Very little has gone right for Josh Hader since his surprising trade to the San Diego Padres. Hader was bad on Thursday and even worse on Friday as the Padres dropped back-to-back home games to the last-place Washington Nationals. And before the third game of the series between the two teams, San Diego manager Bob Melvin made an important announcement regarding his newly-acquired reliever.
Dennis Lin of The Athletic quoted Melvin saying that Hader is not the closer. But the demotion isn’t permanent. For now, it’s “a little break.”
Bob Melvin said the Padres are giving Josh Hader “a little break” from the closer role. For now, they will use a closer by committee.
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) August 20, 2022
Hader losing the closer gig caught the attention of the MLB world.
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 20, 2022
They don't have a choice. Hader is not Hader right now.
— Chris Reed (@Chrisreed619) August 20, 2022
— David James (@DavidDJJames) August 20, 2022
I can't keep up. https://t.co/lyJ8fjbkxz
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) August 20, 2022
The demotion is understandable. In five outings since joining the Padres, Hader has a 16.20 ERA, 3.000 WHIP, has five walks and two hit batsmen in only 3.1 innings. And while the sample size is small, Hader’s normal swing-and-miss stuff hasn’t been there. He’s struck out only four hitters for a K.9 rate of 10.8. By contrast, his K/9 rate with the Milwaukee Brewers before the trade was 15.6.
But while it seems like a rapid decline from the All-Star reliever, a deeper look tells a different story. In July, Hader had a 12.54 ERA and 2.25 WHIP. And while the strikeouts were there (his K/9 rate was 17.4), the control issues were also noticeable. He had a 4.8 BB/9 rate and had another hit batsman.
Getting out of the closer role could help ease some of the pressure off of Hader. With that, maybe he can find his mechanics. Another issue, though, is that as bad as Hader has been, San Diego’s struggles go well beyond him.
Case in point, his outings on Thursday and Friday were not save opportunities. In both cases, he was coming into a tie game. On Thursday, the score was 1-1 while on Friday, it was 3-3. There was no margin for error and no real reason to believe that the Padres would score a run in the bottom of the inning if he allowed one in the top half.
If San Diego’s offense can get going, Melvin might have a chance to get Hader into some lower-leverage spots. And if he can use those chances to fix what’s wrong with him, maybe he’ll be better in the high-leverage chances.
[Dennis Lin on Twitter]