Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trevor Hoffman Retires Gracefully

According to Barry Bloom of mlb.com, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman has decided to retire.
"It's time to retire. It's time to move on," Hoffman said via phone from San Diego, where he and his family still make their home. "This is more of a self-evaluation. I expect to pitch at a certain level, and I had to be honest with myself that I wasn't certain I could maintain that anymore."
In 2009, Hoffman put together an excellent season converting 37 saves in 41 chances while producing a 2.63 FIP, 8.00 K/9, 3.43 K/BB, and 1.5 wins above the replacement level.  While everyone knew the then 42 year old closer had regress at some point, everyone expected to see the same old Hoffman in 2010.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  Hoffman struggled right out of the gate giving up eight home runs, and putting up an un-Hoffman like 17/13 K/BB ratio in 27 innings during the first half.  By mid-May, he was demoted out of the closer role, just a few saves shy of 600.  In the second half, his performance improved enough to convince manager Ken Macha to give Hoffman a few more save opportunities.  In August and September, Hoffman saved five games in five chances, giving him 601 saves for his career.

It's impossible to talk about Hoffman's retirement without talking about his strange career path.  Hoffman was drafted in the 11th round of the 1989 amateur draft as a shortstop by the Cincinnati Reds.  For his first two professional seasons, Hoffman struggled at the plate putting up a .225/.313/.278 triple slash line.  In 1991, Hoffman was goofing off by throwing change-ups to a teammate.  Seemingly by accident, his manager, Jim Lett, saw him goofing off, and noticed the great movement on Hoffman's change-up.  Lett, knowing that Hoffman was too much of a light hitter to ever make the majors as a position player, suggested he give pitching a try.  The dividends paid off immediately.  In his first minor league season as a pitcher, Hoffman saved 20 games while putting up a 1.89 ERA with a 75/20 K/BB ratio in 47.2 innings out of the bullpen.  His pitching success continued in 1992.  After the 1992 season, Hoffman was selected by the Florida Marlins with the eighth pick of the expansion draft.  By mid-1993, he was moved again, this time to the Padres as part of the Gary Sheffield trade.  It was in San Diego where he made his mark as one of baseball's all-time closers.  The rest is history.

For his career, Hoffman finishes with a 61-75 record with a 2.87 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 9.36 K/9, 3.69 K/BB, and 22.9 fWAR in 1089.1 innings.  He saved at least 40 games in nine times.  More importantly, he retires as the all-time leader in saves with 601.*

* Mariano Rivera, who currently has 559 saves, will likely pass him at some point during his two year contract.

It's too early to say when or if Hoffman will make the Hall of Fame.  Assuming he doesn't make any unexpected comebacks, he'll hit the ballot in 2016 where he will likely join a stacked ballot full of Hall worthy players.  While I don't see Hoffman as a first ballot Hall of Famer (especially not on a stacked ballot), I do see him getting in several years down the road.  Hoffman was an incredibly dominant closer that overpowered hitters with a mid-80s fastball and a devastating change-up.  You can probably count on one hand, how many pitchers have done that in the last 30 years.  Hoffman was a truly exceptional player with an even more exceptional story. 

Pretty good for a guy that became a pitcher by mistake.


  1. Is it sad that I'm glad he retired so now Mo Rivera can become the all-time saves leader? lol

  2. @Corrye it was bound to happen even I'll admit that.

  3. Joe Posnanski (great writer BTW, IMO) had a good line on Twitter: "Trevor Hoffman press conference should start without him, Hells Bellls plays, he enters for last 3 questions, calls it a career."

  4. @Michael That would be the best retirement press conference ever. If he doesn't do it, Rivera should do it when he eventually retires.