Monday, September 25, 2006

Tales of Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman, the relief ace for the San Diego Padres, is now baseball's all-time leader in saves.

Yeah, it struck me as odd, too.

I suppose that's a tribute to Hoffman's gritty, workmanlike, just-doing-my-job-ma'am pitching style. You can also consider the fact that Hoffman isn't a dominating power pitcher (and hasn't been since the late 1990s) or a terribly imposing presence on the mound (the Padres list his height as six feet even, but I've seen Hoffman up close and in person, and I believe they're fading him an inch or two).

Whatever the reasons, I've been an avid follower of National League baseball, and the National League West in particular, since Hoffman was in knee pants, and I had no idea he was that close to setting the all-time record. He just never seems that good.

The evidence, however, is irrefutable. Every season since 1995 — with the exception of the 2003 campaign, when he underwent shoulder surgery and only pitched a total of nine innings — Hoffman has logged a minimum of 31 saves per year. He's had eight seasons in which he's saved 40 or more games, topped by his career-high 53 saves in 1998. That's including the 43 saves Hoffman has racked up thus far this year, to lead the National League.

And I never realized he was doing it.

Contrast that with the ever-spectacular Barry Bonds, who this past weekend notched a new career record for home runs by a National League batter. The only thing that surprised anyone about that was the fact that the career record for home runs by a National League batter wasn't 755.

(People forget that record-setter Hank Aaron played out the string his last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, who were in the American League at the time. As a result, he has 22 homers on his career tally that don't count toward his National League total. Thus, Bonds — who has played his entire career to date in the National League — only needed 734 to break Aaron's N.L. record.)

One thing Bonds and Hoffman now share in common: They've both got reservations at Cooperstown.


3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

You think? Lee Smith hasn't made it yet...

4:52 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

True, and I think Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame.

But unlike Smith, Hoffman "has the complexion to make the connection," as our local sports-talk guru Gary Radnich is fond of saying.

And in Hoffman's case, that goes beyond just the color issue. He's generally regarded as a nice guy who hasn't rubbed a lot of sportswriters the wrong way — unlike, say, the often cranky Goose Gossage, in addition to Lee Smith, whom many writers found prickly and aloof.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Mark Daniels offered these pearls of wisdom...

Hoffman is a fine pitcher, which is irrefutable, of course.

But I think the fact that he isn't overpoweing, as you suggest, is one reason he's sneaked up on all of us.

But on top of that, he pitches for a team that has, throughout much of his career, been lackluster, the same thing that kept Tony Gwynn from getting attention. On top of that, the Padres plays in a division that isn't terribly strong.

But, again, Hoffman is a fine pitcher and undoubtedly, a future Hall of Famer.

Great post!

5:30 PM  

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