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Brewers: The Cases For And Against Josh Hader In Arbitration

DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 28: Pitcher Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers gives up a home run to Sam Hilliard in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 28, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 28: Pitcher Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers gives up a home run to Sam Hilliard in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 28, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JUNE 06: Josh Hader #71 and Yasmani Grandal #10 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrate after beating the Miami Marlins 5-1 at Miller Park on June 06, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Hader’s Case Against The Brewers

Josh Hader specifically requested the $6.4MM salary number because it would give him the record for a reliever his first time through arbitration. He’s arguing he’s the best reliever in baseball at this stage in his career and is deserving of a salary that reflects that.

It’ll be difficult for the Brewers to counter that, because they’ve already admitted that themselves.

These comments by Brewers GM David Stearns were made in light of reports the Brewers were listening on trade offers for Hader, and reflecting the high price they would have in trade discussions. But since the organization has admitted Hader is the best reliever in baseball, it greatly weakens their ability to argue against him.

Hader has won the NL Reliever of the Year award back-to-back seasons now. He finished in the Top-10 in the 2018 Cy Young award voting, which is impressive considering he was mostly a middle reliever that year, earning only 12 saves.

That save total will be something Hader will need to provide a rebuttal for, considering he is a closer and doesn’t have nearly the gaudy save totals that Papelbon and other high level closers had to this point in their careers. Hader’s team will likely argue that he is an unusual and exceptional talent, one that is more deserving of special recognition of his unique talents, rather than compare him to others.

We haven’t seen many, if any, others like Hader in baseball history, which makes comparing him to other one-inning closers not as relevant.

Some of the numbers Hader has posted are eye-popping. He owns a career 2.42 ERA, has never posted a season ERA higher than 2.62 and owns a 0.85 career WHIP. For the past two seasons, he’s posted a higher than 15.0 K/9 and already has 349 career strikeouts. He’s pitched an immaculate inning and once got all eight outs in one appearance via strikeout.

Over his career, he’s struck out 44.6% of all batters faced. Since he’s joined the league, that’s the highest percentage in all of baseball. He also has the lowest xFIP, SIERA, opponent batting average, and K-BB% of any reliever in baseball over that time. He’s posted the second-highest Fangraphs WAR in that time, (behind Felipe Vasquez who is now in jail and essentially banned from MLB), so he basically has provided the most WAR of active MLB relievers over the past three years.

What do all of these stats point to? They point to Josh Hader being the best reliever in MLB over the time he’s been in the league. That’s exactly what his requested arbitration salary of $6.4MM aims to prove and that’s what all his stats support. With David Stearns already admitting that in public, Hader would be wise to use his GM’s words against him in the hearing.

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