By: Noah Wright
Josh Hader didn’t just have the best relief pitcher season this year, but also one of the best seasons by a left handed relief pitcher. He wasn’t just a long relief pitcher, pitching 81 and a third innings in 55 games, but he also was a late inning arm, with 12 saves. In total, Hader had a 2.43 ERA, 2.23 FIP, and .811 WHIP. He also struck out 143 batters, which results in a 15.8 K/9 rate, and the most strikeouts by any left handed relief pitcher in one season. Plus he wasn’t effectively wild. Hader had just a 3.3 BB/9 rate. However before becoming one of The MLB’s rising bullpen stars, he was a top prospect starter in the minors. That has led many to speculate whether The Brewers should move Josh Hader to the rotation.
First, let’s go over why the Brewers should move Hader to the rotation. We all know he’s more than capable of holding his own in a multi-inning role, so he’s already got experience pitching 2 or three innings at a time. 33 of his 55 outings were more than one inning, and only 8 of them he gave up an earned run. Like I stated earlier, he was a top prospect starter in the minors, but he was also one of the best left handed starters in the minors. After the 2016 season, MLB.com ranked Hader the #34th best pitching prospect, and one of the two total lefties in the top 50. His highest full season ERA in the minors was in 2016 at 3.29 in 126 innings. He is very comparable to Chris Sale’s rookie season. Both him and Sale were former top starting pitching prospects, both did very good in their first full seasons, both served as both a late inning arm, and both served as multi inning men, but now Chris Sale is producing similar results when he was a relief pitcher in 2011, to now as a starter in 2018 (permanently moved to rotation in 2012, a season after his first full season). However one of the biggest reasons The Brewers may move Hader to the rotation is the fact The Brewers do not have much of a rotation. Next year, the only guarantees are Jhoulys Chacin and Chase Anderson. But neither represent an ace level option. Chacin had a decent season with a 3.53 ERA, but had a 4.03 FIP. Anderson’s ERA was 3.93 but his FIP was 5.22, but he is just a year removed from a very nice 2017. Wade Miley is a free agent, and while he did come off of a solid season, it was his first solid season since in a while. Junior Guerra is another rotation arm option, but like everyone else, he’s not any sort of ace. Even though Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes could be solid rotation pieces, none are ace level. If The Brewers could move Hader’s dominance to the rotation, not only could they have a good rotation anchor, but they could also probably add a few wins.
Now let's look at why The Brewers want to keep Hader in the bullpen. Well for one, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be the same kind of force out of the rotation that he was out of the pen. Plus he’d probably be more useful/valuable to the team out of the pen. Since he can fill multiple roles, they can kind of use him whenever. Corey Knebel hurt? Hader can close. Starter came out early? Hader can come pitch 2 innings. Plus The Brewers don’t necessarily have another shutdown left hander. Dan Jennings is solid, but nobody can shut down both lefty and righty handed batters like Josh Hader.
The Brewers best decision is probably to keep Josh Hader in the pen, and at most keep him as a spot 3-4 inning starter. Then the team can keep him as a late inning, high leverage pitcher who can pitch multiple innings if need be. It would also be hard to move a guy who just had one of the best seasons by a left handed relief pitcher ever, out of their original role where they had that season. And even though they may be in need of rotation help, there are some options they could go after in the off season.