Let’s start with the with the business brought about by Friday’s news – Josh Hader was named the June National League Reliever of the Month. Since the award debuted along with Hader back in 2017, it has been handed out twenty-three times. He now has four of those trophies? plaques? online certificates? to his name. Only Edwin Díaz (5) has more, with both Aroldis Chapman and Liam Hendricks owning three. That’s not a bad position to be in. Hader also won the award back in May and June of 2019 after his initial recognition in April of 2018.
So what did Josh do to earn this in June? For starters, he put down thirty-two of the thirty-nine batters he faced, eighteen by strikeout. That’s 46% of the opposition down by strikeout and 82% of them walking back to the dugout without reaching base. Hader allowed just three hits and four walks in eleven full innings of work, good for a WHIP of 0.64. For reference there, only Jacob DeGrom has a full-season WHIP lower than that number among those with at least 15 innings pitched. The other fairly important stat – Hader allowed 0 runs in those eleven innings, which helped him pick up another 8 saves throughout the month.
This recognition is fitting at the end of a truly dominant three-month stint for the Brewers’ closer. Let’s run through some numbers. Among those with at least fifteen innings pitched…
- Hader’s WHIP (0.73) is the sixth-best in baseball
- His batting average allowed (0.111) is the third-best
- Hader’s ERA (0.55) is the second-best
- His K/9 rate (15.15) is eighth-best
He’s also third in the league with 20 saves, joining St Louis’s Alex Reyes (also 20-20) as one of only two players to have a perfect save conversion rate on at least fifteen save opportunities. By just about any measure, Hader has been one of the best pitchers in the league. He’s striking batters out, avoiding baserunners, and producing clean innings as well as or better than everyone else. At 27, in his fifth season, he’s at the height of his powers, giving the Brewers as powerful a weapon as you can have to close out games.
Now, what does it mean for the Brewers? Because that, after all, is the ultimate question here. Monthly awards are nice, but they’re only a small part of the puzzle that leads to the final goal of winning in the postseason. The Crew has come close often in the last fifteen years, but they have yet to take that final, elusive step back to the World Series. Can this team, owners of a 50-33 record and a 7.5 game lead in the division just after the halfway point, finally achieve that goal?
If they do, pitching will play a big part. We all know about the three-headed monster that will start games during a playoff series. Brandon Woodruff has been the best starting pitcher in baseball not named Jacob DeGrom. Both Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta have been fantastic as well. Then there is the versatile – if slightly inconsistent – group of middle relievers led by Brent Suter, Brad Boxberger, and Devin Williams. The real key, however, might be Hader. Right now, you simply aren’t beating the Brewers if they take a lead into the final inning. If that rule maintains itself through the fall, this might be the year we see some October baseball in the city of Milwaukee.
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