Brewer Spotlight

Understading Hader’s Dominance: A Graphic-Heavy Analysis

Since the day Josh Hader was put on this planet he seemed destined to be a Brewer. After being born in Millersville (MD) and then attending Old Mill High School, it seems the universe was always aiming him at Miller Park. In just his second year with The Crew, the 24-year-old had a season for the ages and was named ‘Relief Pitcher of the Year.’ While many Brewers Fans know he is great, he is probably even better than you that. BREW MATHs charts, graphs and maps the man, the myth, and his budding legend…


It is a thing of beauty to watch Josh Hader blow a fastball by a professional hitter. The way his long frame uncoils, bends and unleashes kinetic energy as a crooked laser beam. How he becomes all knees and elbows as he drives with purpose off the mound. The way he makes All-Star Batsmen look confused in the box… even downright scared. When he is on the mound everyone knows it, from the opposing team’s tense manager to the two-fisted slopper in the bleachers… guys like Josh Hader are why we pay admission.

PITCH ARSENALscreen shot 2019-01-03 at 12.35.08 pm

Statcast shows us Hader can throw four pitches but really only uses two of them. The fastball is concentrated around the strike zone and the slider is typically thrown ‘low and in’ (to right-handed batters). The other two pitches are barely used at all. File this away for now…

VELOCITY

Hader’s pitch velocity over the last two seasons:

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Hader’s average fastball dances around 95mph in 2017 but seems to be closer to 96 or 97 in 2018. A closer look validates the progressive increase in velocity:

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The average speed of the Fourseamer is, in fact, rising. It ended the season averaging about 97mph. However, over the course of the entire year it was closer to 94.5mph. The slider averaged 81.9mph.
While Hader’s fastball is very good, last year there were 90 pitchers (with 50+ IP) who averaged ‘faster fastballs.’ His slider is also fairly middle of the pack when it comes to velocity. So while Hader can be overpowering, there has to be more to the equation…

LOCATION / ACCURACY

Josh Hader’s 2018 Pitch Location Map (Regular + Playoffs):

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This suggests that Hader is very consistently hitting the strike zone and is good at working the edges. And indeed… if we refine our analysis we find the following:

  • No one in the league gets a higher whiff (swinging strike) percentage than Hader.
    • Last year he threw 1316 total pitches and 251 of them resulted in a swinging strike
      • That means 19.1% of his pitches were whiffs

When we map all those swinging strikes a pattern rises to the top:

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  • The Pattern:
    • 4SFB: He throws at your eyes, up in the zone and attempts to blow it by you
    • Slider: Located at the edge of the plate where the pitch naturally breaks to.
      • Here is one of the sliders (from above); Matt Carpenter on a 1-2 count… A thing of beauty:

 

 

 

When Hader gets two strikes, it’s over… He strikes out 7.9% of batters swinging. Only Edwin Diaz has a higher whiff rate with two strikes at 8.9%.

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At this point, it begins to look like Haders’ dominance is a byproduct of his control and ability to locate pitches… to a slightly lesser extent, his velocity. More specifically, how the two work together to keep the hitter off-balance. Putting hitters on their heels is largely a byproduct of deception. This is where Hader’s atypically long frame enters the equation…

RELEASE POINT

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Once you find the red dot on the graph above, you see Hader is an outlier in regards to release point. His long arms and lanky makeup allow pitches to come from a much harsher angle than with the average pitcher. This ‘Randy Johnson’ Effect also allows him to generate greater velocity and natural movement. Hader’s dominance begins to come into focus…

Simply put, what keeps a hitter off-balance is decreasing their reaction time by fooling them. This type of mound magic is accomplished by having a consistent delivery – no matter what is being thrown:

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Hader checks out here… he is learning to release more consistently from a single point making his fastball and slider look the same until it’s too late. This is why Hader has a lower Zone Contact % than anyone else in The Majors… That means even when he is throwing a strike into the zone it results in a miss at about a third of the time.

The plate discipline stats of opposing hitters flesh this dominance out:

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THE RESULTS

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to know that the following numbers are ridiculously good. Basically, opponents don’t hit Josh at all:

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  • Hader’s slider is his “worst” pitch and still only allows a 0.141 BA.
    • In addition… The Isolated Power (ISO) of 0.063 means they are weak hits.
  • Ultimately, batters hit the slider more often than the fastball. However, the slider generates weaker contact as you can see here… Lordy:

THE PROGRESS & FUTUREAt this point we know that Hader is nearly impossible to hit as a byproduct of velocity, movement, and an atypical delivery that generates deception.

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This graph signals bad news for National Leaguers who aren’t Brewers… He is getting better as he goes.

Lest we forget that he is making just above the league minimum and is under team control until 2024! The future looks bright for Milwaukee and their young superstar.

In the end, what makes Hader so great is part God-given, and part practice… the evidence is undeniable and helps us understand how The Miller Kid has become the best reliever in the game today.

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