The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Little-Known Josh Hader Now Making a Name for Himself

If you haven’t heard of Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader, you might want to get familiar with him.  In fact, go out and start buying his baseball cards now before he really becomes a house-hold name.

No, Hader’s not up there yet with the likes of fellow relievers Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, or Craig Kimbrel, but he’s definitely on his way.  But when a reliever averages nearly 18 strikeouts per nine innings, there’s something special about him.  Hader has been one of the top breakout players of the season so far.

Hader was initially drafted out of high school in the 19th round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.  He was traded to the Houston Astros the next year, and then was bundled with other prospects in a trade to Milwaukee in 2015.

Hader doesn’t have a pedigree as a reliever.  He has been on the top prospect radar for several years, but as a starter.  He was brought up by the Brewers during a playoff push last year, but his first role was as a middle reliever out of the bullpen.  He wound up making 35 relief appearances in which he posted an impressive 2.08 ERA, 12.8 strikeouts per 9 innings, and a WHIP under 1.00.  Yet, he didn’t earn a single vote in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

The Brewers determined that Hader had more value as a reliever, so he returned to the bullpen in 2018 and has picked up where he left off in 2017.  He capped off a great month of April when got national attention striking out eight batters in 2 2/3 innings, the first pitcher in modern era to do it.  He finally got well-deserved, as he was named the National League’s Relief Pitcher of the Month.  He is on a pace to post a 5.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which would be the highest ever for a relief pitcher.

Hader is somewhat of a throwback to the day when relievers routinely pitched multiple innings.  Relying primarily on his fastball and slider, 12 of his 18 appearances have involved more than one inning.  Of course, Brewers fans will recall they had one of the best relievers in all of baseball with Rollie Fingers in the early 1980s.  Fingers pitched in an era when relievers typically went multiple innings in an outing.

The Brewers are currently leading the NL Central Division.  Hader has been a key factor in their success to date.  He just may be the difference in the Brewers getting to the playoffs this year, their first since 2011.  In any case, he won’t be the unfamiliar reliever much longer.

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