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Milwaukee Brewers: Diving Into Josh Hader’s Dominance

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CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 30: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch during 11th inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 30, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Milwaukee defeated Cincinnati 2-1 in 11 innings. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 30: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch during 11th inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 30, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Milwaukee defeated Cincinnati 2-1 in 11 innings. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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It has been a quick ascension for Milwaukee Brewers lefty Josh Hader, who has gone from making his MLB debut in June of 2017 to becoming one of the most dominant relievers in the game in about a year.

Josh Hader was brought up to the big leagues early in 2017 in a similar capacity as pitcher Corbin Burnes was brought up this year. He was a starter in the minor leagues, but the Brewers wanted him on their roster sooner, so Hader made his debut out of the bullpen.

In his 35 appearances that covered 47.2 innings in 2017, Hader was able to show off his raw talent. He struck out 68 batters, had a 2.08 ERA, and held his opponents to a batting average of just .156. Hader did so well in the reliever role that Milwaukee decided to keep him there for 2018.

2018 season for Hader

As impressive as Hader was in 2017, he’s continued to improve through 2018 and at times, appears to be unhittable.

Through 75.2 innings in 2018, Hader leads all relievers in the NL with 133 strikeouts. His opponents are batting .120 against him and he has an ERA of 2.02, with a WHIP of 0.740. Perhaps Hader’s greatest improvement has come with his command. In his 47.2 innings during the 2017 season, he issued 22 walks. With nearly 30 more innings under his belt this year, he currently sits at just 26 walks.

Although he has made some appearances this season in the closer role, Hader has found his niche as the go-to guy in the sixth to eight innings when Milwaukee has the lead. In those high leverage situations, Hader has been at his best. He’s notched 107 out of his 133 strikeouts in the late innings, with an ERA of 1.71, and he’s clinched many Brewers victories along the way.

But as impressive as Hader has been, he may be throwing his best stuff right now. In his last six innings pitched, Hader has faced 20 batters and struck out 17 of them, while only allowing one hit. He is unstoppable at the moment.

Hader’s two pitches

Hader has been able to have his success over the last year and a half with two main pitches. The first is his fastball that reaches the upper 90s and is nearly impossible for hitters to catch up to. He is able to generate a lot of swings and misses with this pitch as the batters struggle to even foul the pitch off.

His second pitch is the slider that sits in the mid-80s. As far as sliders go, this is one of the harder thrown sliders in baseball. With the velocity of that pitch coupled with the movement, Hader is able to blow it by batters, making it another difficult pitch to make contact on. He tends to throw this pitch up in the strike zone, leading to many fly ball outs when contact is made.

The pure speed behind these two pitches with Hader’s command makes him extremely difficult to hit off of, even for the best batters in baseball.

Hader has been one of the most important players this season for Milwaukee. He will continue to be for the rest of the season and into future ones. That is a big part of Manager Craig Counsell‘s usage of Hader, which has come under a lot of scrutiny from fans. Counsell needs to avoid wearing his pitcher out in August when the Milwaukee Brewers are going to need to rely on Hader for September and hopefully October.

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One thing all Milwaukee Brewers fans can agree on, however, is how good Josh Hader has been in 2018.

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