Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader is the best relief pitcher in the National League this year. Should he get consideration for the Cy Young award?
Josh Hader is the clear leader in WAR among relievers in the National League. His 3.3 WAR is over a full point higher than Craig Stammen and his 2.2 WAR. By every measure, Hader has been fantastic for the Milwaukee Brewers, but is he a Cy Young candidate?
What are the actual numbers?
Hader owns a 2.02 ERA in 75 2/3 innings of work. He’s walked only 26 and racked up 133 strikeouts. He’s also racked up six wins, 11 saves, and 20 holds in 50 games. Hader has only blown four saves, been stuck with one loss, and he’s only given up six homers.
Should a reliever get considered for the Cy Young?
Absolutely. Rollie Fingers posted a 2.6 WAR in 1981 and actually won the Cy Young Award. Dennis Eckersley managed a 3.2 WAR in 1989 and was the best pitcher in American League. Eric Gagne posted a 4.7 WAR in 2003 and earned the National League Cy Young award.
Zach Britton was the most recent reliever to get consideration. He came in fourth in Cy Young voting in 2016 with 47 saves, and only a 2.5 WAR.
Relievers not only get consideration, they also win.
Where does Hader rank when compared to the starters?
Hader’s 3.3 WAR would have him 11th in the National League. He’s right behind Mike Foltynewicz and ahead of Zack Greinke. But’s he’s become a 3.3 WAR pitcher in about 1/3 of the innings that Foltynewicz and Greinke have thrown.
What does the field look like in the NL Cy Young race?
Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are the two clear favorites. deGrom has every impressive statistic a voter could possibly want in a Cy Young award winner…except wins. It’s hard to see a large group of baseball writers giving the Cy Young award to a guy with only eight wins. Scherzer also ticks most boxes, has 17 wins, and has three Cy Young awards in his trophy case already.
This is shaping up as an odd year for the National League Cy Young award, and a reliever as historically good as Hader could sneak into the top five. If the Milwaukee Brewers make a deep run in the playoffs, and Hader is able to earn greater national exposure, he could sneak into the top-three.
A middle reliever has never won a Cy Young award. However, a reliever having a historically good season as Hader, even one without a ridiculous number of saves, should earn consideration. He won’t get the trophy, but he should get closer than most would think.