Josh Hader is my favorite things of all things right now. Let’s just say it like that.
I love his attitude. I love his hair. I love his joy. I love his power and his dominance and I love that he’s just a regular dude earning (relatively) regular money for a team in the middle of America. If we can’t universally love Josh Hader, we can’t universally love anything.
(I do not love auto correct trying to switch his name to Vader. But maybe NL hitters would sign off on that recommended change.)
Hader’s Monday wipeout of Cincinnati might be the most dominant save in modern history. He struck out eight of the nine batters he faced, and he did it on just 37 pitches. He got called strikes. He got 11 swinging strikes. He won up in the zone, down in the zone, at the belt. And he did it all in a one-run game, with no margin for error.
Did you want to see all eight of Josh Hader’s strikeouts from his historic night last night in one GIF? Of course you did, because it’s beautiful pic.twitter.com/S892kR3s6m
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) May 1, 2018
Hader’s sitting on wiffle ball stats as we enter May. He’s faced 62 batters and has allowed four hits. He’s walked five guys. He’s struck out 39 — that’s 62.9 percent of the batters he’s faced. These numbers cannot be real. He’s on pace to strike out 211 guys — as a relief pitcher.
His ERA sits at 1.00, his WHIP is 0.50. He’s recorded four saves, all of the working-class variety, multiple innings.
I see the downside here. No one can be this good, right? I know what regression means, even if “regression as a conversation-ender” is the cheesiest thing fantasy analysts try to throw at you. Maybe Hader regresses all the way back to last year’s relief stats — when he had a 2.08 ERA and 0.99 WHIP after his recall. What a tragedy that would be.
(When I see popular projection systems calling for an ERA over three, and some suggesting he’s not going to get any more saves — well, it pleases me. Maybe someone will believe in that, too. Hader, again, can’t be this good because no one is. But he can still be an outlier. No singular player is a “league-winning fantasy pick” in fantasy baseball because we rely on too many players, but Hader can be on the short list of monstrous profit players.)
So what’s the cold water here? I am not a scout, but I understand Hader seems to max out on every pitch. Maybe he’s eventually headed for physical problems. Corey Knebel will be back in Milwaukee at some point, and that could gum up save opportunities. The Brewers could also consider Hader as a possible starter at some point (he was primarily a starter in the minors), which would change a bunch of things. How long can he sustain this intensity on the mound? Will his control slide back to previous levels, where it was a problem?
If I were the Brewers, I’d leave things alone. Keep doing what you’re doing. Nothing’s broken, so don’t fix it. Let Hader pitch multiple innings in relief, a few times a week. Save him for the high-leverage spots. Hader originally came in for the Joey Votto at-bat Monday — that’s shrewd managing from Craig Counsell. Forget managing by the save stat, use your best players when a game is in the balance.
We can never be sure what tomorrow brings. We don’t know how long Hader can keep this up. Pitcher health is a floating butterfly with no fixed pattern — if baseball knew how to protect and save pitchers, it would be doing it. We baby them more than ever, and they still flock to the disabled list in large numbers. I can’t promise this is a full-season story, or even a multiple-month story.
I do know I have some Hader shares, and even as there’s usually a price where I’d trade anyone, he’s not someone I’m looking to deal. Usually the value-driven owner in me wins out, but not here. Hader is fun, man. Hader is “instantly change-the-channel” joy. This is why you buy the baseball package. (Plus, your potential trading partner can’t automatically assume Hader will be insane all year. But you can’t assume that he won’t be. Players performing out of their minds are hard to trade. Didi Gregorius owners know what I speak of.)
I want Hader to continue breaking the game. I want him to continue smashing projection systems. I want to again feel like I felt Monday night, when Josh Hader pitched just about perfect baseball and anything seemed possible.
If this is a dream, don’t wake me up. Drink some Haderade in the comments.