StaTuesday: Brewers’ Hader on pace to make MLB history

Major League Baseball hitters are known to flip their bats after hitting a big home run. Frankly, we wouldn’t blame them for doing the same thing for just getting a hit off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader.

When it comes to allowing hits, you need to go back over 130 years and to a long-forgotten league (which some feel doesn’t even qualify as a major league) to find someone as stingy as Hader has been in 2018.

In 65 1/3 innings this season, Hader has allowed all of 25 hits (or 3.44 per nine innings). And he’s been getting harder to reach base against as the season has progressed. In 12 games since the All-Star break, Hader has given up all of six hits in 17 1/3 innings (3.12 per nine IP). In his last five games, dating back to Aug. 11. Hader has pitched nine innings and allowed one hit — a double to Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier on Aug. 24 — with no walks or hit batters and 12 strikeouts.

When it comes to major-league history, no pitcher who has thrown at least 50 innings in a season has a better H/9 IP. With a minimum of 60 innings, the closest is 3.88, by Craig Kimbrel in 2012. No pitcher in major-league history has thrown 70+ innings and had an H/9 IP of less than 4.00. We repeat, no one. With a little over a month to go in the season, Hader certainly has a good chance to be the first.

Only two who pitched at least 30 innings have a better hits per 9 than Hader, and one occurred in 1884 by another Milwaukee hurler — Ed Cushman of the Union Association’s Grays. The UA lasted just one season and the Milwaukee franchise took over late in the year for another team which folded and played all of 12 games. Cushman had a no-hitter among his four starts. It should also be noted that the pitching distance was shorter than it is now and there’s a debate among baseball historians whether the UA should even be considered a major league.

BEST H/9 IN MLB HISTORY (min. 30 IP)

PITCHER YEAR TEAM IP H/9
Ed Cushman 1884 MIL 36 2.50
Mike Adams 2009 SD 37 3.41
Josh Hader 2018 MIL 65.1 3.44
Aroldis Chapman 2014 CIN 54 3.50
Carl Edwards Jr. 2016 CHC 36 3.75
Neftali Feliz 2009 TEX 31 3.77
Aaron Sanchez 2014 TOR 33 3.82
Kevin Siegrist 2013 STL 39.2 3.86
Craig Kimbrel 2012 ATL 62.2 3.88
Huston Street 2012 SD 39 3.92
Carl Edwards Jr. 2017 CHC 66.1 3.93
Doug Henry 1991 MIL 36 4.00
Koji Uehera 2013 BOS 74.1 4.00

While Hader has been allowing fewer hits recently, he’s also striking out fewer batters — although he’s still at 12.5 K/9 since the All-Star break and 15.57 K/9 on the season.

That rate isn’t the best in MLB history, but it’s up there. Previous to this season, only four pitchers (for a total of seven times) have recorded a K/9 of 15.0 or higher (minimum 60 innings).

HIGHEST K RATE, MLB HISTORY (min. 60 IP)

PITCHER YEAR TEAM IP K/9
Craig Kimbrel 2012 ATL 66.2 16.66
Craig Kimbrel 2017 BOS 69 16.43
Carlos Marmol 2010 CHC 77.2 15.99
Aroldis Chapman 2013 CIN 63.2 15.83
Aroldis Chapman 2015 CIN 66.1 15.74
Josh Hader 2018 MIL 65.1 15.57
Dellin Betances 2016 NYY 73 15.53
Aroldis Chapman 2012 CIN 71.2 15.32
Edwin Diaz 2018 SEA 64 15.19

Hader has 113 strikeouts entering Tuesday’s game, which is tied for the 22nd most among relievers in MLB since 2000. Brad Lidge has the most in that span, with 157 in 2004 for Houston.

If Hader can strike out 14 more batters, he’d vault into a tie for sixth place since 2000, but also set the Brewers record for most whiffs by a reliever — 126, which was set last year by Corey Knebel.

Hader and Knebel are the only Milwaukee relievers to strikeout 100 or more in a season; four others have reached 90.

MOST K, BREWERS RELIEVER

PITCHER YEAR IP K
Corey Knebel 2017 76 126
Josh Hader 2018 65.1 113
Julio Machado 1991 88.2 98
John Axford 2012 69.1 93
Will Smith 2015 63.1 91
Tyler Thornburg 2016 67 90

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns