This unsustainable statistic may have Astros fans second-guessing Josh Hader signing

Josh Hader may be an elite closer, but he's got to improve this aspect of his game.
Houston Astros pitcher Josh Hader
Houston Astros pitcher Josh Hader / Tim Warner/GettyImages

When the Houston Astros lost reliever Kendall Graveman to season-ending surgery earlier this year, the back-end of the bullpen looked rather thin. The Astros' front office then pulled a rabbit out of their hat and agreed to a blockbuster deal with free agent reliever Josh Hader.

Hader had just completed another fine season in San Diego and cemented his status as one of the best closers in the game. During his final season with the Padres, Hader had 33 saves in 61 appearances out of the San Diego bullpen.

Hader was striking out 13.58 batters per nine innings pitched and posted an outstanding 1.28 ERA and 2.69 FIP. It was easy to see why Houston shelled out $95 million for Hader's services.

The long ball is haunting Astros closer Josh Hader this season

But during his first season in H-Town, Hader has looked rather shaky at times. The left-hander took the L on Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins after allowing the game-winning home run to Christian Vázquez in the bottom of the ninth inning. That was the eighth big fly Hader has allowed this season, and the Astros' fanbase has to be wondering whether or not he was actually a good acquisition on the part of Houston's front office.

Hader is currently allowing 1.85 home runs per nine innings pitched. That's the highest number of his career. Hader allowed just three round-trippers last season with the Padres, and the eight homers is the most he's given up since allowing 15 balls to leave the yard in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Hader has never been a ground ball pitcher, but his home run to fly ball ratio this season is sitting at an unsustainable 20% and is up almost 15% from last season. Hader has also seen a huge spike in both average exit velocity and barrel rate — two areas where he dominated the opposition in 2023.

According to Baseball Savant, Hader ranks among the bottom 10% in all of baseball in average exit velo just a year after being among the top 15%. His 10.7% barrel rate is among the 9th percentile this season and his hard hit rate is sitting at 41.7%. Last season, those numbers were at 4.4% and 28.3%, respectfully.

Hader has converted 15 of his 16 save opportunities this season, so it's tough to ridicule the southpaw when it comes to doing his job as the Astros closer. But outside of save opportunities, Hader has been unreliable, and the advanced metrics don't paint a pretty picture moving forward. This could be problematic for Houston as they try to claw their way back into the playoff chase, and could potentially even scarier long-term if left uncorrected.

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