A fine wine. The US Constitution. Trevor Hoffman. What do these three things have in common? They all seemingly get better with age. The Brewers recognized that fact on Monday when they officially signed Trevor Hoffman to a 1-year, $8 million contract to return as the club’s closer in the 2010 (he also has a mutual option for 2011). Will the deal end up working out for the Brewers? Let’s see…
All the way back in January, literally the day after Hoffman signed on to join the Brewers, I wrote a piece in which I said, and I quote, “I believe the signing was a good one as well. In fact, there is little reason to think that Hoffman won’t pile up his normal 30 saves while posting strong ratios yet again.” (you can read the full article by using the link to Five Questions). Clearly that opinion was dead on, just look at how Hoffman performed this season.
(1) Hoffman posted 37 saves this season while blowing only four chances. The 37 saves were the fourth most in the NL and the seventh most in baseball (tied with Fernando Rodney, coincidentally, another hurler who relies heavily on his changeup).
(2) This was the sixth straight season in which Hoffman recorded at least 30 saves, and the 14th time in 15 seasons that he reached that mark. The only time he failed to, in 2003, he was limited to just nine appearances because of injury.
(3) Hoffman posted a 1.83 ERA, nearly a run below his career 2.73 mark. It was also his best mark since 1998 when he had a career best 1.48 mark the year he also saved 53 games and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award race.
(4) Hoffman posted a 0.91 WHIP, a level below his 1.04 career mark. Additionally, it was the lowest mark since 1998 (0.85) tying his 0.91 mark from 2004.
(5) Hoffman posted “only” eight strikeouts per nine innings, well below his 9.53 career mark, but still the second best mark of the past four seasons.
(6) Hoffman walked only 2.33 batters per nine innings. His career mark is 2.49. As a result, he produced a solid 3.43 K/BB mark, a slight step below his 3.83 career mark. That number is still a strong enough mark that future success is certainly possible.
(7) Hoffman held batters to a .187 batting average (career .213), his best mark since that fantastic 1998 season. He also posted a .240 BABIP mark, well below his .278 career mark.
Given all that data, what do I see? I see a 41 year old reliever who is still operating at a high level, quite the statement to make considering he is the best closer in the history of the NL (that title goes to Mariano Rivera in the AL). Hoffman still strikes out enough batters, while walking few enough, that he continues to control many at-bats. He was a bit “lucky” this season with that low BABIP – his LD-rate was also down some six percent from his career 20.1 percent mark at 14.3 percent – so some regression in the ratio categories is certain in 2010. Regardless, let me repeat, one more time, the same thing that I quoted at the start of this piece.
“I believe the signing was a good one as well. In fact, there is little reason to think that Hoffman won’t pile up his normal 30 saves while posting strong ratios yet again.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
By Ray Flowers