We all know that all-star reliever Josh Hader has become one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. As of recent however, he has come very vulnerable to the long ball. It’s no secret that he gets hurt when he leaves his four seamer down in the zone. When a pitch is going down the middle of the plate at 95+mph, it is bound to be a homerun derby for any major league hitter. The question remaining is why. Why is the most dominant reliever leaving pitch after pitch, down the middle of the plate?
The pitch usage for Hader is pretty similar to what it was last year, but there is still a bit of a change. He is using the four seam about 5% more than he was last year. Therefore, his slider usage has gone down 5%. When it comes to the movement that he is getting on the fastball, it has gone up giving him more of a break. Meanwhile, twelve out of his thirteen home runs he has given up this year, have come off the fastball. When looking at the details of all the pitches that went yard, there is no similarity except for one. All of his break, extension, and rpm are not a factor, but what has become a factor is when the pitch is thrown.
The majority of the homeruns he has given up are either on the first pitch or when he starts out behind in the count, mostly in 3-1 counts. His most recent home run given up to Marwin Gonzalez was a first pitch fastball down the heart of the zone. The first pitch fastball leads right into the next point, a big reason Hader’s effectiveness has declined this year.
It is no secret that Hader’s fastball will be apart of every at bat he pitches, what also is not a secret, is when it is thrown. At the start of every at bat, a hitter goes into it knowing there is almost a 90% chance they will be thrown the fastball on the first pitch. Also knowing that the most frequent location the pitch is thrown is up in the zone. That has made his first pitch swing rate has drop 7% than what it was last year. That is putting him behind the count 7% more than last year. Leaving him more susceptible to the long ball. Unfortunately the issues he is encountering, don’t stop there.
The last thing any Brewer fan wants to hear is that hitters are getting used to, and sitting on Hader’s four seam. Unfortunately, that has come a reality. It is shown majorly in the fact that his foul ball rate has skyrocketed 10% higher than last year. That is leaving hitters to see more pitches, which are probably going to be fastballs, and getting more accustomed to them. The contact doesn’t stop outside the foul ball lines. His barrel% has risen 4% more than last year. All of these numbers for Hader have risen more than people would like. However, there is still hope alive to see the real Hader back into action.
Craig Counsell has already discussed the idea of bringing him into less stressful games, where there would be a 3-4 run lead. Not only will that relieve some of the stress of the young flamethrower, but also give him and pitching coach Chris Hook an opportunity to play around with a different approach on the mound. It’s safe to say that there is no reason to get too concerned over the recent issues of Josh Hader. He is still very young and has a somewhat of a predictable scheme when not executed correctly. Needless to say, keep your hopes alive and trust in the process.