clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The video game-like dominance of Josh Hader

He might be the most dominate relief pitcher of our time

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

“No one has ever seen a guy like Josh Hader.” —Alex Wilson, Brewers reliever


Sometimes in sports video games, there’s a glitch. In MVP Baseball 2005, there were certain pitchers who had extraordinary pitches that were so good, they’d often be banned from game play because they were deemed “too unfair” to hit against. Some examples would be Josh Beckett’s 95-mph sinker, Zach Greinke’s 57-mph curveball, and Roy Halladay’s 72-mph palmball. If a player was actively choosing to be the Blue Jays, Marlins or Royals in 2005, it was clear there were ulterior motives at work. Knuckleball pitchers were always deemed “bush league”, so they were automatically forbidden from game play.

Josh Hader is a real-life glitch. He’s been almost unhittable since he came into the league in 2017 posting a career 0.841 WHIP, according to Baseball Reference. He led all relievers in strikeouts (143) last year in just 81⅓ innings. So far this year, he’s allowed just 1 hit and has a 13:1 K/BB ratio. His lengthy frame and curled delivery make him incredibly difficult to hit. The spin rate on his fastball this year is 2253 rpm, according to Baseball Savant. His high-spin rate along with his deceptive delivery creates a lot of swings and misses.

Something that’s not often discussed is Hader’s recently improved command of the strike zone to go along with his superior stuff. He seems to be throwing more strikes this year walking just 1 batter in 7.2 IP. Armed with a fastball in the mid to upper 90’s and hard slider, Hader hides the ball so well and releases it so late that it’s virtually impossible for a hitter to see it clearly coming out of his hand.

Hader’s ability to pitch up in the zone with his high-spin rate makes it impossible to hit and even harder to lay off for opposing hitters.

His performance in the 2018 postseason was legendary, posting a 0.00 ERA in 10 IP while striking out 16 and single-handedly carrying the Brewers within one game of the World Series.

According to Brooks Baseball, Hader’s slider induces a high volume of swings and misses, but also results in more fly balls in relation to other pitcher’s sliders. While the high-spin rate on his fastball is very good among relief pitchers, he’s been gradually incorporating his slider more into his repertoire.

The only thing that could slow him down is his usage. Craig Counsell leaned on him for 81.1 IP in the regular season an additional 7.2 IP in the postseason. He’s only 25 years-old and has been fairly durable for the Brewers during the past few seasons. However, some early season injuries have rocked the brew crew bullpen which will put more stress on the lengthy left-hander. Considering the season-ending injury to Corey Knebel who will undergo Tommy John surgery, Counsell will think twice about pulling the trigger on Hader. He’s well aware of how precious those bullets are considering that he uses Hader as his “get out of jail free card” to ensure his team a win. Counsell also relied heavily on RHP Jeremy Jeffress to close out games last year, but he’s still on the IL due to shoulder weakness. With no safety net, Hader is the linchpin that’s holding the Brewers’ chance in tact for the NL Central title. If he goes down, so do the Brewers.

Think about it: who’s more important to the Brewers, Christian Yelich or Josh Hader?


John LaLoggia writes about baseball at Beyond the Box Score, Banished to the Pen and Foul Territory Baseball. Please follow him on Twitter @JohnLaLoggia, email him at lalogjo@gmail.com.