Yesterday, it was announced that Hells Bells will no longer be played in the 9th inning of certain games. Why you may ask? Well, because the all-time leader in Saves, Trevor Hoffman, has announced his retirement after 18 seasons and Hells Bells was his intro song.
Where do I begin in a discussion about Hoffman’s career? Of course, you start with a basic stat breakdown – 601 Saves, 1089.1 innings pitched, 1035 games played, 1133 strikeouts, 846 hits allowed, a WHIP of 1.058, an ERA of 2.87 and an ERA+ of 141. Seeing how Hoffman was a closer, the ERA and ERA+ can be misleading but when you compare him in those areas to the other great closers (Gossage, Sutter, Fingers and Rivera) his ERA is better than all but Sutter (off by .004) and Rivera (off by .064) and his ERA+ is better than all but Rivera. His WHIP is better than all except Rivera (off by .055). Where Hoffman has a distinct advantage over the other great closers, is in K/9; he averaged 9.4 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched (Rivera is the closest at 8.2). Where Hoffman falls short in comparison to the other great closers is in innings per appearance; Hoffman averaged just under 1.1 innings per appearance, while Rivera averages just over 1.1 innings and Sutter/Gossage/Fingers all rarely pitched just 1 inning and he only pitched over 70 innings in a season 4 times (Gossage did it 8 times, Fingers 10, Sutter 10 and Rivera 10 – Fingers/Sutter/Gossage routinely pitched over 100 innings a season). Now, this isn’t completely Hoffman’s fault; the role of closer changed between when Sutter/Gossage/Fingers pitched and when he and Rivera pitched but it makes you ask the question – just how much better would Sutter/Gossage/Fingers have been if they only pitched 1 inning a game?
I do believe Hoffman is a no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famer (though if he actually gets in on the first ballot is anyone’s quess – Alomar didn’t and another great closer Lee Smith hasn’t come close yet and John Franco on his first ballot didn’t even receive 5% to stay on the ballot). The real reason I believe Hoffman is a HOFer is while most closers only put up three to five seasons of being a great closer before tailing off, Hoffman has delivered year in and year out for 18 years. Very players have done as well as Hoffman did at doing the job asked of him – come in in the 9th, with a lead under 3 runs and DON’T LOSE IT. If it’s the bottom of the 9th and your team is up by 1 run, out of all the closers in baseball history, there is only five guys you would be willing to bring in to pitch – Rivera, Hoffman, Fingers, Gossage and Sutter and to me that means Hoffman is amongst the greatest his position has ever seen and that means first ballot Hall of Famer.
Best of luck in whatever you choose to do Mr. Hoffman; you provided this baseball fan a glimpse into history and just like every time I hear Enter Sandman I think of Mariano, every time I hear Hells Bells, I will think of what you’ve meant to this great game.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? You can send questions or comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also leave a comment below, on my Facebook Page or on Twitter. Remember, any email or comment you make, may just make it into Rich’s Replies each Friday!