Notice the title of this article does not say the most dominant closer, but the best. Trevor Hoffman fits that moniker as he is the all-time saves leader and recently recorded his 600 career save adding to his record. This is a number previously thought to be unattainable yet Hoffman, a model of consistency, continues to defy the odds.
What many do not realize is that Trevor Hoffman actually began his career as a shortstop and was also a pretty good college hitter. He played baseball for the University of Arizona where he led the team in hitting his junior year in 1988 and batted .371 his senior year which was higher than future MLB first baseman and teammate, J.T. Snow. This led to Hoffman being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as the 288th overall pick.
In his first year of professional ball, Hoffman played for Charleston where he spent time at both shortstop and third base. His college success did not translate to the professional level however as he hit a miniscule .212 in 103 games. Hoffman remained at Single-A Charleston and it was his manager, Jim Lett who would set fate into motion when he converted Hoffman to a pitcher. In his first season as a full time pitcher Hoffman tossed 471/3 innings and posted a 1.89 ERA along with 75 K’s, and as they say the rest is history.
In 1992 Hoffman was taken by he Florida Marlins in the expansion draft held that year, but was soon traded to the San Diego Padres in 1993 for slugger Gary Sheffield. It was there in San Diego Hoffman would lay the groundwork for his Hall of Fame career.
In 1994 Hoffman was given the chance to close games for the Padres and in his first year he picked up 20 saves with a respectable 2.57 ERA. The next year Hoffman suffered a torn rotator cuff which required shoulder surgery. It was during this period of time Hoffman learned his palm ball style change up which would become his signature pitch.
The next 10-years saw Trevor Hoffman become one of the best closers in the game. In 1998 he saved a career best 53 games and finished second to Tom Glavine in the Cy Young race despite receiving the most first place votes. He was just getting started however. Hoffman continued to average around 40 saves a season which led to Sports Illustrated calling Hoffman the greatest closer in MLB history.
2009 saw Hoffman leave the Padres, a team where he gained his 400th and 500th career saves as well as breaking Lee Smith’s career saves mark. Hoffman also set a MLB record for pitching in the most games with one team. He also collected his 1000 strike out as a reliever while with San Diego. Only 7 other relief pitchers in the history of the game can make the same claim.
Shortly before the start of spring training in 2009 he signed with his current team the Milwaukee Brewers. During his first season in Milwaukee Hoffman returned to form as he saved 37 games with a sparkling 1.83 ERA, and was named to his seventh and perhaps last All Star team.
The only real knock against Trevor Hoffman is his postseason record. Unfortunately Hoffman has not had many opportunities to pitch in the postseason. He did see action in the 1998 World Series against the Yankees, but gave up a three run homer in a game the Padres were up 3-2. He also gave up the winning run to the Rockies in their 2007 tie-breaker game. These are sad foot notes to an otherwise spectacular career.
Trevor Hoffman’s career is certainly winding down. The one-time fireballer who became a change up specialist on his way to being MLB’s all time saves leader has achieved numbers fans may never see again. Hoffman is a seven time All Star. He has been a National League Pitcher of the Month twice as well as a 2-time National League saves leader. He has won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award, the Hutch Award, Lou Gehrig memorial Award.
Hoffman holds a plethora of MLB records including the most games finished all time at 820 and counting, eight consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves, fifteen 20 plus save seasons, and none 40 plus save seasons. When Trevor Hoffman does decide to hang up his spikes he will undoubtedly add one more honor to his trophy case, that of Hall of Famer.
“Trevor Hoffman Statistics and History”, Baseball-reference.com
“Trevor Hoffman”, Wikipedia.org