the plate, Happ did walk 70 times, contributing to a solid .353 on-base percentage.

What's clear is hit hitting approach is still evolving.

"In a perfect world, he continues to make more consistent contact," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He hits the ball really hard and really far. We need to start with more consistent contact."

Happ has never lacked for confidence and is an even-keeled individual.

"This game is really hard," Happ said. "The guys on the other side of the field get paid too. It is their job to get you out. It is amazing at the depth in talent teams have now. For me, I am focused on trying to get better at what I do each day. My goal is to continue to learn and be more consistent. For me, I think I put a lot of good work in to go out and play ever day."

Happ posted an .832 OPS in the first half in 2018 but followed that with a .653 OPS in the second half. Too often, he failed to make hard contact later in the season.

"You certainly take a look at the metrics in the offseason," Happ said. "After 162 is done, you look at those numbers and say, 'What can I do analytically that will help me become a better ballplayer?' When you are in the middle of the season trying to win baseball games, that is the last thing on your mind. All you do is go out and compete using your baseball IQ to do the best you can.

"My goal is to be more consistent in everything I do. I want to be more consistent and put the ball in play. I need to drive in runs at a higher clip for sure"

With Ben Zobrist entering the final season of his contract and the team vowing to keep him fresh, the Cubs plan to use Happ a little more at his natural position of second base more often in 2019 after he didn't make a start there last year. He did start 28 times at second base in 2017. 

Happ learned the outfield trade during his time in the minor leagues and in his first two big league seasons, making 88 starts out there in 2018. Maddon likes Happ in center field but believes his progress at other positions will continue as well.

"You will probably see him primarily in center field," Maddon said. "He will play some second and some third base. Ian is a lot more comfortable with some of these things. He is really excited about where he is at taking groundballs. I think it's about repetition. I don't think he has been overwhelmed in the past. It is just getting to play more often in those spots."

Happ believes the Cubs are ready for a bounce-back season.

"We were not happy how the last two or three games went last year," Happ said in reference to a loss to the Brewers in Game 163 and a defeat against the Rockies in the National League wild-card game. "If you look at the thing as a whole, it was really strong. We are doing our best to move past the last three seasons and focus on what we can do in 2019. With the talent and strong character guys we have in this room, the expectations are that we will be there at the end. That is what we strive for every year."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.