The Milwaukee Brewers have some big questions to answer regarding the pitching staff. One of the biggest question marks may just be the Brewers biggest wild card as well.
Josh Hader finally made his Milwaukee Brewers debut last summer. In an effort to limit his innings, while allowing him to get comfortable in MLB, Hader came out of the bullpen for The Crew a year ago.
With the holes in the Brewers rotation, plenty of fans would like to see Hader as a starter. Blessed with a superior fastball, combined with an intimidatingly funky delivery, the southpaw has the makings of a special pitcher.
Even with the Chris Sale comparisons, there are no guarantees that he’ll be an ace someday. As a lefty, with his high-octane fastball, I’m sure Milwaukee would love to pencil him into the top of the rotation for many years to come. However, Hader has shown that he still has a ways to go, especially as a starter.
Should Milwaukee use Hader in the rotation?
Hader was used exclusively as a starter while playing in the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League system. In 44 starts through parts of three seasons he went 7-16. His 3.70 ERA wasn’t bad, with the majority of his earned runs coming while pitching in Colorado Springs. However, his issues with command have severely hampered him throughout his career.
In 216 2/3 innings pitched, Hader had 4.0 BB/9 to go along with an astounding 10.9 K/9. He’s almost like a young Randy Johnson in the sense that you just never know what will happen with his next pitch. However, when you consider his 262 total strikeouts over the same span, it’s easy to see his potential for greatness.
Should the Brewers use Hader out of the bullpen?
In June 2017, Hader was called up to the show by the Milwaukee Brewers. He pitched in 35 games for The Crew, all coming out of the bullpen. the lefty was electric in that role, striking out 68 hitters in 47 2/3 innings pitched. He did walk an alarming 22 batters, but he did not register a wild pitch.
Over the last few seasons, Andrew Miller has helped create a new niche for relievers. Miller has shown the value in using a closer caliber pitcher earlier in games, and for multiple innings. Without question Hader fits this description. He can help cover the holes in the rotation from the bullpen more than in the rotation.
Once again, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a win-win situation. If you put Hader in the rotation, he will bring excitement to mound every turn through. However, you have to wonder whether that fastball will be as electric in the sixth inning after 100 pitches, instead of coming in fresh from the bullpen.
For me, the decision is easy for the Brewers. Coming out of the bullpen will allow Hader to impact 60-70 games, instead of hoping for 30 games in the rotation. Using him in the middle innings, sometimes the most crucial moments, puts him in position to have a huge impact for this team.
There will be a lot of new faces in the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen this season. The bridge to Jacob Barnes and Corey Knebel, in the eighth and ninth inning respectively, could prove to be the most important role on the pitching staff.
Hader has the ability to come into a game and pitch two, three, or even more innings, consistently. So the next time the Brewers need a reliever in the fourth or fifth inning, I would feel pretty good about Hader weathering the storm for The Crew.
We’ve acknowledged the walk issues already, which is a fixable issue, and pitching coach Derek Johnson has already shown he can coach up a pitching staff. Hader’s 4.2 BB/9 did not hinder his success in 2017, his 88.1 LOB% along with his 0.76 HR/9 helped him escape trouble many times. The kid is lights out and tough to hit. His .233 BABIP probably isn’t the expectation next season, however even in the .260 range, Hader will still be effective for Milwaukee.
Hader will play a huge role, whether starter or relief, for this pitching staff in 2018. He proved in his first taste of big league action that he belongs in MLB, with a high leverage role. As Terrell Owens once said, “get your popcorn ready”. It’s going to be a fun ride with Hader and The Crew all summer.