Josh Hader

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Josh Ronald Hader

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Josh Hader was a 19th-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 amateur draft, out of a high school in nearby Millersville, MD. The scout was Dean Albany. Signing shortly after having been drafted, he went 2-0, 1.88 with two saves in 17 relief outings between the GCL Orioles and Aberdeen IronBirds, striking out 48 batters in 28 2/3 innings. He was converted to starting in 2013 and pitched well for the Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League in spite of a 3-6 record in 17 starts. His ERA was a solid 2.65 in 85 innings, with 79 strikeouts. On July 31st, he was traded to the Houston Astros, alongside OF L.J. Hoes, in return for P Bud Norris.

Pitching for the Lancaster JetHawks on May 13, 2014, Hader combined with two relievers on a 1-0 no-hitter against the Bakersfield Blaze; he pitched six hitless frames before turning the ball to J.D. Osborne, who went two innings, and Daniel Minor, who earned the save with a perfect 9th inning. Hader went 9-2, 2.71 in 22 games for Lancaster, very nice numbers in light of Lancaster's status as perhaps the best hitting environment in the minor leagues. He was promoted to the Corpus Christi Hooks of the AA Texas League late in the season, going 1-1 in 5 starts to finish with a combined record of 10-3, 3.29 in 27 games, 19 of them starts. He pitched 103 inning and struck out 112 opponents. After the season, he was named the California League's Pitcher of the year for his work at Lancaster.

He was back with Corpus Christi at the start of 2015 and was 3-3, 3.17 in 17 games, including 10 starts. On July 30th, the Astros traded Hader and three other prospects, Brett Phillips, Adrian Houser, and Domingo Santana, to the Milwaukee Brewers for OF Carlos Gomez and P Mike Fiers. The Astros also acquired slot No. 76 in the 2015-16 international pool. He finished the year with the Biloxi Shuckers of the Southern League, where he went1-4, 2.79 in 7 starts. He was at Biloxi again at the start of 2016 and went2-1, 0.95 in 11 starts to earn a promotion to the AAA Colorado Springs SkySox. He found the going tougher there, as he was just 1-7, 5.22 in 14 starts,

In 2017, Hader made it to the big leagues in June after making 12 starts at Colorado Springs, where the results were again unspectacular: 3-4, 5.37 in 12 starts. The Brewers used him as a reliever, however, with outstanding returns: in 35 games his ERA was just 2.08, and he struck out 68 batters in 47 2/3 innings, while allowing just 25 hits. He went 2-3 and formed an outstanding bullpen tandem with closer Corey Knebel as Milwaukee made an unexpected run at the postseason, falling just short. He was named to the 2017 Topps All-Star Rookie Team after the season.

In 2018, Knebel went down with an injury after only a few games, and after veteran Matt Albers struggled in trying to take over as the closer, Hader got his first chance to save a game against the New York Mets on April 14th; the Mets had won 9 straight games, but were trailing the Brewers 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th when Hader entered the game and proceeded to strike out the next five batters in order before inducing Jay Bruce to fly out harmlessly to end the game. He had another equally impressive two-inning save on April 17th in a 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. At that early point of the season, he had struck out 25 of the 41 batters he had faced; he was in the top 10 in the National League for strikeouts even though he had pitched just 11 2/3 innings! On April 30th, he had another tremendous performance to record a save, again against the Reds: he replaced Brandon Woodruff with one out in the 7th and faced 9 batters, retiring 8 of them on strikeouts, the only blemish being a five-pitch walk to Tucker Barnhart with one out in the 8th. That earned him another save in a 6-5 win. He needed just 37 pitches to accomplish this, or an average of just over four per batter! No pitcher since 1900 had ever struck out 8 batters in fewer than three innings. He finished May with 66 strikeouts, the most by a reliever before June as per Elias Sports Bureau; Scott Williamson (65 in 2000) had held the record previously. He cooled down slightly after that, with an ERA of 2.00 in June and 2.84 in the first half of July to finish the first half at 1.50 with 89 Ks in 48 innings. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time but struggled in the game, giving up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Jean Segura, one of four hits in just a third of a inning before giving way to Brad Hand. However, with the greater scrutiny placed on him due to his emerging celebrity, light was placed on tweets he had sent out as a 17-year-old, containing highly offensive racist, misogynistic and homophobic language. He had to apologize after the game and explained that he was highly immature and stupid at the time. He was ordered by Major League Baseball to undergo sensitivity training and take part in its diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Brewers also took steps to distance themselves from his comments and to underline how seriously they were taking the matter. A meeting was set up with MLB Vice-President Billy Bean, GM David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, followed by a meeting with teammates.

In spite of that hiccup at the All-Star game, Hader continued to pitch extremely well for the Brewers. He finished the season with a record of 6-1, 2.43 and 12 saves in 55 games. He logged 81 1/3 innings and struck out 143 batters (against 30 walks), the most strikeouts in a major league history by a left-handed reliever. He was named the recipient of the Trevor Hoffman Award as the best reliever in the National League. In the postseason, he did not allow any runs in 10 innings over 7 appearances, being a major reason why the Brewers made it to the threshold of a World Series appearance, only being eliminated by losing Game 7 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On March 30, 2019, he pitched an immaculate inning in striking out the side in closing out a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. He had another very good season, returning to the All-Star Game and again winning the Trevor Hoffman Award as he went 3-5, 2.62 with 37 saves in 61 outings. He struck out 138 batters in 75 2/3 innings. However, it was all for naught in the Wild Card Game against the Washington Nationals on October 1st. He came in in the bottom of the 8th with the Brewers leading, 3-1, and struck out two of the first three batters he faced around hitting Michael A. Taylor with a pitch, but he then allowed a single to pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman and walked Anthony Rendon to load the bases. The next batter, Juan Soto, cleared the bases with a single to right that rolled under RF Trent Grisham's glove to give Washington a 4-3 lead. That's how the gamed ended as Milwaukee failed to score in the top of the 9th, and he was charged with the season-ending loss.

Hader put his poor performance in the previous postseason behind him as he opened the 2020 season on a roll. In his first 9 outings, he did not allow a single hit over 9 1/3 innings, striking out 13 with 5 walks, as he recorded 7 saves. On September 2nd, he extended that streak to a record 12 outings from the start of the season, breaking a tie with three others: Justin Wilson in 2017; Scott Aldred in 1999 and John Franco in 1987. However, the streak included a tough appearance against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 29th in which he walked 5 of the 6 batters he faced and was charged with a blown save. In the 12 games, he had an ERA of 1.54 with 9 saves, and 18 Ks but 10 walks in 11 2/3 innings. He ended the season at 1-2, 3.79 with a NL-leading 13 saves, with 31 strikeouts in 19 innings. It was his teammate, rookie set-up man Devin Williams, who won the Trevor Hoffman Award that season, in addition to being named Rookie of the Year. He pitched in the postseason for the third straight year, not giving up anything in 1 1/3 innings in his only appearance of the Wild Card Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who swept the brewers in two games.

On May 8, 2021, he became the fastest pitcher to reach 400 career strikeouts, needing just 234 2/3 innings to amass the total. It was part of an inning in which he struck out the site against the Miami Marlins. Craig Kimbrel had previously held the mark since 2014, needing 236 innings. He was off to a great start, with an ERA of 0.77 while going 2-0 with 7 saves in his first 12 outings. He was an All-Star for the third time that year and on September 11th combined with Corbin Burnes to pitch the record-breaking 9th no-hitter of the major league season. Burnes pitched the first eight frames, and Hader handled the last one in a 3-0 win over the Cleveland Indians, striking out two batters in his one inning of work. He finished the season at 4-2, 1.23 in 60 games, with 34 saves and 102 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He won the Trevor Hoffman Award for the third time. In the postseason, the Brewers were handicapped by the absence of set-up man Devin Williams, forcing all other relievers to take on more responsibility. After recording the save in Game 1 of the Division Series, he was used in Game 4 on October 12th in an unfamiliar role, coming in in the 8th against the Atlanta Braves with the score tied at 4, then gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman with two outs, that proved to be the decisive run in a 5-4 loss that ended the series. Before that game, he had given up just three homers the whole season - and none to a lefthanded batter.

In 2022, he began the year in historic fashion as each one of his first 13 outings resulted in a save. When he recorded his 13th save on May 13th, he passed Lee Smith and Jose Mesa, who were tied with a save in 12 straight outings to start a season. It also prolonged his regular season streak of 34 consecutive outings without allowing a run. In 12 1/3 innings, he had allowed just 2 hits while striking out 18 opponents. He needed just 293 2/3 innings to record his 500th career strikeout - fewer than anyone but Aroldis Chapman, who had done so in 292 innings. On May 30th, he picked up the save in both ends of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. he was the first Brewers pitcher since Jim Henderson in 2013 to do that, and extended his streak of consecutive appearances with a save to 18, and had still not allowed a single run in 16 2/3 innings. He allowed his first runs of the year on June 7th, on a pair of solo homers to Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling of the Philadelphia Phillies, ending his scoreless innings streak at 40 over two seasons and leading to his first loss of the year. His string of appearances with a save had ended in his previous game, on June 5th, when he pitched a scoreless inning without figuring in the decision in a 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres. He then went through a pretty rough patch, including back-to-back meltdowns on July 13th, when he failed to retire anyone before giving up a three-run homer to José Miranda of the Minnesota Twins, and then an outing against the San Francisco Giants in which he allowed three homers, including a game-ending grand slam to Mike Yastrzemski to turn a 5-2 lead into an 8-5 loss. Those two losses brought his record to 0-4 and his ERA to 4.50. He had already been nominated to play in his fourth All-Star Game, but had announced he would not be participating because of a death in his family. He went 1-3, 12.54 in 11 outings in July and in a completely unexpected move, on August 1st, was traded to the San Diego Padres in return for four players, including the Padres' own embattled closer, Taylor Rogers, with Ps Dinelson Lamet and Robert Gasser and OF Esteury Ruiz also headed to Milwaukee. The Padres were willing to pay a steep price, knowing that he was still under contract until the end of 2023, but also betting that his recent struggles were just a blip, while the Brewers had Devin Williams ready to step into the closer's role. He continued to struggle with the Padres, putting up an ERA of 7.31 in 19 games while picking up 7 saves. In the postseason, he was a lot better, with 5 1/3 excellent innings spread out over five outings, during which he allowed one hit and one walk, struck out 10, and ended up with the save four times. He looked like the Hader of old as he helped San Diego to make it to the NLCS where they were finally stopped by the Philadelphia Phillies.

2023 was Hader's final season before becoming a free agent, and the Padres had spent lavishly in the off-season to take the last step towards reaching the World Series. Things did not work out as planned as the team of costly stars failed to gel until it was too late, but it was not Josh's fault. He was back in dominating form, putting up a minuscule ERA of 1.28 over 61 games, making the All-Star team for the fifth time and picking up 33 saves while striking out 85 batters in 56 1/3 innings. While his walking 30 batters (or 4.8 per 9 innings) was a tad high, he gave up so few hits or homers (just 3) that it didn't really matter. He lost out to his former understudy, Devin Williams, for the Trevor Hoffman Award, but by the time he hit free agency at the end of the season, he had fully re-established his value as one of the top closers in the game. On January 19, 2024, the Astros took the plunge, signing him to a five-year deal worth $95 million.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "How the best closer on the market remade himself (twice!)",, December 7, 2023. [1]
  • AJ Cassavell: "Hader reaping benefits of rocky road to top",, October 18, 2022. [2]
  • AJ Cassavell: "Hader envisions dominance in '23. Here's how he's going to do it",, March 7, 2023. [3]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Josh Hader apologizes for racist tweets, claims they 'don't reflect any of my beliefs now'", USA Today, July 18, 2018. [4]
  • Paige Leckie: "Hader makes history with 13th consecutive save: Burnes K's 7 and allows 1 run in 7 innings as Crew opens Miami set with win",, May 14, 2022. [5]
  • Adam McCalvy: "Hader apologizes for offensive tweets from his past",, July 18, 2018. [6]
  • Brian McTaggart: "Astros agree to 5-year deal with star closer Hader",, January 19, 2024. [7]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Josh Hader: Brewers lefty, the 'coolest guy out there,' brings heat as MLB's ultimate weapon", USA Today Sports, May 17, 2018. [8]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Josh Hader is MLB's most valuable pitcher. The Brewers need him to be even better", USA Today, March 25, 2019. [9]
  • Manny Randhawa: "With 8 straight K's, Hader revving up to 100 for 1st time in career",, October 19, 2022. [10]
  • Todd Rosiak: "Milwaukee Brewers players shocked by Josh Hader's tweets, but willing to hear him out", The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 19, 2018. [11]
  • Bernie Wilson (Associated Press): "Brewers trade All-Star closer Josh Hader to Padres", Yahoo! News, August 1, 2022. [12]
  • Todd Zolecki: "'Why not us?' Phils spoil Hader's bid at history in wild comeback: Bohm, Vierling hit two homers as Philadelphia improves to 4-0 under Thomson",, June 8, 2022. [13]

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