I'm writing this a night in advance because as this goes out I'll be lounging at Citizens Bank Park watching the Phillies take on Colorado, so forgive me if this post as inaccurate stats.
The most important stat to open with in terms of Josh Hader is this: Josh Hader has a league-high 8 saves right now. He has made 8 appearances, and in each of those appearances, he has gotten a save. This has amounted to all but two of the Brewers' wins so far this season. Like Shane Greene in 2019, Josh Hader is the make or break man for the Brewers. And right now, he is making, and he is driving this team towards its first-month success.
I think it's a safe bet to say that Josh Hader might be the best closer in baseball right now. Kimbrel and Chapman have the best career totals, Emmanuel Clase has the best velocity, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Pressly have done the most lately...but Hader's the best. He hasn't had a down season yet. He's had 104 saves by age 28, averaging 29 per season, breaking 100 strikeouts 3 times, and outlasting all three players he's been traded for [Bud Norris, Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers]. Hader is one of those pitchers that just knows how to outsmart you in the ninth, leaving his postseason struggles aside for a moment.
I'm not quite sure what it is about Hader that's so effective. I think it's his status as one of the few long-haired, skinny closers still out there. Most of the 9th inning men right now are either big, stocky intimidators, like Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel or Gregory Soto, skinny hispanic flamethrowers like Raisel Iglesias, Camilo Doval or Giovanny Gallegos, or meek-looking craftsman like David Robertson, Mark Melancon and Jordan Romano. There hasn't been many long-haired flamethrowers guarding the ninth lately, not since Chris Perez maybe. And yes, before you stop me, there's an abundance of long-haired flamethrowing starters [Syndergaard, Mike Clevinger, Tony Gonsolin], and long haired, flame throwing middle relievers [A.J. Puk, Pierce Johnson, Dillon Peters]. Just not closers. Our days of Ecks and Turnbows may be coming to an end, but there's Josh Hader, looking striking on the mound and still getting the job done.
I do think Hader has been one of the chief reasons for the Brewers' continued success in the last few seasons. If you're safe in the ninth for a few years in a row, you focus more on the other parts, and it's allowed the Brewers to pin down their rotation, refine their bullpen, and now focus on shoring up the offense aspect of the lineup. And regardless of if Hader struggles again in the postseason, he'll have helped the team get there, and it'll be in the hands of the power hitters to keep hope alive then.
Coming Tomorrow- The bridge from the cheating era of the Astros to the new, hopefully less-cheating-inclined era of the Astros.