Josh Hader wasn’t supposed to be the highlight of Milwaukee’s bullpen. He was coming off a strong rookie year, but the star of the relief corps was going to be closer Corey Knebel, fresh off a record-setting strikeout streak from 2017. But then Knebel went down with a hamstring injury in the first week of April, and in his absence, Hader has done more than enough to become the bullpen’s most notable piece.
In 2.2. innings tonight against the Reds, Hader became the first pitcher ever to strike out eight batters in fewer than three frames of work. Which should perhaps not be so surprising, because he’s been striking out just about everyone he faces lately.
As a rookie last year, Hader struck out 36 percent of batters he faced. So far this season? A best-in-baseball 58 percent. He’s used his slider a little more this season—almost three times as often, meaning that it now makes up almost a third of the pitches that he throws—and it’s worked. Last season, less than half of the swings on Hader’s slider ended up as whiffs; this season, nearly 65 percent are. Here’s what the pitch looked like tonight against the Reds:
Everything came together for Hader tonight in a way that let him make a tiny bit of history, but tonight didn’t look too different for him than any given night this season—which is to say that it looked scary good.