The Rise of Milwaukee Brewers lefty Josh Hader

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 12: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches the 8th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 12, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Josh Hader broke onto the scene last season when he was called up by the Milwaukee Brewers in early June. The 24-year-old, hard-throwing lefty went on to post some impressive numbers at the back end of 2017, pitching 47.2 innings with a 2.08 ERA while striking out 68 hitters.

Fast forward to this year and Hader is one of, if not the most, effective relievers in all of baseball. As the Brewers set up man to closer Jeremy Jeffress, Hader has been absolutely lights out. He has a 6-1 record, 2.02 ERA, and 133 strikeouts in just 75.2 innings. Yes, you read that correctly. Hader is striking out 15.8 hitters per nine innings. Those are truly outrageous numbers. He’s also holding opposing lineups to a dismal .120 batting average against while collecting 11 saves.

Let’s dig a little deeper into Hader’s pure dominance this season.

The Rise of Milwaukee Brewers lefty Josh Hader

How is he doing it?

Like most hard-throwing relievers, Hader relies mostly on two pitches: his four-seam fastball and slider. The fastball has averaged 94.4 mph this season, but he consistently ramps it up to the high 90’s. There have been several outings in the last few weeks where he has been regularly sitting at 96-98 mph. It’s a relatively straight heater, but it absolutely flies out of his hand with outstanding life. Per Statcast, Hader has registered 102 of his 133 K’s off the fastball this year. He does a great job of elevating the pitch when he needs to or painting the corners of the strike zone.

His slider is the definition of a wipeout off-speed pitch. Thanks to his three-fourths arm slot, the slider has a great bite to it. Against lefties, it looks like it’s coming right at the hitter before coming across the strike zone. He throws it relatively hard with the pitch registering in the low 80s. It is his second best pitch this year to the fastball, and it’s the offering where he’s racked up the remainder of his strikeouts next to the fastball. The combination of how hard he throws the pitch and the movement it has makes it one of the best sliders in all of baseball.

His delivery

Hader has an interesting delivery which makes it very hard for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand. There are a lot of pitchers in the majors that have deceptive deliveries as discussed before, but he is a little bit different.

First off, he is left-handed and throws almost sidearm. That alone makes him very hard to square up. He hides the ball very well when he winds up, landing across his body and cross-firing. Hader doesn’t end up square to the plate when he lands, but that’s why he is difficult to hit. Since his leading leg ends up across his body, he is literally releasing the ball two to three feet from where most pitchers do. In a lefty-lefty matchup, it literally looks like Hader is throwing the ball right at the hitter because of where his release point is. Lefties are hitting just .083 against Hader, which proves the point.

Hitters have compiled a .056 average against Hader off pitches in the middle of the plate on the lower plane. Usually, a pitch right down Broadway on the lower half is a pitch that hitters tee off on. But against Hader, opposing lineups have had no success.

Hader’s command this year has been off the charts compared to last season. He’s walked just 26 hitters this season while giving up 22 free passes last year in just 47.2 innings. He is doing a wonderful job of getting ahead of hitters with the first pitch strike and once he gets up in the count, it’s been pretty much game over for hitters. Hader either elevates a fastball that they have no chance of catching up to or he throws a filthy slider that freezes the hitter.

Hader has been an instrumental part of the Brewers pitching staff this year and will look to continue his dominance if the Brew Crew can make a playoff run this October.

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