Of all the above average performances we’ve seen from some Brewers players in 2021, that of reliever Josh Hader shouldn’t be very surprising to fans. Even in his worst year, he has been a menace to opposing batters.
Hader led the National League in saves (13) in 2020 and was NL Reliever of the Year before that in both 2018 and 2019 before teammate Devin Williams took the reigns last year. He dominated to begin 2021 and hasn’t looked back since.
And yet, does it feel to anybody else as though we’re not talking about Hader enough this season?
Is it because we’ve been too busy being mesmerized by the historic things that starting pitcher Corbin Burnes has been doing? Or how fellow starter Brandon Woodruff has just as good a chance at a Cy Young in 2021? Or have we been that engrossed in the struggles of the offense that we haven’t taken time to notice?
Whatever the reason, it seems like Josh Hader’s 2021 season for the Brewers is going somewhat unnoticed.
As the numbers go, Hader is far and away the best pitcher out of the Brewers bullpen as things stand right now. And when you compare him to the rest of the league, he ranks among the best of the best just like he has in the past.
Hader has converted all 11 of his save opportunities so far in 2021, good for third in both the NL and MLB behind Mark Melancon (17) of the Padres and Alex Reyes (14) of the Cardinals. But that’s just the beginning.
Hader leads both of those two, not to mention the entire NL, in fWAR for relievers at 1.1, just a shade behind Matt Barnes (1.3) of the Red Sox for tops in the MLB. Hader’s 0.96 ERA ranks 12 among qualified MLB relievers, but his FIP, which is somehow lower at 0.77, leads all qualified relievers in the game.
And just look at those strikeouts per nine innings. Hader always excels in this stat and is doing so once again, at 16.39 he is just .02 off his career high mark set in 2019. Currently, he leads the NL and his third among all qualified relievers behind the Yankees’ Arolids Chapman and Cleveland’s James Karinchak.
Hader is doing this through a pitch mix that has been ever so slightly fine tuned. Though his slider usage has pretty much stayed the same, he is now using his changeup just enough (6.8% of the time so far in 2021) and essentially dropped his fastball usage proportionately, that hitters are as off balance against him as ever before.
With the bullpen struggling a bit in 2021, the Brewers have needed Hader to be at his best and he has delivered. Let’s just not take his dominance for granted and remember to give the credit that’s due.