Gold Glove honor representative of Ian Happ's 2022 breakout originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Ian Happ's offense gets majority of the attention when discussing his breakout 2022, and for good reason.
His defensive improvement is also representative of the major step forward he took, and it's earned him some hardware.
Happ won his first career Gold Glove Award on Tuesday, beating out Christian Yelich (Brewers) and David Peralta (Diamondbacks) to take home the National League honor in left field.
He's the first Cubs player to win a Gold Glove since Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo (2020) and only the fourth outfielder in team history. Right fielder Jason Heyward was the last (2017), and Andre Dawson and Bob Dernier are the others.
Happ's strong finish to 2021 led into the most consistent offensive season of his career in 2022, in which he earned his first All-Star nod.
But Happ - who often moved around the diamond earlier in his career - settled into left field after the 2021 trade deadline and ran with the chance to focus on one position. The 2022 season was his best defensively, as reflected in three key metrics:
- Happ led NL left fielders with 13 Defensive Runs Saved, a career high and second-most in baseball, behind Cleveland's Steven Kwan (the AL Gold Glove winner in left)
- Happ led all left fielders in Ultimate Zone Rating
- Happ finished tied for fifth in Outs Above Average (1) among left fielders
"He identified what he wanted to be," manager David Ross said of Happ's 2022. "Part of that was being consistent, part of that was expanding his game, being versatile. I know a lot of that has to do with getting the at-bats in his mind and moving over the left field, a consistent spot.
"He played center a lot, probably not his ideal position, but we had a hole there. Now we put him in left and he's owned that and become one of the best left-fielders in the game."
Long before he was with the Cubs, Happ thought about what it would be like to win a Gold Glove in the major leagues.
"That's one of those honors that I thought about a lot as a kid when I was playing shortstop, not as much as a left fielder," Happ said in early September. "But that would be really cool."
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