By: Noah Wright
Kathy Willens / AP
Brewers hard throwing lefty relief pitcher, Josh Hader, has made headlines, for he is having a historically great season for a relief pitcher. The former top prospect is pitching better than anyone expected, with a 1.15 ERA, .67 WHIP, .94 FIP, a 3.27 walk/9 rate (total 12), and an out of this world 18 K/9 rate (total 66!) all in 33 innings. Compared to other fantastic seasons by relief pitchers, how does Hader compare? Let’s find out.
To start with, Hader already has a 1.5 WAR, in 33 innings of play. In comparison, Trevor Hoffman’s highest WAR season was 4.1 WAR in 1998, in 73 innings of work. He’s also on pace on having more WAR than Francisco Rodriguez had in his 62 save season, a single season record, with 2.5 WAR in 2008 with just 68.1 innings pitched. Legendary closer, Mariano Rivera had a WAR of 5 in his second year in 1996, in 107 innings, as he worked as a long relief pitcher that season. While Hader has a pretty outside shot at reaching 5 WAR this season, it’s not completely out of reality. In a more modern season, Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen had a season for the ages in 2017, where he recorded a 1.32 ERA, .746 WHIP, 1.31 FIP, while only walking 7 in 68.1 innings, and striking out 109, which resulted in 3 WAR. Hader is easily on pace to reach 3 WAR by the end of the season.
Then, there’s Hader’s ridiculous strikeout rate. In 33 innings pitched, Hader has 62 strikeouts, which results in a historic 18 K/9 rate, and a whiff% somewhere between 23-25%. Last year, teammate Corey Knebel had a 14.9 K/9, and Kenley was right behind him with 14.4 K/9. The last player to have a K/9 higher than 15 is Aroldis Chapman, who reached 17.7 K/9 in 54 innings in 2014. He’s also got more strikeouts than a handful of starters, even some that are considered strikeout pitchers. His greatest achievement with the K isn’t his 17.4 K/9 rate, but his outing on April, 30th. On this night, Hader would pitch an outing for the ages, as he struck out 8 in 2 and two-thirds innings, striking out every batter he faced, and earning the save. In comparison, hall-of-fame lefty, Randy Johnson once pitched 7 relief innings, and struck out 16 batters.
Batters can’t figure out Hader either. Opponents only have a .171 BABIP against him, and Hader doesn’t let the ball out of the park when he gets hit, with just a .6 HR/9 rate, and a 9% HR/FB rate. It’s also not like patient batters can hit off of him right now either, as Hader has a 3.27 walks/9 rate, a 9.2 walk %, and 33% of his pitches have been a ball.
To sum it all up, Josh Hader has been absolutely historically dominant this season. Not only is the lefty Brewer striking people out at a video game-ish rate, but he also knows where the strike zone is. Just to add on, this 25-year old phenom is rivaling hall of fame players with his impressive single game feats, and he’s making MVP-level batters look foolish.