On Saturday, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader became just the fourth awardee of the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. To say Hader is a bit of an anomaly would be an understatement.
Josh Hader, not the everyday closer for the Milwaukee Brewers during the season, had just 12 saves, lowest among awardees. His 2.43 ERA was the highest among any previous winners in both leagues. Even dating back to 2005 when it was called the Delivery Man Award, Hader’s numbers would still have the least saves and highest ERA.
Who was Hader competing with?
So what made a panel of nine of the best relievers of all-time vote for the lengthy lefty from Milwaukee?
Well based on sheer numbers, Hader and Kenley Jansen looked like the sheer front runners.
Hader: 12 saves / 2.43 ERA / 81 1/3 innings / 143 strikeouts / 0.81 WHIP
Wade Davis: 43 / 4.13 / 65.1 / 57 / 1.06
Kenley Jansen: 38 / 2.12 / 46.2 / 82 / 0.99
What made Hader’s season so special?
What Hader did in 2018 was not just special, its fantastically uncommon. His 143 strikeouts were the most by a relief pitcher in the National League since Houston’s Brad Lidge threw 157 in 2004. He had more strikeouts this season than off-season pitching target Jake Arrieta.
His 81 1/3 innings pitched were 83rd best on the season, throwing more innings than Milwaukee Brewers starters Wade Miley, Freddy Peralta, and Zach Davies. To be fair, Peralta started the season in Biloxi, and Miley and Davies both saw stints on the disabled list, but Hader’s performance was still very impressive by a guy that made his Major League debut in June of 2017.
What is even more impressive about Hader’s season, is the ups and downs he experienced off the field. The night of the 2018 All-Star game, which should have been the biggest night of Hader’s career to that point, he had to not only explain his rough outing in the game, but discuss tweets from late 2011-early 2012, when he was just 17-years old.
For any young man, their mind set could completely change, and they could become stand-offish or afraid because they don’t know how teammates and fans would react. Hader’s teammates on the Milwaukee Brewers answered right away when they stood behind him during a tense press conference and embraced him. The fans responded the same way, with cheers and applause when he took the mound.
How did Hader do in the post season?
Lastly, and this doesn’t have barring on the award, but look at his post season numbers. Every time Hader stood up to get a cup of water, Joe Buck mentioned him. Hader pitched 10 innings in seven games this October, striking out 16, giving up five hits, and walking only one batter. He did this while keeping hitters a .152 average.
The Milwaukee Brewers have now had two NL Relievers of the Year finalists in the last two seasons. Corey Knebel was a finalist in 2017, but lost to Jansen. With the other young arms in the Brewers system, there shouldn’t be any issue seeing another finalist in 2019.