This oft-forgotten Astros reliever might just outshine Josh Hader in 2024

Is Josh Hader the Astros best reliever?

Houston Astros pitcher Bryan Abreu (52) throws
Houston Astros pitcher Bryan Abreu (52) throws / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Abreu won't be on the Houston Astros' Opening Day roster (since he'll be serving the two-game suspension that was deferred from the 2023 MLB Postseason), but the right-hander figures to be a big part of the Astros success in 2024.

But will Abreu have a more impactful season that fellow reliever Josh Hader? The Astros made Hader the highest-paid relief pitcher of all time earlier this offseason by inking the star closer to a five-year, $95 million contract and effectively pushing Ryan Pressly into a setup role.

No one is going to doubt Hader's accomplishments nor his effectiveness, but games aren't just won and lost in the ninth inning. The last time I checked, a team has to get 27 outs in order to win a game. Abreu will be key to the Astros' success and could outshine Hader in 2024.

This oft-forgotten Astros reliever might just outshine Josh Hader in 2024

The back of the Astros bullpen will be superior to just about every other team in Major League Baseball. If the 'Stros enter the seventh inning with a lead, it could be all over but the shouting.

Again, no one is going to deny what Hader's accomplished in this league. The left-hander is arguably one of the best relievers in the game. But if you put the number side-by-side, Abreu had almost as good of a season as Hader in 2023.

Josh Hader

Bryan Abreu

1.28 ERA

1.75 ERA

2.69 FIP

2.98 FIP

36.8% K rate

34.8% K rate

13.0% BB rate

10.8% BB rate

1.7 fWAR

1.5 fWAR

Hader has a slight edge in most statistical categories, though Abreu did appear in 11 more games, pitched in 15 more innings, and had a lower walk rate. Hader was lights out when he was on the bump in 2023, but the left-hander did have his struggles in 2022. Hader owned a 5.22 ERA that season and gave up an inordinate amount of home runs, scuffling mightily after moving over to San Diego midseason.

That's one area in which Abreu has excelled. The 26-year-old does a good job of keeping balls from becoming souvenirs. Hader has allowed 11 gopher balls over the past two seasons, while Abreu has only seen eight balls leave the yard.

Fans should look for Hader to get the bulk of his work in the ninth inning after Astros manager Joe Espada named the southpaw Houston's closer for the 2024 season. But Abreu's work in the seventh and eighth innings could be just as important, if not more so, depending on the matchup. Abreu is poised to put together fantastic season, and could outshine Hader during the upcoming season.