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Trevor Hoffman presents the Hall of Fame voter with a dilemma. How do we evaluate elite closers in this era of specialization?

Let’s take a look at Hoffman’s career. He was drafted as a shortstop in the 11th round of the 1989 Rule IV draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He struggled with the offensive side of the game, so the Reds made him a pitcher due to his cannon of a throwing arm. He wasn’t deemed good enough to protect by the Reds brass, though, so he was selected in the 1992 Expansion draft by the new Florida Marlins. He pitched for the Marlins as a rookie, then was traded to the Padres in the Gary Sheffield deal. He became the full time closer in 1994 and kept that job for 14 years. He led the league in saves twice and averaged 41 saves from 1995 through 2002 before missing the 2003 season after he had shoulder surgery. He returned in 2004 and barely missed a beat. saving over 40 games in each of the next four years. He was the closer for the 1996 National League Champion Padres. but never won a World Series. He retired in 2010 after pitching his final two years for the Milwaukee Brewers with 601 total saves, the 2nd most ever to Yankee stalwart (and a likely Hall of Famer himself) Mariano Rivera. He never won a Cy Young (a difficult achievement for any reliever) but did finish 2nd in 1998, when he led the league with 53 saves.

Hoffman’s candidacy depends on how you view the save rule. He never pitched more than 90 innings in a season (he did this as a rookie for the Marlins). He was a classic “one-inning” closer. His numbers reflect today’s tendency of managers who force pitchers to pitch only one inning. a practice that I object to. Comparing Hoffman to other relievers in the Hall (Bruce Sutter and ESPECIALLY Rich Gossage) is a joke.

Anyway, here’s the history of the save rule. And how I feel about it can pretty much be summed up this way.

The “Save Rule” was invented by a sportswriter named Jerome Holzman. A SPORTSWRITER made up a rule. Here it is:
A pitcher gets a “Save” when:

He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
He is not the winning pitcher;
He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
He satisfies one of the following conditions:
He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
He pitches for at least three innings
If a relief pitcher satisfies all of the criteria for a save, except he does not finish the game, he will often be credited with a hold (which is not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball).”‘

Because of this, I consider Hoffman to be a fringe hall of famer at best. It’s a very tough call. Download the show for my verdict.

I also broke down Cap Anson‘s career and discussed how his careder correlates to today’s PED argument.


About the Author

I'm a 38 year old writer from New Providence, New Jersey, working a "day job" as a data processor in North Carolina. When I'm not slaving away at that job, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan who enjoys discussing today's baseball news in a historical context. I'm a former columnist for the Summit Herald in New Jersey and a college radio geek who decided to use the power of podcasting to share my point of view wih the world. Besides baseball, I love horse racing, video games, and good music (who doesn't?). I am a Christian and live with my wife Amy and two cats Reagan and Cassie in our home studio. Expect more writing from me at scotteiland.com, and thank you for listening!

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