The title might give everything away, but it is true. Milwaukee Brewers southpaw Josh Hader is, in fact, really good.
That is not all though, I promise. There is a reason that Hader is really good and it is entirely because of how the Milwaukee Brewers are handling their top arm. Instead of letting him grow in the minors, they saw how helpful he could be as a bullpen piece. Now, he is a reliable arm that I personally love watching go to work.
His fluid delivery and different arm angle combine to make him hard to hit. The electric fastball and sweeping breaker are what make him really good at throwing baseballs. As his career continues, the hope is to get him into the rotation. If that happens, we will not be able to talk about how good Hader is. He belongs in the bullpen.
Excellent question. There are several signs that are pointing to Hader’s highest potential being as a bullpen arm. It is not that he will necessarily flame out as a starter, but he will not be as productive. We saw that on display during the Padres series.
The quantity of pitches in his arsenal is enough for a starter, as he can feature a changeup. However, he does not feature it enough to be successful in a starting role. Last season, he threw 80 percent fastballs. That works in a relief role, but throwing that in an extended role would not.
If he were to be a starter, he needs to get a greater balance among all three of his pitches. Seven percent changeups and 11 percent breakers will not go over well when complimenting the fastball.
Walk Rate Precedent
It is not a secret that Hader will walk a higher rate of batters than the average pitcher. That is part of what will make him better in the bullpen. Three BB/9 is on the low end for him. A comparable pitcher who recently found success in the bullpen is Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bradley had one season with a walks per nine under three during his time in the minors. Hader hit that mark twice. After a sub par starting career in the majors where Bradley posted a 5.18 ERA. His numbers significantly improved upon transitioning to a bullpen role. So far, his relieving ERA is under two. And opposing batters wOBA has gone from an above average mark from a hitters perspective to being extremely below. Hader would find himself in that exact situation.
Josh Hader Should Stay In The Bullpen
Josh Hader should stay in the bullpen. He is too good and reliable in that role. Moving him will create struggles where there do not need to be struggles. It is that simple. Why ruin a good thing? The way Hader pitches leaves his ceiling at its highest point in the bullpen.
I think he is a future closer. But that is just me. He could easily make a very long career out of being a long/middle reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers. A rotation job is not something that should be attempted. The team needs to keep Hader really good, and that will be in the bullpen.