By: Chris Larson
Josh Hader has once again shown the entire baseball world his true potential and the fact that he can be a real star on a playoff driven team. Hader, currently 24 years old, is only starting to show his true potential during his second season in the big leagues and it's scary to start to think about what he could become here in the next few years.
After all, you're talking about a guy that has been given comparisons to, Randy Johnson, and someone who is a lethal weapon to have on any pitching staff. Josh Hader was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 19th round of the 2012 Amateur Draft and was later traded to the Houston Astros before finding his current home in Milwaukee. Just think how different baseball would look right now if the Brewers didn't have Hader and the Astros did, a team that is in desperate need of a left-handed reliever.
With how Josh Hader has started this season and finished last year, not only has he put the Milwaukee Brewers on the map and made them a topic of discussion for everyone around the game, he has also been the guy that holds together the entire bullpen. You can't ignore the fact that during the past two seasons combined Hader has a 1.78 ERA over 65.2 IP with a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 14.7 and a 2.31 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP). All of those things are great and all, but nothing measures up to what Josh Hader did the other day.
On Monday night, Hader pitched 2.2 innings and recorded an 8-out save. Every out that he recorded during that save, came via the strikeout. Talk about an amazing feat and something that just adds onto the impressive resume that he has already compiled! In fact, Hader is the first reliever EVER to record 8 outs via a save opportunity since saves started being tracked as an official stat in 1969. Just goes to prove that you never know what you will see happen at the field any given day.
With that being said, the question now becomes, with the Milwaukee Brewers lack of adequate starting pitching depth, should Josh Hader be used in an experiment later on down the road to see if he fits that role and could provide even more worth to the Brewers every five days? The answer to that question isn't very simple because no one truly knows how he would perform as a starting pitcher given the fact that it's different preparing for a game as a starter versus a reliever. Really, the only way to find out would be to actually let him be a starter for a while.
Now, it remains to be seen if the Milwaukee Brewers have even discussed this idea or would even consider doing it since Hader has been so successful in his role, but they may end up reaching a point this season where they have to get creative and this is one legitimate option. The only drawback is the idea that Hader would pitch every fifth day and could not be used in those sticky situations where Craig Counsell might need to shutdown the opposing team's offense late in games.
It's a situation almost similar to what the Arizona Diamondbacks have dealt with over the past year with starter-turned-reliever, Archie Bradley. During Spring Training, there were numerous discussions about whether Bradley should stay in his role as a fireman in the bullpen or if he should transition back to the starting rotation given the numbers he put up last season. The Diamondbacks ultimately elected to keep Bradley in his role because he experienced so much success and they didn't want to risk having the decision backfire on them or Bradley himself. Ultimately, the same thing could play out with Josh Hader.
However, if the Brewers did elect to experiment with this idea, it sure would be a good one. As mentioned earlier in this article, Hader has a strikeouts-per-9 rate, over the past two seasons, of 14.7. That would play wonderfully in a starting pitcher role and his stuff would also fit the profile of someone who could ultimately succeed as a starter.
Hader has the ability to throw a fastball, slider, changeup combination as illustrated by the chart below:
On Hader's fastball, his average velocity over the past two seasons has been 94.6 MPH, while his average velo on his changeup over that span is 86.0 MPH and his slider 81.1 MPH. Those figures fall pretty much in line with what the usual league average is for all three pitches and would certainly play well within the starting rotation.
It's also important to dissect Hader's Opponent Batting Average Against as well as his Exit Velocity Against, both of which, can be illustrated by the charts below:
Furthermore, it's also important to take into consideration his BABIP (Batting Average with Balls In Play) rate, which was .233 over 47.2 IP last season and is .176 over 18.0 IP, so far this season. Typically, BABIP can help to indicate how well a pitcher is able to throw their pitches within the zone and gives every team an idea of how often the ball stays within the ballpark. Over the past two seasons, the league average for BABIP has been around .286, as gathered by data from FanGraphs among 163 qualified relievers.
Beyond those stats, it is also important to consider Hader's left on-base percentage, which was 88.1% last season and is 79.0% so far this year. That helps to indicate that Hader is able to get those crucial outs when they matter the most and strand base runners when needed. Basically, if you were to translate that to trying to determine how he would be as a starting pitcher, you would find that those situations would be in Hader's favor.
No matter how you look at it, Josh Hader has been an unbelievably valuable asset for the Milwaukee Brewers to this point and will only continue to get better given that he's 24-years old. Rather the Brewers use him in their starting rotation or not, has not been determined, but there are significant advantages and drawbacks to doing so. All of those things are important to consider because ultimately the decision that the Brewers front office makes will determine how successful Milwaukee is this year and beyond.