The Milwaukee Brewers shocked Major League Baseball when they traded closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres the day before the 2022 trade deadline. Hader has been one of MLB's best relievers for years and is a four-time All-Star. It turns out, the Brewers might have known something the rest of us didn't. Because right now, Hader is broken.
On Thursday night, Hader relieved Yu Darvish with one out in the top of the ninth inning and the Padres tied 1-1 with the Washington Nationals. There were runners on first and second and it was on the Padres' new closer to end the Nats' rally. Hader hit Luke Voit to load the bases, then walked Nelson Cruz on four pitches to force in a run. Keibert Ruiz then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1. Hader surrendered an infield single to C.J. Abrams to re-load the bases, then Lane Thomas lined out to center. The Padres lost the game 3-1 and Hader deserves most of the blame.
That was Hader's fourth outing with the Padres and the second in which he's melted down. On August 9 against the San Francisco Giants, he entered the game with a 4-1 lead and blew a save. He allowed three runs on one hit and three walks. Luckily for him, the Padres were able to come back and win.
But the past two games aren't the only cause for concern. Since July 4, Hader has pitched 11.2 innings and has an ERA of 12.34 and a 2.23 WHIP. In that time he's allowed 16 runs on 18 hits while walking eight and striking out 20. He's also surrendered five home runs and opposing hitters have a .460 on-base percentage and 1.200 OPS off of him. In that time, only 60 percent of his pitches have gone for strikes.
On the season the 28-year-old is 2-4 with a 4.58 ERA, has a1.21 WHIP and is averaging 3.9 walks per nine innings. His ERA+ is a woeful 88, and the seven home runs he's allowed are more than he surrendered in his last two seasons combined.
It's not hard to see what has happened. Hader has lost his release point and is either walking guys or getting behind in counts. When that happens he has to groove pitches and he's getting punished. His stuff hasn't gotten worse. His fastball velocity is still elite and he's mostly forcing hitters into weak contact. But he's walking too many people and getting himself in bad situations.
All closers hit rough patches. It's the nature of the job. But in the think of a playoff race, the Padres can't afford struggles from their closer. San Diego pitching coach Ruben Niebla and Hader need to solve these problems ASAP or things could get ugly.