In a season with lots of pleasant surprises, the emergence of Josh Hader as a middle-to-late game, multi-inning relief weapon was one of the best, if not the least expected. Hader’s “stuff” has been obvious to Brew Crew Ball readers since his acquisition from Houston at the deadline in 2015 in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers deal. Hader had been used mostly as a starter in the Brewers’ farm system, but in the last few weeks prior to Josh’s call-up in June the Brewers had begun deploying him out of the ‘pen for AAA Colorado Springs.
Hader thrived in that role with the major league club. His lack of a consistent third pitch wasn’t as important and he was able to throw hard without regard to saving himself for a five-plus inning start. Manager Craig Counsell could limit him to one time through a batting order, maximizing the effectiveness of a somewhat unorthodox delivery.
Hader’s statistics from the 2017 season are truly eye popping. He made 35 appearances, all in relief, and worked 47.2 innings. Opponents hit just .154 against him, with 22 walks, for a WHIP of 0.99. In his last month of work Josh went 16.1 innings and walked just 2; this could be a sign that he was developing a consistency of his delivery while maximizing his velocity.
For his first major league season, Hader was anything but a LOOGY. Against right-handed hitters, he worked 30.2 innings with a WHIP of 0.88 and 10.86 strikeouts per 9 innings, with a K/BB ratio of 3.70.
Josh relied almost entirely on his fastball last season. 81.1% of his pitchers were the heater, with an average velocity of 94.3. He brought the slider 11.3% of the time, leaving 7.2% for the change-up.
Hader’s ERA was at 2.08, with a 3.66 xFIP. He contributed a 1.1 fWAR in his approximately half season.
All of those numbers are reason enough to include Hader in the top ten most valuable Brewers for the 2017 season, but the vote is probably as much a hope for Josh’s Brewer career as a reflection of his performance for last season’s team. GM David Stearns believes he is an important piece for future, as it has been reported that one of the main sticking points that kept Milwaukee from acquiring Jose Quintana from the White Sox mid-season was Stearns’ refusal to include Hader in the deal.
The debate over Hader’s inclusion in the rotation or as a bullpen arm will continue. With Jimmy Nelson out for a “big chunk” of the 2018 season there must be a large temptation to insert Hader into that group. But his phenomenal success last year indicates that he could very well be most effective in that fireman role coming out of the bullpen.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs