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Astros: Why I Love the Hader Deal- Part 1

Updated: Feb 16

This was the FIRST Premium article, and it has now been released to all. Please subscribe to the Premium Content to read.


Here is the link to Part 2



Yesterday, the Astros made the huge move the Astros fan base has been begging for when they made a deal to sign Josh Hader. The Astros went even further than I expected them to go in this signing, and the fan base has a right to be VERY excited.


As a reminder we did say these things as we prepared for this offseason.


"We defined our financial limits understanding this team has huge extension and re-signing decisions to make. From our "Astros 2024-2025 Payroll Projection" article we concluded that the Astros had around $18-20M AAV TOTAL to spend on preferably one-year deals to stay under the CBT2 in 2024 and CBT3 in 2025."


"In our "A First Look At The 2024 Astros" we defined our primary team needs as these four areas:

  1. Backup catcher that would be an upgrade over Salazar or Berryhill (NOT Maldy- he would hurt this WAR)- Complete with Caratini- Grade A

  2. Good LHRP (with loss of Neris probably a second RP too)- Complete with Hader- Grade A

  3. LHSP that can pitch at least 100 IP- No

  4. Starting LHH OF that is strong vs. RHP- if payroll space is available- No"


The Hader deal means the Astros have spent $25M AAV now in this offseason. The Astros are slightly below the CBT2 right now, but more about that later,


What we are going to do at LarryTheGM is give you both sides of this transaction:

  1. In this article, we are going to describe why signing Josh Hader is a GREAT move for the Astros and how it might help the team in 2024 and beyond.

  2. In the next article, we are going to explain the challenges - mostly financially- related of this deal and describe what the Astros MIGHT do to work through those challenges. It will be called "Why I Don't Like the Hader Deal."

I want you to be well informed as Astros fans. This is a great deal. I spent nearly seven hours on Twitter/ X Spaces talking about this deal with really smart Astros fans. That has helped shape the framework of what I am going to share in these two articles.


Here is the video for both articles.




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Now let's continue.


Who is Josh Hader?


Many Astros fans know Josh Hader but let me remind you of a few key points in time in the Josh Hader story:

  1. On 6/6/12 Baltimore Orioles Draft Hader in the 19th round (from HS)

  2. On 7/31/13, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow traded for Josh Hader and L.J. Hoes by sending the Baltimore Orioles Bud Norris.

  3. Hader rose up to the top 10 of the Astros prospect rankings.

  4. On 7/30/15, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow made probably his biggest mistake as a GM when he traded Josh Hader, Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Adrian Houser for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers with the Milwaukee Brewers.

  5. On 6/9/17, Hader was called up to the Brewers.

  6. On 8/1/22, the Brewers traded Hader to the Padres partly to save salary space.

  7. On 1/19/24, The Astros reached agreement to sign Free Agent Josh Hader

  8. In seven seasons, Hader has been chosen for the All-Star Team five times

  9. In all of his time in the MLB Hader has not been active twice.

    1. 8/2/21-8/12/21- Covid

    2. 6/15/22- 6/20/15- Paternity leave


Hader has been remarkably consistent:

  • The only season his ERA was above 3.79 was 2022 (5.22). His FIP in 2022 was 3.45.

  • Every year (omitting 2020) his WAR has been 0.7 to 2.6.

  • Over the past six years

    • Best 10.2 WAR among all RP

    • Sixth most IP- 341.0

    • Among RP with more than 300 IP

      • Best ERA 2.56

      • Second Best FIP 2.68 (behind Pressly)


Folks, the Astros have signed one of the best RP in the MLB. At age 30, he is not too young and not too old.


Some Astros Historical Pitcher Comparisons


I pulled a database of Astros pitchers' career statistics from 2022 to 2023. I wanted to capture the data for pitchers in the Minute Maid Park era once the Astros learned how to pitch in MMP (not 2000-2001). It just so happens that some of the advanced metrics I am considering here don't start until 2002, so it's a win-win.


I compared Hader to this group of 46 pitchers (more than 100 IP) which includes greats (Cole, Verlander, Pressly) and, well, not-so-greats (Fiers, Fister, Lyles). I think it would help Astros fans to understand just how GREAT Hader matches into this group.


Some highlights:

  • OPS, wOBA, K/9, K%- All number ONE

    • Cole is second at 13.1 K/9. Hader is first at 15.0!

    • Pressly is second at 0.561 OPS. Hader is first at 0.545!

    • What Hader has done well you have not seen for a generation as an Astros fan.

  • WHIP, LOB%- Second

  • xFIP, BABIP- Third

  • ERA, FIP- Fourth

Are you convinced how great Hader is yet?


Let me address something I will explore more in Part 2 - Fly balls and the Crawford Boxes. You are going to hear me and others ask how will Hader do with the Crawford Boxes in MMP? Why?


Well in our group of 47 pitchers, Hader ranks 46th with a 49.8% fly ball rate. You remember Hader is a LHP and one is left to worry about how many of those fly balls off RHHs pulling the ball will end up in the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park that were warning track outs in the Left Field of Petco Park.


The truth that we will explore more in Part 2 is some, BUT there is a positive number you need to know. When Hader gets hit it is to all fields and is NOT being pulled a lot. His Pull % is 34.7% which is sixth lowest of our 47 Astros pitcher group.


I would argue too that as Hader has aged he has become more of a pitcher and less of a thrower. Why do I say that?


In 2023 his

  • Ground Ball rate was a career high 35.5%

  • Strikeouts were down to 13.6 K/9- he did more than just strike people out

  • HR/9 and HR/FB were at career lows (His HR/9 in 2023 would be FIRST of our list)

  • Pull% was down to 32.7%

  • Hard-hit rate was down a LOT to 24.8% (his career average 32.7% would be 40th, his 2023 would be fourth)

If Hader has had a HR / Hard-hit / Pulled hit issue that would be a disaster in MMP, he has been working on it and would have been good in 2023.


Impact to the Astros in 2024


Oddly, the projections are not as optimistic about Hader in 2024 as one might expect given his consistency and excellence.

  • 63 Projected IP

  • 3.33 Projected ERA

  • 3.48 Projected FIP

  • 1.2 Projected WAR


However, Hader's projected WAR combined with Pressly (1.1), and Abreu (1.0) make the Astros threesome the ONLY team in the MLB with three RP with projected ERA's >= 1.0.


The backend of the Astros bullpen is ELITE- possibly the best in the MLB. The three of them also fit well together.

Aces
  • Hader features a sinker pitch and teams fear the LHP so much that only 19% of LHH even face Hader (probably only the best LHHs in the MLB.) Hader's slider appears unhittable.

  • Pressly has the four-pitch mix that keeps batters from locking in and out duels hitters.

  • Abreu doesn't real try to fool batters, but his fastball and slider stuff are elite.


Having to face these three in a series or in a single game is going to be an impossible game of adjustments.


I would submit to you all that EACH may benefit from the other two. Batters are going to get desperate when the seventh inning comes. Teams will know they MUST get to the starters or other relievers because the bullpen trio will lock so many close games down. Games will be shortened. Meanwhile the Astros offense will be very good and always have a chance to come back knowing their late inning bullpen can keep them close.


I am also excited to see how Espada (who is committed to WORK WITH his General Manager and scouts) and the pitching coaches deploy these three in matchup battles in late innings. I will include that call out as we go series through series this year.


Now, let's look at how the overall WAR increased with this move. First, let me say that RPs have relative WARs that are lower than any other position. While it may appear a player like Hader will be a HUGE upgrade, the WAR numbers will not reflect that.


Pitching WAR

SP WAR

RP WAR

2023

15.2 (14th)

11.4 (11th)

3.8 (18th)

2024 Before Hader

16.2 (9th)

13.1 (9th)

3.1 (12th)

2024 After Hader

16.9 (7th)

12.9 (10th)

3.9 (7th)

Adding Hader's 1.2 Projected WAR projects to add about 0.7 WAR incrementally from the move. Remember the PT Hader takes projected WAR for other players, and this is the current additional WAR. Again, I believe the impact may be greater than this in that the other pitchers will not be extended beyond their limits.


While the WAR improvement is not massive, it does move the Astros to within 0.3 projected WAR of the AL leading Yankees. Both the Yankees and the Astros project to win around 92-93 games to lead the AL. The 2024 season is setting up to be a challenge and exciting. The addition of Hader helps the Astros compete. These are the reasons I personally love the Hader deal from a competitiveness perspective for the Astros.


For more details on how the Astros will be better in 2023 read this.

Tomorrow, we will cover the challenges the Hader signing does give the Astros in their financial environment and focus on what Crane and Brown might have said during Fan Fest today.


Let me challenge you to READ BOTH this article and the one you will get tomorrow. We don't gaslight you here. We give you objective analysis which has both good and challenging things about anything the Astros might do. This is why you should value the site and PLEASE support it.



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