By In Baseball, Hall of Fame

Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer?

From NBC SportsWorld: 

From an emotional point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed and admired the career of Trevor Hoffman.

From an unemotional one, his Hall of Fame case comes down to how you feel about one statistic — the save.

Hell’s Bells

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63 Responses to Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer?

  1. jalabar says:

    Trevor Hoffman was a great closer. Full stop.

    If he gets in this season, or any time soon, before Tim Raines, I will forever consider the Hall of Fame a farce (as I already should since Marvin Miller hasn’t been elected), and refuse from this point on to acknowledge its existence, including any articles on the topic (Pos’ and Jaffe are two of my favorites on the subject).

  2. I think he belongs, but Wagner is just as deserving, not to mention Edgar.

    • Billy Wagner was amazing. That one year he had with the Braves was great. It was really surprising to see him walk away on top. Few do that. When he was consistently saying that he wanted to spend more time with family & was planning to walk away, I think given his high level of performance, people thought he was positioning to sign another nice contract. Kind of a negotiating tactic that you often see. Nope. He really did want to spend more time with family. He could have gotten another year with a lot of zeroes on the check.

  3. john4psu says:

    Thanks for the info on Face Joe.

    My mom, a lifelong Pirates fan as am I, swore than Face would give up a run to get the decision. She said she’d get so mad at him. Kent Tekulve she felt confident in and she said she could relax.

  4. I am strongly biased against relievers in the Hall of Fame (although I must admit it is not that big a deal to me who does and does not get into the HoF) for a few reasons:
    1) they are almost all failed starters (or these days, they are often guys who can throw extremely hard for very short periods of time, so it is assumed they can’t be starters), which implies to me even the “closer” is at best the 3rd or 4th best pitcher on his own team;
    2) they only pitch 70 or 80 innings a year, and (most importantly, to me)
    3) the introduction of the “closer” has made almost no impact on the % of games teams win when leading heading into the 9th inning.

    I could probably get past #1, and maybe even #2, but #3 is the killer for me. Even Rivera “only” converted 89.1% of his save opportunities

    • Tadas Osmolskis says:

      To all the folks who are making the “failed starter” argument: I can name a failed starter whom none of you can argue doesn’t belong in the HOF: Stan Musial. Stan originally was signed as a pitcher, and I think he got hurt enough he was no longer effective and transitioned to the outfield.

      “Wait, that’s different!” – How? For the last 40 or 50 years there has been a role in baseball of “closer” — you can identify the guy on each team who performed the job. It’s different from “starting pitcher”, not as different as “outfielder”, but still different.

      • DB says:

        There has also been a role of LOOGY, long relief man, utility infielder, 4th outfielder, pinch hitter and the DH. No one has ever argued that any of those other than DH belongs in the hall of fame, even if they are the best ever. So far not a single full-time DH has made it and I think that Edgar and Ortiz gave a lot more value than Trevor Hoffman (and I think they should both make it but I am big hall guy). Just because there is a role and they are the best at it, does not mean they are a hall of famer. We can go to other sports. How about defensive stopper in basketball, long snapper in the football, the enforcer in hockey? All are valuable and in many cases paid very well and very important to their team’s success but that does not make them hall of famers either. It is a team sport and no one is winning unless they have the specialists along with the stars. Trevor Hoffman was a great closer but when Mike Mussina has to wait around and Kevin Brown lasted one year, then something is wrong (no GM in their right mind would ever trade either of them for Hoffman and I think that says a lot about who is really valuable). By the way, I think that Stan Musial, P does not belong in the hall of fame. That is for the other guy who was one of the greatest outfielders of all time (and you know played a few more innings).

        • Johnny B says:

          Frank Thomas was the first Hall of Fame DH – 1310 games as DH, 969 playing first. You can look it up! (I did.)

        • Mussina definitely should be in, though there will be those that say that he was never the best in the league. 270 wins might not be reached again for 20 years, or more. (BTW: Not saying wins are the measuring stick. Just sayin). With most starters going 5-6 innings over 32-34 starts, there just won’t be as many wins available. Too much can happen in the late innings that are no longer under the starter’s control.

          BTW: Here are some of the Active leaders in wins. How many of them do you think will get to 270? I say none.

          Bartolo Colon leads with 218. The Mark Buehrle (214), CC Sabathia (214). These guys don’t have a lot of tread left on the tire, so they’re not getting there.

          Then you drop all the way down to John Lackey at 165 and Justin Verlander at 157. I don’t see either one getting close to 270.

          Other notables: Zack Greinke (142), Adam Wainwright (121), Clayton Kershaw (114), Max Scherzer (105), David Price (104). Of these, only Kershaw (27) and Price (29) are under age 30. I think only Kershaw has an outside shot at 270 wins. But he has a long way to go.

          • heaveecee says:

            Curt Schilliing before any of those guys!

          • PhilM says:

            Given the average pattern of the twelve most recent 300-game winners (100 wins at age 29, 150 at 32, 200 at 35, 250 at 38, and 300 at 41), we don’t appear to have many that are likely to get that far (or even to 270). Sabathia had the best shot two years ago when he hit 200 wins at age 32, but he has tailed off too dramatically. King Felix and Kershaw hit 100 at age 27, and Hernandez will hit 150 this year at age 30, ahead of the HOFer pace — but will they last long enough?

          • jalabar says:

            Mussina pitched his entire career in the crucible of the AL East when it was a murderer’s row. He faced the World Champion Blue Jays, the keep-up-with-the-jones Yankees and Red Sox, and then on as a Yankee. Mussina deserves the Hall (I want to see Raines get his deserved spot first because he’s in danger of dropping off in two years), I think, as much or more than Schmoltz did, and he got in first ballot.

          • dshorwich says:

            Felix Hernandez has 143 wins going into his age 30 season, so he at least has a shot at 270, I’d say.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I never understood this “he should not be in the HOF because he was never the best in his league” notion. By that standard, no who played RF while Babe Ruth played should be in, CF when Willie Mays played, etc. As for wins, it certainly is not the best or primary measure, but if a guy wins a lot of games over a long period of time, it probably does reflect a level of quality. There no doubt were better pitchers than Don Sutton, who had fewer wins, but winning 300 games is nothing to sneeze at.

      • MCD says:

        Oh come now. Certainly you see the difference between a failed starter being relegated to the bullpen and one being converted to a position player.

        The “different job” argument doesn’t hold water. Is Rick Dempsey a Hall-of-Famer? He is definitely one of the best backup catchers of all time. Certainly we can agree that the job of a backup catcher is different than that of the starter catcher.

        Lenny Harris and Gates Brown are among the leading pinch-hitters of all time. They aren’t Hall-of-Famers. Part of the reason is that they were the best pinch-hitters is they were not good enough to be full-time players. Conventional wisdom says that “coming in cold” is a unique talent, and certainly that role was different from any of the starters. But their value is less than a starter, simply by how often they impact the game. All of this is pretty analogous to converted closer.

        Any closer is less valuable than a starting pitcher of comparable quality. It isn’t to say no closer is Hall-worthy, but the standard has to be higher.

        • Tadas Osmolskis says:

          No, this isn’t 1966, so I do see a difference between closer and the valuable minor talents you cite in your message. We are not discussing whether Wilcy Moore or Luis Arroyo belong in the HOF, but Trevor Hoffman (and Mariano Rivera). Teams today can not win without a closer; and the “closer by committee” is a sure sign that a team will tank badly.

          In the last two years, the Royals made it to the AL championship and the Series win on the strength of their closer, and fossils like you predicted that they’d fail, even this year after they made it to the series last year.

          If Hoffman and Rivera don’t make it in, it will be a travesty, just like Edgar Martinez’s exclusion (and they need to elect Big Papi in 5 years as well). DH, like closer, is a position (even though, as an NL fan, I hate it), and its best deserve to be in the HOF.

          The part of this argument that really drives me nuts is the “failed x” argument. IT DOESN’T MATTER. I’m always reading about pitching prospects, and coaches trying to figure out whether they’re starters or closers. Sometimes, they fail as closers (they can’t handle the physical and mental requirements of that position, which are so different from starters) and are relegated to being starters, at which they are successful – should they be denigrated as “failed closers”?

  5. hewetson says:

    The last paragraph disturbed me. Dwight Evans was not greater than Jim Rice. Bret Saberhagen was not greater than Catfish Hunter.

    • Paul White says:

      I’m the biggest Jim Rice supporter on the planet, and even I think Evans was a better, more complete player and more deserving HOF candidate than Rice was.

      • DB says:

        I second Paul and Joe. Even as hitters, they are basically the same. Rice with a little more pop and Dewey with better on base-skills. It is in the field, where the difference comes in. I love Rice but he was never close to Dewey in the field. Reason why Dewey has around 20 more WAR (and that is not because of 4 more years which also in my mind give Dewey more value as he gave an extra four years of above average value). Rice just had more peak while Dewey gave positive value every year of his career. Dewey belongs in the Hall of Fame.

        Rice .298 .352 .502 .854 128

        Evans .272 .370 .470 .840 127

      • Johnny B says:

        Evans & Rice’s final numbers are pretty close, but we’re talking different skillsets. Dewey played some fine Gold Glove outfield as well as hit. I think pitchers in that day game-planned and pitched around Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. That can’t really be measured. Dewey gettin’ on base though provided Rice with many RBI opportunities. In my opinion Rice was more dangerous.

  6. Davan Mani says:

    I like Hoffman’s durability which I didn’t like of Saberhagen.

  7. Paul White says:

    This one will please Joe. Consider two career relievers:

    Hoffman: 1089.1 IP, 2.87 ERA, 141 ERA+, 3.08 FIP, 28.0 bWAR
    Pitcher 2: 1043.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 145 ERA+, 3.24 FIP, 24.9 bWAR

    Hoffman had 3 top-5 Cy Young finishes and led the league in saves twice.
    Pitcher 2 had 5 top-5 Cy Young finishes and led the league in saves five times. He also led the league in games pitched 3 times and games finished 4 times.

    Hoffman finished in the top-10 in MVP voting twice.
    Pitcher 2 finished in the top-10 in MVP voting four times.

    Trevor Hoffman is about to get significant support in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and may be elected.
    Pitcher 2 – a.k.a. Dan Quisenberry – got 18 total votes in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and was never considered again.

    • That’s a good apples to apples comparison. Obviously “closers” were used a little differently back in Quisenberry’s day, but it’s still a good comparison. Especially since, because of different usage, Quisenberry didn’t get the same number of Saves. That’s essentially the difference between the two and makes Joe’s point quite nicely.

  8. I hear Joe’s argument, but to my mind, the HOF should admit players who were the best at what they did. If the game has a DH, then DH’s should be admitted. If we have seen decades of one-inning closers, then the best of them (and, let’s face, there really are very few who would make the cut) should get in. To me, this is a failure of the football HOF, which essentially ignores kickers and offensive linemen.

    In terms of the “failed starters” argument – there are a lot of failed starters. Many of them become mediocre middle relievers. Only a select few become elite closers, and even fewer manage to do it for a decade and a half or more. Abraham Lincoln failed a lot in life also (he lost every election before the 1960 presidential one) – but we don’t hold that against him. We honor him for persevering and for finding a way to succeed. Same with closers.

    • Kevin McGoldrick says:

      It is not true that Abraham Lincoln lost every election before the 1860 presidential. He lost his first election to the Illinois House in 1836, but subsequently won elections to several terms in the Illinois House. He also was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. He did lose the election to the Senate in 1858, but that was his only other election prior to 1860.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I wouldn’t say Lincoln “failed a lot in life.” He lost a couple of elections (but not every one), but was a very successful lawyer. Moreover, the tradition in Illinois at the time was for congressmen to rotate so, in some years, he didn’t even run for re-election to the House. He was hardly a failure before becoming president. However, you might be able to say something like that about Grant, who had left the army after the Mexican-American War and was unsuccessful at everything. Then along came the Civil War.

      • NevadaMark says:

        He served one term in the House. Lincoln’s political problem was that he was a Whig, and Illinois was a bad place to be a Whig. No Whig was ever elected as a senator or a governor from Illinois. Obviously it was different after the Republican party was organized.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Well, I think part of Lincoln’s problem was that he was anti-slavery, although not an abolitionist, and Illinois, especially the southern part of the state was much more like the South. The Whigs fell apart over the slavery issue. The Republican Party was formed as an anti-slavery party.

          • Paul Zummo says:

            He actually could have become Senator in 1854 but a small faction within his own party prevented him from getting an outright majority (this is before the direct election of Senators, so the election was in the state legislature). He dropped out rather than face the prospect of a Democrat getting the seat.

    • Johnny B says:

      I agree with the Rabbi. For the number-crunchers, statistically, the difference between Mo Rivera and a replacement-level player is marginal. (Or so I have read.) But how many times, with Rivera lurking in the pen late in the game, have opposing hitters and managers thought…. “We got to get them now, before it’s all shut down.” Psychologically the great closers have as much impact on the game as their deadly splitters.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        No one is saying the difference between Rivera and a replacement level player is marginal. The question is how much value does a great closer add. You may well be right that a Rivera affects the game in more ways than his stats show. But the fact is that teams have won the World Series with closers that aren’t Mo Rivera-or anyone anybody knows. You can say the same thing about the KC bullpen in recent years-and they don’t have a Rivera. So, again, the question is, what is the difference in value between a Mo Rivera and any other good closer-some, obviously, but probably not as much as you think.

      • That psychological impact feels like the equivalent of “grit” to every day players. Are we saying that somehow Major League players weren’t trying to score runs every inning really hard regardless of the situation & much more so if Rivera was lurking in the bullpen? And somehow, in a stadium full of people with millions watching on TV, that players could handle that pressure, but not the pressure of Rivera being in the bullpen? I’m not saying there was zero impact, but I think it’s way overblown. The main impact is just that Rivera did his job better than anyone else in the 9th. But a lot of other guys were pretty close…. and that leads to the “how much advantage” did Rivera give question. Not that much. But on a good team, like the Yankees, they were in position to close out games a lot more than other teams. So his value to them was higher than it would have been if he was on another less successful team.

  9. mensad says:

    The question of how to look at relievers for HoF induction is getting tougher for me as I read more of these kind of articles. If relievers are in essence the bench players of a pitching staff (players that have a purpose on a winning team but not good enough to play on a regular basis), then any full-time reliever would have to buy a ticket just like everyone else to get into Cooperstown. That makes the induction of Fingers, Sutter, Gossage, Wilhelm and Eckersley arguably the five worst Hall of Famers, full stop. Hoffman, Wagner, Rivera are all failed starters as well who should get no more than a one-and-done look by the voters.

    But then you contrast that viewpoint with the public focus over the last several years of the need of a strong bullpen. Detroit couldn’t win because of their lack of dependable arms once you got past their starters a couple of years ago. Kansas City has used their lights-out ‘pen to leverage their way into two pennants and a World Series championship the last two years, and other teams have taken notice. With starters completing fewer games than ever, the need of a strong bullpen has never been higher. And while the market for closers may be driven by an odd statistic, it’s difficult to believe that money being invested to create the best team a GM can could be allocated quite that badly.

    I’ve left the S-word out of this comment, as the value of the performance of getting batters out can be measured in many other ways that are much more revealing than who pitches in the last inning of a game. It’s possible (this is a suspicion without any data to back it up) that the value of relief pitching is higher than what WAR currently calculates. If that’s the case (again, no idea if it’s true or not) it would explain

    In a sense, baseball bullpens kind of feel like the offensive and defensive lines in football, to use a very, very, very rough analogy. They do the dirty work that’s needed for a team to win, but don’t share in most of the glory, with a few exceptions.

    Then again, some offensive and defensive linemen get into Canton.

    • Gordo says:

      I think is is mucho more the perception of the value of relief pitching than the way WAR calculates it. What WAR does is give all aspects on baseball a value, based on a lot of historical data that correlates really well. WAR does not give any on individual relief pitcher a lot of credit, but the cumulative total for a bullpen like the Royals is just fine.

      However, any one relief pitcher will never accumulate the same WAR as a starting pitcher just based on total innings pitched. This applies for a season or a career, and should carry significant weight when evaluating a whether a career merits HOF consideration.

      Relief pitchers will never be as valuable as position players, much like the best offensive lineman or kicker will never come close to the value of a quarterback in football.

      The HOF debate for relief pitchers has to be a question as to whether the best relievers in a given era deserve enshrinement. The will never be as valuable as starters or position players. Historically, the BBWA has done a very poor job of really understanding the contributions of relief pitchers. To Joe’s point, it often comes down to a certain rhetoric, or a magic number such as 600 saves.

      Personally, I think there are too many more deserving position players (Raines) who have to get in before we start considering relievers! The limited number of votes means that it has to be one or the other a lot of times, and there is no doubt who is more valuable.

  10. Evan says:

    I find myself mostly in agreement with Joe’s article. But I do have nagging questions about this oft-held claim that relievers are really just failed starters. Unquestionably, this is often the case. A lot of people assume this just about always the case — myself included. But is this true, or is it just “truthy”? It *seems* right, but I can imagine other scenarios, wherein relievers — and closers in particular — are simply fulfilling roles that maximize the utility of their particular skillsets. I don’t know if there is a way to investigate this idea scientifically, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the idea just because it seems right. As we all know, first hunches can be wrong in sports, as with everything.

    • Freddie says:

      Beyond though the “failed starter” argument, there is the additional point that being a stopper is much easier physically than being a starter. It is much easier to throw hard because you don’t have to hold anything back for later innings. Further, you don’t have to withhold pitches because you will never face a hitter more than once. Rivera got through his entire career with only two pitches. Sure, they are fulfilling a role that “maximizes their skill set.” But being a stopper (or just being limited to a single inning per outing), would “maximize the skill set” of almost every starting pitcher (see Wade Davis). Imagine how successful Roger Clemmons would have been had he been limited to a single inning per day. His value to his team would decline tremendously, but he would have been the top stopper of his era.
      Comparing starting pitchers and one-inning pitchers to one another is impossible. So, people make this counter argument that you can compare one-inning pitchers against each other and let in the best of that bunch. But that is not fair either because it is so much easier to pitch a single inning. It’s a lot like trying to compare a shortstop’s defensive value to a first baseman’s. Probably the worst defensive shortstop in the league has more defensive value to a team than the best first baseman. If a first baseman was truly a great defensive player, he wouldn’t be playing first base. Likewise, if a pitcher was truly one of the best of his era and worthy of HOF consideration, he wouldn’t be a single inning pitcher.

      • Walter Johnson, Satchel Paige, and Robin Roberts all were essentially one-pitch starters, so it is possible to win with one pitch. Mariano Rivera did throw one lights out start, so he had it in him, but generally he became less effective each time he went through the batting order.

        So the Yankees made him a reliever, one who delivered the coup de grace for 5 World Champions. I have no quibble qualm nor query about Rivera’s value to the Yankees, which made up for in appearances what it lacked in depth per appearance. Rivera made an impact on twice as many games as Pettitte did. He was more like a regular player, a defensive replacement inserted into the game in the late innings.

        Let’s just say that starting and relieving are both extremely valuable commodities in their own right.

        I think Roger Clemens would have been an awesome reliever, but you never know.

        • John Smoltz had fastball, slider, splitter. But arm troubles made him drop the splitter. So he was essentially a fastball, slider pitcher for several years. His change, which he introduced later, was a mediocre “show me” pitch. So, essentially he was a two pitch starter for about half his career.

  11. edelmanfanclub says:

    Does Joe Nathan deserve the Hall too?

    Nathan: 917 IP, 150 ERA+, 1.12 WHIP, 2.89 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 9.5 K/9, 26.1 WAR
    Hoffman: 1089.1 IP, 141 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, 2.87 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 9.4 K/9, 28.0 WAR

    How about John Franco?

    Franco: 1245.2 IP, 138 ERA+,1.33 WHIP, 2.89 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.0 K/9, 23.0 WAR

    Maybe Roberto Hernandez and Troy Percival?? (Just Kidding.)

    Wagner needs to go if Hoffman does and Nathan would deserve consideration. I cant think of a better reliever besides Mo than Wagner. Hoffman isnt close

    Hoffman will get in eventually, he has an award named after him and over 600 “saves” (overrated stat). He was also very consistent. He’s overrated though.

  12. One comment about Mariano Rivera. Yes, the Yankees converted him to relief after being a so-so starter.

    But the famous Mariano cutter was developed in Mariano’s second year as a reliever (1997, IIRC). I mention that because we simply don’t know if Mariano would have been a failed starter once he developed his signature, HoF level cutter.

    Yes, I am splitting hairs a little with this, but it seems like a point that often gets lost in these discussions.

    • Darrel says:

      I really really don’t want to come off as though I don’t think Rivera was great. He is unquestionably the greatest closer ever. This however is what is called damning with faint praise. I would ask one of the BR here to go back and look at a game log of any average season by either Hoffman or Rivera and add up the number of high leverage innings pitched in a year(playoffs excluded just for equal comparison). I would be surprised if it is 25. My non-researched off the cuff math suggests that most closers throw 60-70 innings a year. Seems like 10 times a year or so the guy comes into a blowout to “get his work in”. If the guy gets 45 saves a year we can assume that they would be equally split between 3, 2, and 1 run leads in the ninth. That’s 55 innings and the other 10 might be pitching when down to hold the deficit or in a tie game or blown saves.

      Your mileage may vary but a 2 or 3 run lead and the bases empty needing only 3 outs is not high leverage to me. That leaves us with the 1 run leads and I’ll give you tied and behind outings as well. 25 innings a year. We’re gonna induct guys to the HoF for making a difference in 25 innings a year. We are talking about less than 2% of a teams innings pitched. Not going into my Hall.

      • kuz says:

        Yeah, not to mention his record against right hand hitters on a full moon during lent on a west coast swing.

        • Darrel says:

          Ahh yes the old Strawman baseball has too many statistics joke/argument. The point was that a closer has VERY little measurable impact on winning and losing baseball games. The Yankees didn’t have to go and get a new closer every couple of years and that has some value I guess but it was a rare year indeed when Rivera was statistically the best closer in baseball. Closers come and go, teams win the same number of games they lead late over decades of baseball and 25 important innings a year for 15 years looks like it will get you a bust in Cooperstown. Ridiculous.

  13. Sigh. You would think after a World Series in which the Royals (a team with decent starters and an awesome bullpen) rolled over the Mets (a team with 4 Aces and a mediocre bullpen) that relievers would get some more respect. You know, if baseball games went 7 innings, then the Mets would have won the World Series, as they had late leads in 4 out of 5 games. Since games go 9—and longer—the Mets lost.

    Comparing starters to relievers is apples to oranges. Sure, a starter might have twice as many innings as the average reliever, but the average reliever has twice as many appearances. Throwing 100 pitches at a measured pace every 5 days is a different skill set than throwing 20 pitches at peak effort 3 days in a row, which is why so many relievers burn out after a couple of years. If it was just a matter of taking a failed starter and letting him pitch one brilliant inning after your quality starters got all those outs, then the Kershaw-Greinke Dodgers would have had a few World Series trophies by now. It’s almost as if holding the lead at the end of the game is really really important.

    So i am very much a believer in the vital role the bullpen plays on a championship team, a role that only gets stronger every year.

    That said, the poster boy for the cheap save is Trevor Hoffman. He pitched all his games in a pitcher’s park in the National League. He never went more than one inning, never came in with men on base. Most importantly, unlike Mariano Rivera, whose post-season statistics boggle the mind, Hoffman was mediocre when it counted the most, with a pedestrian 3.46 ERA in the post-season. That doesn’t count the blown saves on the last days of 2007 that knocked the Padres out of contention. Nor does it include his forgettable All-Star game stats (6.1 innings, 6 earned runs, 1 blown save/loss). When the pressure was really on, Hoffman squeezed that change-up of his just a little too tight, and combined with a mid-80’s fastball, the results weren’t pretty.

    Mariano Rivera for the HOF? Yes, indisputably. But please, no HOF for the Hoff.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      Rick–It seems like everything you say in your first paragraph, a very persuasive defense of allowing long-term, successful closers in the Hall of Fame, applies to Trevor Hoffman. So I was a little surprised where you ended up.
      Was Hoffman as good as Rivera? Of course not. Willie McCovery wasn’t as good as Willie Mays, either. But he did amass over 600 saves (yeah, I know, saves) for a team that wasn’t nearly providing as many opportunities as the Yankees provided Rivera.
      As for the post-season critique, I think we’ve got some serious small sample issues. Take away a rough series in 1996 and a rough inning in 1998, and Hoffman looks just fine. Would he have approached Rivera’s level of successential had he played in 32 post-season series? Probably not, but we’l never know because Rivera, to borrow a phrase from Bill James, had much better taste in teammates. (And the All Star game? Seriously?)
      I freely admit my bias as a Padres fan. I just think you make a very good cas you make a very strong case for the role of the modern closer, and that, by this standard, Hoffman seems to fit.

      • birthritual says:

        “But he did amass over 600 saves (yeah, I know, saves) for a team that wasn’t nearly providing as many opportunities as the Yankees provided Rivera.” There is more nuance to this statement – how many times did the Yankees win by 4 or more runs over the years to deny Rivera a save opportunity vs the number times that happened to Hoffman?

    • MikeN says:

      No, Yost could bring in his closers earlier too, eliminating the Mets leads. Maybe they get one more game, or maybe KC’s clutchness moves up as well.

    • Freddie says:

      I disagree that pitching 100 pitches every fifth day at a measured pace and 20 pitches everyday at top effort requires a “different skill set.” Whenever I see statements like that, I always question whether the person making the statement ever pitched a game himself. I only pitched seven innings maximum in high school, but when I did, I knew from the very first pitch that I was going to have to pitch seven innings, so I pitched much differently. But on those rare occasions when I was finishing up for someone else, and I knew I was going to only pitch an inning, I could throw as hard as I wanted and could use a curve on the very first pitch to the first batter I faced. When I started, I couldn’t raise my arm above my head the next day. And my legs and my back felt like I was in a fight. When I relieved, I could get up the next morning and do jumping jacks and throw fastballs before breakfast if I wanted.
      The difference between a one-inning pitcher and a starter is something that I believe the fans of the game and the players of the game will never view the same way. Pitching is hard work.
      And the reason that relievers “burn out” is because they throw so hard. Their tendons cannot take the force their arm muscles can generate. That is why so many stoppers end up having TJ surgery. So should a guy who is able to relieve for a long time and do it well perhaps get some kind of recognition? Perhaps. But make no mistake, Every starting pitcher would be a better pitcher if he were a one inning man.

      • I agree. When I pitched I was expected to pitch the entire 6-7 inning game. I found it hard to do and seldom could finish a game. I was completely dead by the end & my arm was hanging for at least two days before I could throw a ball again. Then one Manager had the bright idea of limiting me to three innings. I thrived under that system because I could give it my all for three innings and feel fine. Then I could pitch 2-3 days later and feel fine then. When doing that, my ERA was around 1.00 as opposed to previously where it was over 3.00. Definitely pitching fewer innings allows you to really max out your fastball speed and the snap on the breaking ball. It makes a huge difference.

    • Squawks McGrew says:

      The Braves of the ’90s would agree. My kingdom for a closer and they’d have won more than one title.

    • Darrel says:

      The important takeaway from the Royals in this discussion isn’t how important a bullpen is. We would all agree that collectively they are very important as they as a group pitch a significant amount of a teams innings. The discussion is whether one reliever is vitally important. Considering the Royals lost their closer to injury mid-year and still won a championship suggests that one guy isn’t that important. Just toss him aside and find another guy to do the exact same job at the exact same rate.

  14. Patrick says:

    “Sure, a starter might have twice as many innings as the average reliever”

    Laughably wrong. I mean, Wade Davis was a belowaverage starter (at best) for three years, and he threw more than two times as many innings in that role as he has in his three-year role as a lights out reliever

    And it gets worse when you compare it over a career. Heck, forget average relievers. Here’s a fun one: The three closers on the HOF ballot right now threw fewer innings than fellow ballot candidate Mike Mussina.

  15. rabidtiger says:

    The biggest problem is that the nature of the save varies over time, unlike home runs. The people who point to the quality of an individual save seem closest to the mark. A pitcher who comes in with a 2-run lead, gives up 1 run and gets the save has a pretty low quality save. If another guy comes in with a 1-run lead and shuts down the other team every time, 50 times a year (better than Willie Hernandez for the Tigers in 1984) he would probably get many MVP votes. His ERA would be spectacular. If I had the smarts and the time, I would analyze the quality of saves for a pitcher over the course of his career, with the overall success of his team, using statistics that are already available (involving leverage of every at bat) to make my decisions as a HOF voter.

    However, 600 is a pretty impressive raw number. Perhaps raw numbers of games pitched and raw innings pitched could be taken into consideration. Longevity should count for a great deal even if the quality of 600 saves is too hard to pin down. 300 wins, 500 homers, 600 saves (with 800 games, 1200 innings as minimums) anyone?

  16. MikeN says:

    Joe, did you write anything about the Browns getting confused about who they drafted and calling Cameron Jordan instead of Jordan Cameron?

  17. David Alvey says:

    I think HOF considerations should be a two step process by the voters … step 1) Was the player the best of their generation?. If yes, they probably are deserving. If not, then step 2) How do they compare against the so-called “standard” that the voters seem to set as the bar? Step 2 simply allows for someone who is truly great, but just happened to play in a greater shadow to be so honored. If a generation is offering up 3-5 potential players with HOF “numbers”, then it’s probably more likely the game was changing during that generation and a harder look is merited. New positions, like ultra specialized relievers, should only have voted in the best of their generation and let the veteran committee have the longer rear view mirror. Not sure where Hoffman fits in when looking at him that way.

  18. Don’t the BBWAA voters know each other? Don’t they sit side by side in the press box during games? Don’t they go for dinner or cocktails together after the game? Don’t they discuss the HOF ballot they fill out each year? Yet, no consensus. How can this be? For me it’s not who should be or should not be elected, it’s the voting process (the voters). Several of the commenters on here are more qualified to vote for the HOF than the BBWAA.

  19. Marc Schneider says:

    Why not simply change the save rule to make it more meaningful? People act as if Jerome Holtzman’s original formulation is sacrosanct? Perhaps only award a save if the lead is one run? It’s a ridiculous rule now but I don’t think he intended his formulation to be the last word. His point was to find some way to give credit to relief pitches who, in his day, would come in with runners on base and pitch a couple of innings and not give up the lead. There is real value in guys who can do that. The game has changed but there is no reason you can’t change the rule. I realize this won’t affect the analysis of guys like Hoffman-and, of course, you would going forward have the problem of considering relief pitchers with a much lower number of saves. But, at least, make the rule reflect current realities given how much teams are paying for closers.

  20. Dan says:

    To sum up:

    1. Stan Musial will have his selection to the HOF revoked;
    2. Abraham Lincoln is in;
    3. Rick Dempsey will have his case reconsidered by a specially convened committee;
    4. The “character” clause will be amended to specifically direct the exclusion of closers who pick up cheap saves.

    Everybody good?

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