By In Stuff

Ballot 16 (tie): Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman

Played 18 years with three teams

Seven-time All-Star, led league in saves twice, second all-time in saves with 601. 28.0 WAR, 13.7 WAA

Pro argument: One of the most prolific and productive closers in baseball history.

Con argument: Argument is really built around saves, a controversial statistic.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Depends how you feel about closers.

Will get elected this year?: 50% chance

Will ever get elected?: 98%

* * *

One of the coolest things I ever saw on a baseball field was not entirely a baseball thing. It happened on October 20, 1998, when the San Diego Padres were playing the New York Yankees in the World Series. There was one out in the eighth inning.

And all of a sudden a bell started ringing.

And the crowd began going absolutely berzerk.

And … oh, man, it was cool.

I had not known anything about Trevor Hoffman’s Hell’s Bells entrance. Nothing. I guess I was distracted that baseball season chasing around Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa; I had not heard anything about this thing. On July 25 of that year, Hoffman came into a game at Qualcomm Stadium with the Padres leading Houston by a run, 6-5. Hoffman had been fantastic all season (he had not blown a single save), but he was really good in July — he had not given up a run yet in the month. The Padres were having their best season since, well, ever. Everything was coming together in San Diego, and Hoffman was the perfect symbol for the confluence.

And there has never been a song — not even Mariano Rivera’s fantastic “Enter Sandman” or Ricky Vaughn’s “Wild Thing” — that more perfectly fit the closer. That song has the essence sense of doom you want, you need, when a relief pitcher is coming in to finish off the game.

Here’s what that song says: Don’t even THINK about coming back. I mean … PERFECT. First those bells ringing ominously. Something dangerous is coming. And then the melody slowly up, slowly builds up, slowly builds up … it’s absolutely perfect.

 

And as I understand the story — from Bob Chandler’s Tales from the San Diego Padres — it was a young Padres’ salesman named Chip Bowers who came up with the idea of using Hells Bells. Chip Bowers: You, my friend, have a special place in baseball history. The Padres pulled out the song on the day that Hoffman was attempting to tie Rod Beck’s Major League record of 41 consecutive saves. And with those bells at his back and the crowd properly hyped, Hoffman pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Moises Alou to end the game. A legend was born.

Well, it should be said that the legend of Hells Bells did have a few bumpy moments. The very next day, when Hoffman was trying to break Beck’s record, Hells Bells played, and the crowd went crazy and … Hoffman gave up a game-tying home run to, yes, Moises Alou. So it didn’t always work.

But it MOSTLY worked. I mentioned this stat before — Hoffman had a fantastic 91% save conversion rate in San Diego. With Hells Bells playing, it was 93%.

The fact that any of this happened for Hoffman is a great baseball story, one of the best — Hoffman was an 11th round pick by Cincinnati as a shortstop. He never pitched in high school. He never pitched in college. He signed for $3,000 with the Reds and promptly proved without any room for doubt that he could not hit well enough to play in Class AA, much less Major League Baseball. All he had wanted was to follow the path of his brother, Glenn, who played nine years in the big leagues as a shortstop and third baseman. That, everyone including Hoffman soon realized, was just not a possibility.

“I couldn’t handle the daily grind,” Hoffman told SI’s Tom Verducci.”I could not take that 0-for-four and just put it away.”

Hoffman’s Class A coach Jim Lett told him to give pitching a try — that happens now and again when an everyday player with a bazooka for an arm flames out. Tim Wakefield picked up the knuckleball. Troy Percival became a flamethrowing closer. But it’s never worked quite as well as it did for Hoffman for a very specific reason: He found a pitch.

At first, he was a pure flamethrower. When he was 23, he pitched in Class A and Class AA and threw 95-plus. He struck out 75 in 47 2/3 innings as a closer. There were some scouts who thought he could become a Jeff Reardon type, heat and sliders.

The Reds management didn’t buy it. They left him unprotected and the Florida Marlins, led by Dave Dombrowski at the time, took Hoffman in the 1992 expansion draft. He made the Marlins out of spring training and pitched well enough to interest the San Diego Padres. He was part of a five-player package Florida sent to San Diego for Gary Sheffield. When he first pitched for San Diego, he heard some boos because people weren’t crazy about trading away Sheff. By the middle of the next season, though, Hoffman was the Padres closer.

He was still a gas-thrower then. It wasn’t until after the 1994 season that Hoffman found his true calling. His arm was hurting — and his velocity was down. He’d thrown his last 95 mph fastball. He had probably thrown his last 90 mph fastball. Hoffman realized he needed something more and so he developed his change-up, working extremely hard to make sure that his motion for the fastball and change was EXACTLY the same.

That was the pitch that will get Hoffman into the Hall of Fame. The Hoffman change is one of the great pitches of the last 50 years — his perfect motion made it utterly impossible to tell if he was throwing his high-80s fastball or his high-70s change. And because they looked exactly the same, the fastball was like a rocket ship and the change-up was like Bugs’ Bunny’s perplexing slowball.

Hoffman was always one of baseball’s most likable players, both for teammates and fans. Few appreciated the baseball life the way Hoffman did. He’d grown up around the game. His father, Ed Hoffman, had gained some local fame in Anaheim as the Singing Usher. Trevor used to talk about the joy of going to ballgames with his mother and father and brothers and how sometimes when the Angels were strapped, they would ask Ed to sing the National Anthem. “My father,” Trevor said, “was the original closer.”

And so, he always seemed to be having the time of his life. Everyone wants to be around that sort of enthusiasm. Everybody wants to root for that kind of enthusiasm.

I think that’s part of the reason why it was all so magic on that October day in 1988 — the bells began to ring and the noise was overwhelming. I felt goosebumps popping everywhere. It was such a cool moment, thoroughly unexpected. The Padres were in the World Series! Trevor Hoffman had become one of baseball’s best closers! It was 70 degrees and perfect and the Padres were beating the invincible Yankees and what a time to be alive.

And, no, it doesn’t really matter that Hoffman couldn’t hold on to the lead — he walked Tino Martinez and gave up a three-run homer to Scott Brosius. Well, wait, of course it DOES matter, it matters a lot, it was a low point in a wonderful career. Hoffman never got back to the World Series. But I still remember the bells ringing. I’ll bet he does even more.

There’s one more story about Hoffman worth telling — again from Verducci. Hoffman met his wife Tracy in Buffalo when he was playing Class AAA baseball. She was a Buffalo Bills cheerleader, and he had to go through various things just to meet her. But eventually — and obviously — they did meet and they go out and they did fall in love and all of that. My favorite part was after their first meeting, Tracy was telling her friends about Trevor. She told them he was a baseball player, but he must not be very good … he had to go somewhere called Instructional League to learn.

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99 Responses to Ballot 16 (tie): Trevor Hoffman

  1. invitro says:

    He’s #21 in WPA since 1930. That’s plenty good enough. Put him in.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/wpa_def_career.shtml

    • Patrick says:

      And his CAREER WAR is about the same as Mussina’s best four seasons! Not just no, h e double hockey sticks NO!

    • BillM says:

      Since 1974, if you read the definition closely. And frankly, I’m going to fisheye any stat that says ANY reliever added more wins than Sandy Koufax or Steve Carlton did.

      • invitro says:

        That must be Warren Spahn’s son at #3, and Lefty Grove’s grandson at #6, then. Or maybe you need to “read the definition closely”.

    • Doug says:

      I think there’s room for debate how valuable WPA is compared to WAR. I’m also pretty sure that how you feel about that debate is going to mirror extremely closely how you feel about relief pitchers in general. I think that’s one of the main differentiating features of WPA: it is a statistic that reflects the idea that there is something uniquely valuable about being able to get outs at the end of ballgames when the score is close. So I’m just not sure how valuable it is to point to the fact that Hoffman does very well in WPA. Of course he does well in WPA. WPA is a stat that is extremely friendly to relievers, and I think everyone agrees that Hoffman was an extremely good reliever. That’s not really the point of argument.

      • invitro says:

        “WPA is a stat that is extremely friendly to relievers” — Why do you say this? WPA doesn’t care whether the pitcher is a starter or a reliever. Here are some WPA rankings of relievers: Lee Smith #71, Sutter #95, Fingers #114. Is that “extremely friendly”? There is certainly room for debate of WPA versus WAR, but saying Hoffman’s WPA rank is not pertinent is a rather strange viewpoint.

        “I’m also pretty sure that how you feel about that debate is going to mirror extremely closely how you feel about relief pitchers in general.” — Not in my case… I tend to think relievers are generally overvalued, and I’d pull Sutter and Fingers out of the HoF forthwith if I could.

        • Doug says:

          I guess it would be more accurate to say that WPA is a stat that is extremely friendly to good relievers – it’s a stat that intrinsically thinks that what relievers do is extremely important. The reason being that WPA almost by definition regards high-leverage events as being much more significant than low-leverage events, since that’s where the most dramatic changes in win probability happen. Striking out a guy in the ninth inning with a 1-run lead has a much greater effect on win probability than striking out the same guy in the first. And closers, compared to everyone else in baseball, have a disproportionately high number of high-leverage innings. Therefore, WPA thinks that the contributions of good relievers are much more valuable than WAR does – WAR just looks and sees the guys they struck out, but WPA looks and sees all this high-leverage win probability stuff. This actually shows up extremely well when you compare WAR rankings to WPA rankings – all the guys you mentioned are ranked much higher by WPA than they are by WAR (Hoffman is ranked 316 by WAR; Lee Smith is ranked 293; Sutter 403; Fingers 382). And the upshot of all this – and what I’m trying to get at when I say that WPA seems like a bad argument – is that the main point of argument over reliever value is precisely whether or not a high-leverage late inning appearance is more valuable than an equivalent appearance in an early inning. If you think they’re of equivalent value, and that a run allowed is a run allowed, it’s going to be extremely hard for any reliever to get into the Hall, because they throw so few innings. If you think that excellent, lock-down innings are intrinsically valuable, you’re going to regard closers as generally very valuable and deserving of the Hall. I don’t think I agree with the position but it’s certainly something that you can argue. But WPA as a statistic doesn’t settle that argument, any more than WAR does, because WPA as a statistic is already premised on the idea that excellent performances in high-leverage situations are distinctly more valuable. That’s why citing WPA as a reason to put Hoffman in the Hall doesn’t really make sense to me. It feels like it’s skipping a set.

          • Dale says:

            I suppose I should have been more specific. I was referring to guys who are already in the pros, majors or minors. Chapman, for instance, was initially a starter. So was Andrew Miller. On the other hand, Cody Allen was groomed as a reliever right from the start.

          • SDG says:

            Thanks. That’s pretty much what I was going to say. Any stat that purports to measure clutch is going to benefit players who get to play under “clutch (late-inning, RISP) times of the game. Whereas WAR rewards a player who plays a long time over one with a high peak. So playing just in the ninth inning will lower your WAR relative to other players.

            The thing that will keep Hoffman out of the Hall is he wasn’t as good as Rivera. Also, the relief position changes so much that comparing players to other eras is harder than it usually is. Every argument about pitching seems to be balancing a higher total WAR for modern pitchers under fewer IP. That’s going to accelerate in a few years as we eliminate the starter altogether.

          • Dale says:

            Sorry, posted that in the wrong place.

          • invitro says:

            “WPA is a stat that is extremely friendly to good relievers – it’s a stat that intrinsically thinks that what relievers do is extremely important.” — You’re getting closer, but this isn’t true either. WPA only values leverage. Relievers are only in high-leverage situations if the score is close. If the score isn’t close, even good relievers have their pitching count LESS, not more, than starters’ pitching.

            “That’s why citing WPA as a reason to put Hoffman in the Hall doesn’t really make sense to me.” — Fair enough. I guess I assumed that more people would agree that performance in high-leverage situations should be more highly weighted, but maybe I should’ve stated that. Well, I’m actually just really saying that I’m personally advocating for Hoffman’s induction. But I know he’s a borderline case, and I know there’s a real argument for just going with WAR. I just went to Hoffman’s side a few days ago, myself…

          • Doug says:

            @invitro: obviously not all reliever appearances are high-leverage. But in total, it seems intuitively true that relievers – and especially closers – have a disproportionately high number of appearances in high-leverage situations, and the statistics seem to bear this out. I mean, I just picked a couple guys at random, but I think the pattern would hold – Hoffman and Wagner have approximately double the LI of starters like Schilling or Mussina. I think that probably accounts almost entirely for why WPA rates them so highly, and I think this is almost certainly going to be true systemically for closers as against starters.

            Second, wrt WPA vs WAR: this is probably a slightly pedantic point, but I want to try to be clear about it. I think there’s a distinction between the argument about the value of closers like Hoffman, and the way that we use statistics to argue about that value. The argument I was making was mostly about the statistics, and I think it’s distinct from the argument about the value. It might be the case that high-leverage situations are more valuable. I don’t think so. But it’s a separate debate. WPA doesn’t prove that they’re more valuable, any more than WAR proves that they’re not. WPA and WAR are models for reality based on certain assumptions and the assumption that WPA is based on is that high-leverage innings are valuable. So, yeah, that’s my point – even if you think that high-leverage innings are more valuable, pointing at WPA isn’t really an argument for that. I don’t think you’re disagreeing with this, actually, so I guess I just want to make that point explicit.

          • invitro says:

            Sure, I agree with what you’re talking about in the bottom part… 🙂

          • Darrel says:

            @Dale, Perhaps more importantly WPA assumes that late innings are higher leverage regardless of the situation. To my mind this is the flaw with the stat. Assuming equal situational leverage a dominant 7th or 8th inning guy will rank behind a “solid” closer in WPA despite all other statistical evidence that he pitched better. The bump up, or down depending on your philisophical bent, for the later innings is too large for the stat to be of great use IMO.

          • invitro says:

            “Perhaps more importantly WPA assumes that late innings are higher leverage regardless of the situation.” — Where on earth did you get this idea? You are completely wrong. Don’t take my word for it though, here’s a quote from Fangraphs: “WPA is the ultimate context dependent statistic. You get credit based on how much your action contributes to the odds of winning, meaning a home run in a 1-1 game in the 9th is dramatically more valuable than one in a 10-1 game in the 9th.”

      • Pat says:

        Doug, you’re exactly right. WPA has an inherent bias towards late innings, and closers are always and everywhere inflated in the WPA rankings.

        Well… you’re not exactly right: there’s not that much “room for debate” anymore; WAR is just better than WPA, at least for pitchers. (Possible room for debate when it comes to hitters.)

        • invitro says:

          “WPA has an inherent bias towards late innings” — Unless I’m dangerously misunderstanding WPA, this is simply a false statement. WPA has no bias toward any inning. It’s zero-sum: the +34.12 WPA Hoffman earned means that other players got -34.12 WPA as a result of Hoffman’s pitching. And closers are pushed downward as well as upward; below-average closers should have WPA’s well below those of below-average SP’s with the same ERA.

          • SDG says:

            WPA has a bias toward late innings because it measures likelihood your action affected the game’s outcome. A homer in the first inning scores the same as one in the ninth (this is why I’m skeptical of any stats that purport to measure clutch) but the homer in the first inning has a lower WPA because it’s less likely to be decisive: most of the game has yet to happen. But bottom of the ninth, tied score? It’s more likely to be the difference. That’s an extreme example, but that’s the gist. I baseball ever changed the game so that some hitters only went to bat with at least 2 runners on, we’d see a dramatic increase in their WPA.

            Here’s a pretty good explanation.
            http://www.fangraphs.com/library/misc/wpa/

          • invitro says:

            “WPA has a bias toward late innings” — SDG, I’m sorry, but you’re just factually wrong here. For every late inning that is higher leverage than the 1st inning because the score is close, there’s a late inning which is LOWER leverage than the 1st inning, because the score is not close. The 1st inning is not a low-leverage situation, it’s right smack dab in the middle. Please take a second to try to understand this so you can follow what we’re talking about, OK? 🙂

          • invitro says:

            I’m going to put this another way. Imagine that all baseball situations are arranged on a line, sorted by leverage index, with low LI situations on the left, and high ones on the right. A plate appearance in the 9th inning of a tie game will be on the far right. But a plate appearance in the 9th inning of a blowout will be on the far LEFT. And the 1st inning will be right in the middle. I think you’re imagining that the 1st inning would be on the left, and ignoring the blowout situations. Here’s a quote from the source you cited: “You get credit based on how much your action contributes to the odds of winning, meaning a home run in a 1-1 game in the 9th is dramatically more valuable than one in a 10-1 game in the 9th.” (The source should probably add that a home run in a 1-1 game in the 1st inning is somewhere in between these two.)

          • MikeN says:

            And your good relievers will be in more of the high leverage 9th inning matchups than the low inning ones.

          • Simon says:

            WPA has a bias towards late innings. For every inning that passes until you reach the 9th, the maximum WPA you can earn on a single play increases. Every play that serves to make the game “more exciting” – tying the game or breaking a tie – carries a higher value in each successive inning. For the same score-base-out situation, more WPA is up for grabs in late innings than in early innings.

            Another post mentions John Axford as an example of why it’s hard for closers to accumulate WPA. If you look at his record more closely, he’s more of a good example of how it is easier for closers. Axford was a Good Closer for two years, 2010 and 2011 – WPA 2.4 & 4.0. Ten years of that gives you +32 WPA.
            Then, in 2012, he became a Bad Closer. Through June 10 his WPA was 0.04. After that, he blew 8 more saves and went -2.0 WPA. In 2013 he blew his first 3 games, a -0.66 WPA in 2.1 innings, and then he was Not Closer.

            Absolutely you have to be good to keep being allowed to close, year after year. But because of the way that modern closers are used, once you stop accumulating positive WPA, you stop being closer.

            WPA with pitchers has its uses, but it is disingenuous to compare starters to closers using that statistic. It would be like comparing fielding percentage for different positions and concluding that Adam Dunn (.981) was just as good at fielding as Ozzie Smith (.978) – not fair.

          • invitro says:

            “WPA has a bias towards late innings.” — No, it doesn’t. I’ve explained in detail why; you’d know this if you read the comments.

          • Simon says:

            I’ve read your posts and I do think I understand what you are saying. I don’t think you’re totally wrong, but I think there’s an important piece missing.

            “Imagine that all baseball situations are arranged on a line, sorted by leverage index, with low LI situations on the left, and high ones on the right. A plate appearance in the 9th inning of a tie game will be on the far right. But a plate appearance in the 9th inning of a blowout will be on the far LEFT. And the 1st inning will be right in the middle.”

            Yes, this is correct, I agree with your assessment here. We can use this model.

            1. High-LI is only possible in late innings.
            In this LI line, we have low LI at the far left and high LI at the far right. Yes, I agree with what you wrote. However, there’s more. It is not possible for early inning situations to be to the far-right. It IS possible for early inning situations to be far-left. As the game proceeds, if the score is close, new upper bounds are opened towards the right end of LI that were unreachable in earlier innings.
            The highest possible leverage index in the first inning is 2.9. By the 5th inning, it is 4.2. By the 7th, 5.9. In the bottom of the 9th, it *can* reach 10.9.
            [http://www.insidethebook.com/li.shtml]
            That doesn’t mean those highs are actually reached, but it is possible. You won’t find a 3rd inning LI at the far right, but you could find it near the far left.

            2. Teams more often use their closers and other top RP in late innings of close games.
            I hope we agree on this.

            3. Close games are more common than blowouts.
            I cherry-picked high-scoring BOS & CHC as teams I thought might have more blowouts, and KCR and NYM as team I thought might have more close games. “Close games” are decided by 2 or fewer runs OR someone gets the save.
            CHC – 90
            BOS – 99
            KCR – 99
            NYM – 109
            “Blowouts” are decided by 5 runs or more:
            CHC – 55
            BOS – 41
            KCR – 47
            NYM – 37

            There are more close games (with high-LI late innings) than blowouts (with near-zero-LI late innings). Teams use their closers more often in close games. Closers are more likely to pitch high-LI situations than other pitchers because they pitch almost always in the late innings of close games.

            But the debate is whether the stat WPA itself is tilted towards late innings, right? If all games were close, then hopefully we can agree that WPA would be biased towards late innings. If all games are blowouts, then I would say that WPA is biased towards earlier innings.

            “For every late inning that is higher leverage than the 1st inning because the score is close, there’s a late inning which is LOWER leverage than the 1st inning, because the score is not close.”
            I disagree. If we are relying on a balance between close games and blowouts to remove any bias from WPA towards early or late innings, then I don’t think that balance exists. I counted close games and blowouts to see if such a balance exists, and it doesn’t. Close games are more common than blowouts.
            “a home run in a 1-1 game in the 9th is dramatically more valuable than one in a 10-1 game in the 9th” – AND, it is much more common to have the opportunity to hit in a tie/close game in the 9th than it is to hit in a game where one team is up or down by 9 runs / a blowout.

        • Pete R says:

          When you say “closers are inflated”, that applies to their bad games as well as their good. And that’s perfectly fair because their innings, more often than not, are above average importance.

          WPA measures a player’s value compared to the average.

          Hoffman: WPA 34.1, 601 saves.
          Jon Axford: WPA 0.05, 144 saves
          Bobby Parnell: WPA of MINUS 5.94, 37 saves.

          It is really, really hard to get a career WPA of 34.1. You don’t get it just by turning up in the 9th inning, year after year. Ask Jon Axford.

          • SDG says:

            The modern closer usage (especially for the stars, like Hoffman) is designed to reward situations where they are more likely to record a save (this a problem with misapplied stats, and why the save as a concept is such a bad idea). If you only ever go on in the ninth, while leading by three or fewer runs, you will be more likely to record a save than if you were used how old-style relievers were. Their teams are already up, and there’s little time for the opposing team to score. Closers are, perhaps subconsciously by managers and FOs, but in situations designed to get them saves. It’s part of the reason the usage doesn’t work. You’re putting your best reliever in the easiest conditions for them (unless you believe that grown men fall apart under pressure and that the ninth inning is somehow harder emotionally than the seventh, which I don’t).

          • invitro says:

            “Closers are, perhaps subconsciously by managers and FOs, but in situations designed to get them saves.” — I’m not going to defend a strategy that is dictated by the definition of save, as it’s just silly. But I’d expect the set of all save situations to overlap pretty strongly with the set of highest-leverage situations. So I don’t think the save strategy is the worst thing in the world.

            Now I’m just talking about my impressions here, from what I’ve heard and read players say, but I think that closer usage has been so defined mostly by relievers that very strongly want to know, before a game, that they’ll be pitching the 9th inning, or 8th inning, or 7th inning, (mostly) regardless of the game situation. I’m saying that I think current reliever usage is as much due to players’ desires as to managers/staffs’ desires. This is just my opinion, and I’d love to be corrected by contrary evidence (or supported by supportive evidence) :).

            “You’re putting your best reliever in the easiest conditions for them” — I don’t get this statement. Maybe you mean that teams don’t *always* put their best reliever in the highest-leverage situations? (Which certainly seems to be the best strategy, unless it would make your relievers too upset, which I think might be the case.)

    • MikeN says:

      We need a WPAVORP. If all closers are having 85% or more success rate, how much value is gained from having one guy who kept doing it?

    • Sonny says:

      And here’s your end-all, be-all argument based one 1 arbitrary, questionable statistic.

    • Patrick says:

      WPA is really, really skewed to favor closers though. We’re talking about a stat that lets Troy Percival’s 74-inning 1996 rate higher than Randy Johnson’s 250-inning 2001. That doesn’t make it wrong I guess, but I don’t know if it’s the best measure of the actual value a player provides.

  2. TS says:

    Took me 5 minutes, 11 seconds more than it would typically take to read this.

  3. Wes Tovich says:

    He’s a crazy good closer. Of course he belongs. Put him in. Like Dan Okrent used to say about Chuck Klein-there’s too much. If 600 saves isn’t enough, then you need to start another hobby like watching Danny Thomas out-takes.

    • SDG says:

      The closer, as a position, is illogical, the old-fashioned “fireman” usage makes more sense and pretty soon MLB will do away with Hoffman-type closers altogether. None of this should matter when judging Hoffman, of course. It would be like judging deadball pitchers negatively because they usually completed games, something else MLB realized didn’t make sense and got rid of.

      So we have to judge him by the standards of what he was asked to do, which was low innings, often RISP. Saves aren’t a great stat for this since they are far too context-dependent to tell us anything about Hoffman personally. The best I can think of is to judge him against the relatively small sample of players asked to do the same as him. Where he is second to Rivera.

      • Patrick says:

        No, he almost never pitched with runners in scoring position because he almost always started the inning with no one on. And he’s only second to Rivera if all you look at are Saves, which are a garbage stat for judging pitcher performance.

        • SDG says:

          Hoffman ERA+ 141 FIP 3.08 WHIP 1.058 K/9 9.36 BB/9 2.54 GB% 34.2 fWAR 26.1

          Rivera ERA+ 205 FIP 2.76 WHIP 1.0 K/9 7.38 BB/9 2.21 GB% 52.4 fWAR 39.7

          I wasn’t looking at saves. Hoffman is more of a strikeout pitcher, but otherwise the metrics overall favour Rivera, who had fewer walks. You can judge for yourself, but it’s more important to get people off the base, and an out is an out. Grounders are more likely to produce outs than other batted balls, which is why I included GB%. Both a great pitchers. But Rivera is better and it’s not just the Yankees lineup.

  4. steve says:

    “Deserves to be in the Hall: It depends how you feel about closers.” OK, Joe, I buy that. Let’s change the words “feel about” (not quantifiable) to “value” (totally quantifiable). The market tells us how to value players. (Isn’t that what analytics is supposed to be all about?)
    In 2017, Chapman will be the highest paid closer at $21 million. There are eleven starting pitchers who baseball management values more than Chapman. Kershaw, Greinke, Price, Verlander, Hernandez, Sabathia, Lester, Cueto, Hamels, Scherzer, and Tanaka. Maybe some already regret valuing a few of those starters so highly, but maybe the Yankees will come to regret valuing Chapman as they currently do.
    I’d argue the pay scale tells us how teams “feel about” closers: Willing to pay them a lot, but they are nowhere near as valuable to a team as a top starting pitcher. (Not to mention a position player who can hit home runs.)
    If we assume salary makes Chapman the current “best” closer, then there are eleven other pitchers who either are or were (or were supposed to be) better. How many of those starters does anyone think of as a HoF pitcher?
    The “value” of a closer is relatively low – lower than many starters who won’t come close to the HoF. (Not to mention lower than lots of home run hitting position players who also won’t come close.)
    That makes a closer getting into the HoF somewhat like that camel who goes through the eye of the needle – it isn’t easy. Money doesn’t lie, and closer just isn’t an important enough job, even for one with a special song. (Besides, back in the day they used to have cool mustaches,or intimidating glares, or be reputedly blind as a bat, or even mad – so the music never impresses me.)

    • invitro says:

      “How many of those starters does anyone think of as a HoF pitcher?” — Kershaw and Greinke should be locks, Verlander and Sabathia have good shots, Hernandez and Hamels should get substantial support. The rise of relievers is lowering the WAR of SP’s, and this makes the already-tricky business of predicting HoF pitchers even trickier. The BBWAA will probably lower the historical standards for SP’s… well they have to, or else there won’t be any SP’s going into the HoF in about 15 years. So I might be way off… what else is new…

      • PhilM says:

        Add Scherzer to your HoF lock list: he pales a bit in comparison to his contemporary Kershaw, but who doesn’t?

        • invitro says:

          OK, let’s line up the yearly WAR’s of Scherzer (age 32), Greinke (33), and Felix H (31) (since I have the last two open already):
          S 7.1 6.7 6.2 6.0 4.2 3.3 1.3 1.3 1.3
          H 7.1 6.8 6.0 5.2 4.7 4.4 3.9 3.9 3.7 2.8 1.6 1.3
          G 10.4 9.3 5.4 4.3 3.9 3.7 3.4 2.3 2.2 2.2 1.5 1.4 1.0 (0.1)

          What I see from that is that Scherzer’s case is inferior to Felix’s: their peaks are essentially the same, but Felix has a tail of strongly average seasons that Max is missing. Now if Max can keep up the four-year run he’s on, he could catch Felix, sure, but it hasn’t happened yet.

          And Zack has the two big years, but Felix is significantly superior in every other slot. (My face is red! Sigh, I learn a lesson every day around these parts. Thanks for the replies, guys.)

          • PhilM says:

            You’re totally right about King Felix: he’s somehow underrated while still being recognized as a special talent — it must be the blasted win totals that still muddy up the waters. Improvements in voting are happening, but at this point I bet a significant number of HoF voters would prefer Max over Felix. Which I agree, is wrong-headed.

          • invitro says:

            And I wasn’t even using wins to underrate Felix… 🙁 … Felix always reminds me of Jose Fernandez. Sigh. Of all the celebrity deaths of 2016, I think Fernandez’s bothers me the most. I sure enjoyed watching that guy pitch. 🙁 🙁

      • Peter says:

        To pick up on a slight tangent, I was wondering: what makes Greinke a lock and Hernandez not even a good shot? Of course, as a Felix fan I immediately took offence and headed to Baseball Reference to confirm my preconceptions (with as clear and open a mind as possible). Here are the stats.

        Through 2016, Greinke pitched 390 times (349 starts), 2253.1 IP
        Hernandez 359 times (all starts), 2415.2 IP

        Felix 3.16 ERA, 126 ERA+, 1.181 WHIP, 3,29 FIP, 51.4 WAR, 28.8 WAA, 29.68 WPA
        Greinke 3.42 ERA, 120 ERA+, 1.190 WHIP, 3.37 FIP, 50.9 WAR, 30.9 WAA, 26.79 WPA

        Aren’t those numbers eerily similar? They even have basically identical W-L records, 154-109 to 155-100! Anyway, I’d say Hernandez is the slightly better pitcher. But then, Greinke is easily the better hitter…

        FWIW yes, surely it’s true that HOF standards will change entirely in the next few years.

        • invitro says:

          I just eyeballed some numbers in the JAWS rankings. In particular, Zack out-WAR7’s Felix, 43.5 to 38.4. I think WAR7 is a good way to quickly evaluate a mid-career player’s HoF chances. I expected Felix to be a “lock” before I looked at the numbers. …Now you’ve done more research than I have, and yes, the two guys sure look extremely similar. I’d want to check that WAR7 again to see what’s up, as I think 5.1 is a substantial difference in that stat, but you’ve convinced me that Felix should be in Zackie’s group.

      • MikeN says:

        Jon Lester is in the discussion, with two World Series.

    • todd says:

      Respectfully (because your comment intriuged me) – if you are going to use payscale as measure of value – I think you have to consider (pretending since this can’t be done in reality) to start all existing players at zero ground without a contract and see what a team would pay for Chapman versus other pitchers and position players – instead of – assuming his current contract reflects his true value. Chapman received that contract in a situation where there is a limited pool of choices in one off season as well as other teams already established in other areas of need. I am curious to your reaction to that thought and how it applies to your measurement of value in your example. Money does lie when its framed a certain way. Chapman is very talented but his salary should be put in context.

      • steve says:

        Let me rephrase (slightly, I hope) my original comment. Did Trevor Hoffman get paid like J D Drew or like Barry Bonds? I suggest this is an indication of how valuable/important/replaceable/etc. Mr. Hoffman was.
        I’d guess nobody is in the HoF because they were the best utility infielder or back-up catcher ever. There is also a limited pool of back-up catchers who are good pitch framers and can hit 200.These are important positions on a team, and yet these players are not compensated the way starters are. Relief pitchers (both closers and middle) are important on a team, yet they are not valued like starters.
        To continue with the A Chapman analogy: The salary ranking I found shows twenty-six players making more money in 2017 than Chapman. This is roughly equivalent to management (using analytics) deciding that twenty-six players are more “useful”, “valuable”, “important” than the highest paid relief pitcher. It is also roughly equivalent to saying twenty-six current players are closer to HoF worthy than the current best closer.

        • invitro says:

          No one has said that Hoffman was as good as Bonds, or that Chapman should make the HoF. You’re straw-manning. The only claim is that Hoffman should make the HoF. Chapman is not as good as Hoffman was; any lack of prestige for Chapman doesn’t hurt Hoffman’s case a whit.

        • Fin Alyn says:

          Or you can read it that there are 5x as many SP positions available, so scarcity is what drives that market, just as in real life.

        • SDG says:

          Payscale is a poor proxy way to measure value. This is pretty interesting http://www.baseball-almanac.com/firsts/first9.shtml
          Do you think that list strongly correlates with value? I don’t. At least not enough that salary comparisons are useful here.

          I would postulate that backup catchers are not compensated because their skill is difficult to see and measure, therefore leading it to be valued less. I believe also baseball thinks it can be taught to anyone in a way hitting can’t. (Which is the only reason anyone would convert Piazza from 1B, where he was brutal, to a catcher, where he was decent). How often are bad hitters called defensive wizards?

          The best offensive players go into the Hall. The best defensive players are late-inning defensive replacements. Maybe that’s suboptimal (sometimes I feel like the last person who cares about defense) but that’s how it is.

          • steve says:

            Doesn’t moneyball tell us that bias and inefficiencies are what cause players to be both evaluated and compensated “incorrectly”. Astute management can discover and exploit these inefficiencies for their own benefit. Are we not supposedly moving toward a place where the real value of a player is reflected in their salary? Analytics tells us “player ABC is good enough to be worth $XYZ”, and all teams should pretty much agree or they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. It is not a great leap to say a HoF player can be identified not only by statistics but by his salary.

      • Patrick says:

        Here’s how I view the “value” question. In their primes, money being no object, would the Orioles ever traded Mike Mussina for Trevor Hoffman straight up?

  5. Rick Rodstrom says:

    I don’t think Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t want to sell him short either. He was an excellent reliever for a very long time, the kind of guy who gives your front office one fewer problem to worry about in the offseason.

    I think the secret to his change-up was his follow through. He really finished off his motion like it was a fastball. The key to that was his grip. The popular off-speed grips of Hoffman’s era were the circle change and the split-fingered fastball. These added movement (a screwball-like fade to the circle change and a tumbling sink to the forkball) but they were harder to grip firmly. Hoffman held his in the middle of his hand, like a palmball, so he could put everything behind it, it just didn’t travel as fast. It also improved his location, making it easier to throw quality strikes, which was an underappreciated aspect of his excellence. After Bruce Sutter popularized the splitter, everyone and his brother wanted to throw one, but I don’t recall the same rush to copy Hoffman. I don’t why.

    • KHAZAD says:

      The split finger was “new”. People have been throwing palmball style change ups almost as long as there has been baseball. Mine (along with a good curve and great control) probably allowed me to be a valuable reliever for two years after I should have been done in the 80s. There have been, as there is with any pitch, varying degrees of success. Hoffman’s was one of the best.

      My team played in an AL park, so I didn’t get to see him much, but I will get close up tickets to watch a pitcher with a great change up and see if I can tell when it is coming (Usually not, of course) I probably saw every Pedro Martinez (a different, though just as great changeup) that took place in my town.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        I never could tell the difference between a split-fingered fastball and a forkball, which has also been around forever. Pedro had a plus fastball to go along with his changeup which made it even more devastating. The wonder of Hoffman was that he had such success with such a pedestrian fastball (and without Pedro’s nasty breaking ball either). It’s what keeps me from placing Hoffman in the Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t be comfortable having him face other Hall of Famers, the margin of error would be too small. It’s one of the reasons Hoffman did so poorly in All-Star games—great hitters didn’t have to respect his heat enough.

      • SDG says:

        Neither the splitter or cutter were new when Sutter and Rivera started throwing them. They just started using them heavily, and language began to develop to describe greater specificity in fastballs (for the cutter), or as forkball variant that was around since at least the 50s.

        My guess for why there was no rush to copy Hoffman is we’re obsessed with speed. Guys who can clock in the high 90s with no control are given tons of chances. We care what the highest MLB fastball on record is, regardless of whether it was thrown for an out, which is, the point.

  6. Mike says:

    Hell’s Bells is indeed the benchmark of existing closers’ songs. Enter Sandman (which I think Wagner used before Mariano) is a close second.

    But I’ve never understood why no one used Iron Man. The ominous opening drone (twice), followed by the robotic “I am Iron Man” statement, and finally the punishing riff with the drums soon thereafter kicking in. Now THAT’S closer’s music.

    • JustBob says:

      “Riding the Storm Out” would be a good one, too.

    • invitro says:

      So just why is Big Dumb Rock* so associated with closers? What would it mean if a closer sauntered out to the mound to the accompaniment of a Luther Vandross soft love song, or “Like a Virgin”, or a Beethoven symphony? (*Don’t get mad — I like my monthly dose of BDR almost as much as the next guy or girl.)

    • Rob Smith says:

      Craig Kimbrel entering to Welcome to the Jungle is pretty strong too.

    • Mr Fresh says:

      In my mind, Hell’s Bells is associated with Albert Belle and the mid-90’s Indians. Based loaded, Belle coming up and the opposing team switching pitchers. They’d play those bells and you just KNEW the other team could feel the impending doom. And Albert came thru time and time again.

      That pre-dates Hoffman by three or four years.

      • Dale says:

        I remember the first time I heard them play it for Belle. He was leading off the tenth inning, and promptly crushed one for the W. Very apropos song for that guy.

  7. Ajnrules says:

    I’ll never give my non-existentent vote for Hoffman for the Hall but I’ll be happy for him when he gets elected.

    Although I never did understand why Hoffman and Billy Wagner finished ahead of Lee Smith in these ballot rankings. Lee Smith has the highest bWAR, bWAR7 and JAWS of the three. His WPA may not be as high but he did spend time as a multi-inning fireman. I figured there could just have been a three-way tie for 16th since all three Hall cases are about the sam anyways.

  8. John Leavy says:

    I understand the argument that closers aren’t as valuable and CAN’T be as valuable as starting pitchers. I really do understand it.

    But typically, the closers didn’t choose their role. Sure, generations ago, most relievers were former starters who’d either gotten too old to pitch 9 innings every 4 days or who’d been washout as starters.

    But today, most relievers have been groomed for that role from the start. Perhaps that means management made a bad decision, and foolishly moved a potentially great starter to the bullpen, where he was actually less valuable. But we can’t (or shouldn’t) hold that against the pitchers in question. All we can do is judge them on how well they did the job they were asked to do.

    Trevor Hoffman might have been more productive as a starter, but that wasn’t his decision to make. He did the job he was given brilliantly. What more can we ask of him than that?

    • Bryan says:

      What more could have been asked of Hoffman would be doing a better job of getting players out. Since Hoffman’s career is 18 seasons split it up into three 6 year careers. WPA is a stat that intends to reward someone for hitting a 2 run HR in the bottom of the 9th of a 2-1 game for being “clutch”. WPA/LI is a stat that intends to reward someone who hit a 2 run HR in a 2-1 game the same whether he hit in in the 1st inning or the 9th:
      Part 1: 441.2 IP, 146 ERA+, 18 WPA, 9 WPA/LI
      Part 2: 323 IP, 150 ERA+, 11 WPA, 6 WPA/LI
      Part 3: 324.2 IP, 127 ERA+, 5 WPA, 5 WPA/LI
      Hoffman is an excellent reliever who played for a long time and had a lot of opportunities, even the last third of his career is very good. Now in those exact same years in order:
      Part 1 Michael Jackson: 379.2 IP, 166 ERA+, 12 WPA, 8 WPA/LI, because Jackson isn’t a closer he trailed in WPA but from 1993-98 you can use whatever stats you want and Jackson pitches about as well as Hoffman, really impressive for a pop icon. Rivera and Percival have a lot fewer innings in that specific range of years so the best 3 relievers in the league are probably Wetteland and those 2.
      Part 2 Mike Remlinger: 405 IP, 153 ERA+, 12 WPA, 5 WPA/LI, Remlinger isn’t going to the HoF because the rest of his career isn’t nearly as good as the rest of Hoffman’s but from 1999-2004 Remlinger and Hoffman are both somewhere around the bottom of the Top 10 of relievers.
      Part 3 Matt Thornton: 367.2 IP, 71 ERA+, 6 WPA, 5 WPA/LI, it would be a big stretch to call Thornton or Hoffman a Top 25 reliever in 2005-10 probably Top 40, almost definitely Top 50.
      **
      Is that good enough for the HoF? Being the ~3rd, ~8th and ~40th best reliever in the league for a 6 year stretch. Hoffman at his best was basically the same quality pitcher as Jackson who didn’t close much and played for 4 different teams from 1993-98. Hoffman gets 2nd and 5th in Cy Young voting, 7th and 22nd in MVP and an all-star appearance, Jackson gets a single 10th place vote for MVP in 1998 the year he saves 40 games.

      • Bryan says:

        Oops, it’s 130 ERA+ for Thornton. 71 is his OPS+, Hoffman has 73 OPS+ during those 6 years.

      • invitro says:

        “1993-98 you can use whatever stats you want and Jackson pitches about as well as Hoffman” — Well, the stat I want is WPA, and 12 WPA is certainly NOT about as good as 18 WPA. Find another guy with 18 WPA in 6 seasons, and I’ll start paying attention.

        • Bryan says:

          Poking around it looks like Lefty Grove 1930-35 with 39 WPA is the most for a pitcher in 6 consecutive years. 30 is quite rare Seaver, Pedro and Maddux did that. Restricting it to pitchers with 80%+ relief appearances in a span of 6 consecutive years those who matched or beat Hoffman’s best 6 year span:

          24: Quisenberry 1980-85, Nathan 2004-09
          23: Gossage 1975-80, Gossage 1977-82, Stu Miller 1961-66, Mariano 2004-09
          22: Mariano 1996-01, Hoffman 1996-01, Nathan 2003-08, Mariano 2003-08

          Mariano has a scary number of spans that are 18+. Most of the 18+ spans are pretty well known names: Smoltz, Eck, Papelbon, Quisenberry, K-Rod, Foulke, Tug McGraw, Gagne. Armando Benitez 1997-02 and 1999-04 probably qualifies as the most surprising recent span to be 18+ WPA. Billy Wagner gets 19 from 2001-06 as his highest.

          • invitro says:

            Thanks for the stuff. Some sabermetrically-inclined fans may be surprised when in a few years, the stats say they need to make a bit of a case for Joe Nathan… OK, probably not, but maybe…

    • Dale says:

      Is it really true that most closers are groomed for the role from the start? Seems as if many are still failed starters. I haven’t crunched any numbers, but I’d love to see some solid evidence, one way or the other.

      • Bryan says:

        Depends on the starting point you want to use. Almost every MLB player was the best athlete on his team during his early teen years. They were generally starting pitchers, catchers, SS and/or CF. It’s even fairly common for an elite athlete to be a starting pitcher, short stop, point guard and quarterback when they are 12 assuming they play all 3 sports.
        Getting closer to draft age and older they often start to specialize, with multi-sport athletes like Jameis Winston: http://www.seminoles.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=209574459 becoming rarer because there are camps and training available year round for their #1 sport which might pay them millions and presumably playing more than 1 sport increases injury risk while any success the Heisman trophy winner has on the baseball diamond won’t help his draft position or first contract in the NFL.
        There are also a lot of individual factors, is some agent using Matt Harvey as a cautionary tale and telling a prospect that if he comes up as a reliever he will pitch far fewer innings for “only” around $1mil per year and keep his injury risk lower until he’s closer to free agency and then consider switching to starting.
        The agent/player won’t say he’s trying to keep his workload down, they would say that the pitcher is best suited to closing/relieving and when Chapman is going to get paid $86mil for most likely pitching 400 innings or fewer, based on workload that’s around $43mil per year for a starting pitcher it may never be in the player’s best interest to switch to starting.

        • invitro says:

          “Almost every MLB player was the best athlete on his team during his early teen years.” — You’re stopping too short… Bill James says this is true in high school, and also in college for guys that played there.

      • MCD says:

        It depends on one’s definition of “failed starters”. I hear plenty of people claim that Mariano River was not a failed starter because neither he pitch “bad enough”, nor was 10 starts enough to earn the label. I still think the term applies,

        If one’s definition of “failed starter” means pitched a couple of seasons in the rotation at the major league level and then was relegated to the bullpen, then very few closers theses days are failed starters. But that is a pretty stringent definition. Aroldis Chapman was (more or less) a full time starter in the minors, but never get out of the bullpen after getting called up. Did he not fail to crack the rotation? Many would object to the word “fail” (and I understand the rationale).

        Perhaps we use the compromise term “converted starters”?

        • Dale says:

          Yes, that’s probably a better term. Thanks.

        • Fin Alyn says:

          No he didn’t fail to crack the rotation. The Reds had no reliable closer, saw he could pitch 100mph, and never even gave him the chance. It was also widely discussed that the Reds felt they could keep from having to pay him a higher salary if they kept him in the RP role. Talent had pretty much zero to do with Chapman even getting a look at being a SP and instead it was the Reds short term need coupled with their long term cheapness.

  9. Dale says:

    Dale

    January 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I suppose I should have been more specific. I was referring to guys who are already in the pros, majors or minors. Chapman, for instance, was initially a starter. So was Andrew Miller. On the other hand, Cody Allen was groomed as a reliever right from the start.

  10. Mark Daniel says:

    With the NFL Hall of Fame finalists being announced yesterday, I started wondering what the football equivalent of closers was. The NFL has a bunch of hall of famers at almost every position (QB, RB, OL, WR, TE, DL, LB, DBs), but only 3 kickers and one punter. For the 3 kickers, one is George Blanda (who also played QB) and Lou Groza (who also played OL). So, essentially, there is one kicker (Jan Stenerud) and one punter (Ray Guy). Kickers and punters are the equivalent of closers.

    I see no special teams players in the HoF, so I’m guessing they are the equivalent of the DH in baseball.

    • invitro says:

      “Kickers and punters are the equivalent of closers.” — Is punting considered the most important situation in football?

      • Mark Daniel says:

        Sometimes. Remember that Michigan-Michigan State game from last year?
        I should have been clearer. Kickers and punters are the equivalent of closers when it comes to respect from HoF voters.

        • invitro says:

          You’re right… I misread what you wrote, my mistake. (And as someone who lives in shouting distance of an SEC school, I assert my inalienable right to studiously ignore any Michigan-Michigan State games. You mean to tell me they play football that far north?)

    • Bryan says:

      Offensive Guards are the equivalent of relievers. If you excel enough like John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, Mariano or Hoyt Wilhelm you can still get elected even without the voters being heavily criticized for the selection. Bruce Mathews probably helped by being Guard/Center (and even some Tackle) same as Eckersley was helped by the novelty of Starter and Reliever.
      No one wonders why a potential Hall of Fame kicker like Adam Vinatieri didn’t play another position, he pretty clearly can only be a kicker or a punter. But people can wonder if Chapman would be more valuable to his team as a starter or wonder why Joe DeLamielleure didn’t play Tackle if he was good enough to belong in the Hall of Fame and make him wait an extra 10 or so years.

      • Patrick says:

        No. Offensive guards play the same number of plays as QBs. Relievers pitch 25-30% of the innings Hall of Fame caliber starters do.

        The better football analogy to the closer is your 3rd down running back who gets 85 carries a year while the starter gets 200-250

    • SDG says:

      I don’t think so. Closers in the modern sense are fairly new, but there have been relief pitchers in the Hall and they weren’t controversial at the time. Sutter, Fingers, Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm were all elected by the BBWAA. Lee Smith would have too if his career ended a few years earlier and Rivera has a shot at getting more of the vote than Griffey did. Given that most people think all those relievers were a mistake (except Rivera) it would seem RPs are given a leg up in the voting. And now that closer is something of glamour position out of the bullpen, it would be likely more of them will be in contention for the Hall.

      There has never been anyone elected who spent most of his career as DH, yet. Martinez is in his 8th ballot and has yet to crack 50%. We’ll see with Ortiz. I bet it takes awhile for him too.

      • Patrick says:

        Eckersely started 361 games, and frankly, would have been a borderline case had he finished his career as a SP. He produced 151 wins and 45 WAR through his age 31 season. He’d likely not have made it, but there’s no reason to think 250 wins 65 WAR wouldn’t have been possible had he remained a starter—especially considering he went to great team (Look what they did for Dave Stewart). There are pitchers with worse in the Hall

  11. Alter Kacker says:

    Saw him in college — wonderful shortstop.

  12. Subata Sircar says:

    It’s not “clutch”, it’s math. WPA is a context-dependent statistic. Recording the last out of a 1-0 game changes the odds of your team winning by a lot more than recording the last out of a 10-0 game, or the first out of a zero-zero game. Those odds are calculated by seeing what actually happened in the other outcomes of these situations, so we know that on average, it’s not hard to win a 10-0 game, but it’s not as easy as you think to win a 1-0 game by getting three outs. That’s what WPA measures – the odds of your winning the game changing via the odds of the game state. It’s only “biased” in the sense that late-inning specialists get predominantly deployed in those situations.

    If you believe that any random pitcher could do about as well in those situations, and hence that there is nothing “special” about these specialists, then your argument isn’t that WPA is biased; it’s that closing is an easy job, not a special one.

    That view, btw, isn’t supported by WPA either. As others have posted, very few closers not named Rivera or Hoffman have consistently racked up these kinds of numbers, despite getting similar leverage indexes and late-inning opportunities. (And Hoffman pitched effectively for a long time, as reflected by those 600 saves, so he did get more opportunities in which he also pitched well.)

    Thus, I would support Hoffman for the Hall if I had a vote and room on my ballot.

    • Bryan says:

      Going by WPA, Hoffman doesn’t stand out from non-Rivera relievers until you get the bar pretty low, only counting seasons the pitcher had 80%+ of his appearances in relief:

      6+ WPA: 16 pitchers including Hoffman have 1, 1984 Willie Hernandez 8.6 and 1973 John Hiller 8.4 are the 2 highest seasons by WPA for a reliever, 1996 Troy Percival 6.58 barely edges out 2003 Eric Gagne 6.56 for highest of Hoffman’s era.
      5+ WPA: Gagne is the only one with 3, Hoffman is 1 of 8 with 2 such seasons.
      4+ WPA: Mariano 5, Gossage and McGraw 4, Hoffman is 1 of 6 with 3 such seasons.
      3+ WPA: Mariano 11, Nathan, Armando and Gossage 6, 5 with 5, Hoffman is 1 of 8 with 4 such seasons.
      2+ WPA: Mariano 15, Hoffman 8, 6 with 7, 5 with 6 such seasons.
      1+ WPA: Mariano 17, Hoffman and Gossage 12, K-Rod and Todd Jones 11, Wagner and Reardon 10, 6 with 9 such seasons.
      ***
      Which gives you 6-5-4-3-2-1+ WPA seasons of:
      Rivera: 0-2-5-11-15-17
      Gossage: 1-2-4-6-7-12
      Hoffman: 1-2-3-4-8-12
      McGraw: 1-2-4-5-7-9
      Nathan: 0-2-3-6-7-9
      Quisenberry: 1-1-3-4-6-6
      Wagner: 0-1-1-5-7-10
      ***
      Even without a 6+, with a large lead starting at 3+ like almost any reliever ranking it’s really hard not to put Mariano first. Gossage with an edge over Hoffman, McGraw probably 4th, probably Nathan over Quiz and Wagner in 7th. Or however someone wants to tweak the order. Hoyt’s highest is “only” 3.8, Fingers 3.7. Eckersley 5.1, 4.6, 3.2, 3.2 on top of his very respectable starting career. Sutter 5.1, 4.4, 3.9, 3.5, 3.1 without the starting career.

  13. Chris says:

    Summer of 1 1998 – me and two buddies caught a couple Cardinal games against the Padres. After the first game (a 13-1 Cardinal win), my friends and I decided to head over to the “hot new club” in Saint Louis. After waiting in line for an hour (or more) we finally got in, only to remember how much we hated dance clubs and paying $6/beer. The night was rescued when I overheard someone say Trevor Hoffman was at the bar. We walked over, looked around, and sure enough — there was Trevor Hoffman, 3 sheets to the wind. “Hey Trevor, tough game tonight” one of us said (maybe me). He looked over at us, smiled, and said “We fucking sssucked”. My buddies and I laughed and left the man alone.

    The next day, we got to the stadium when it opened to watch batting practice (McGuire!). Eventually, we saw Hoffman on the field playing catch along the third base line. We made our way down the front row of the stands and yelled out “Hey Trevor, how ya feelin’?” and “Hey Trevor, how’s the head”. He did not turn or acknowledge us, but he did smile. Since then, I have always though of Trevor Hoffman as a “good dude”.

    Post Script — that same night at the “hot new club” — one of my friends (the handsome one) made out with a chick who thought he was JD Drew. Ahhh — college memories.

  14. Squawks McGrew says:

    I’m more of a small Hall guy and I’ve had to come to terms with some relievers in the Hall by rationalizing if they have the numbers did they also 1. Have a pitch considered the finest of all-time (Hoffman, Sutter, Wilhelm, Rivera) or 2. Change the way the game’s played (Gossage, Eck)? It helps me sleep a little better. LOL.

  15. Cardsfanboy says:

    The one thing I keep telling people about Hoffman, is that he was quite possibly the best closer in the past 30 years when it came to inherited runners. Rivera, Wagner allowed 28% of their inherited runners to score, Hoffman allowed 21%, the only pitchers with over 200 inherited runners to have a better percentage were all loogies, who’s job was one batter and done, and so they could fail, but as long as the run didn’t score it didn’t matter for their inherited runner percentage since they would be pulled for the next batter.

    I’m not a fan of relievers in the hof, but I have very little problem with either Hoffman or Wagner going in. It’s a new age.

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