Trevor Hoffman came through for the Brewers in 2009 saving 37 games while posting solid a solid ERA, FIP and tRA (1.83/2.63/2.40). So the Brewers rewarded him with a 8 million dollar deal for 2010 with a mutual option for 2011. The deal seems like the standard closer overpay as Hoffman has not been worth 8 million dollars in any of the past eight years, those in which FanGraphs has calculated player value.
Still as just a one year commitment it is not a wild over payment, as Hoffman can, clearly, still pitch. His strikeouts numbers are down from his peak but are still above average, and his walk numbers are still very good. But a big reson for Hoffman’s success is his control over his balls in play. Hoffman has always had a low BABIP and over the past three years his cumulative BABIP is 0.266, 9th best among relievers over the time period. Part of this is his ability to get infield flies, over the past three calendar years he got them on 15.6% of his balls in play (4th best among relievers). He is also able to limit HRs in spite of his low GB% by limiting HRs to just 5.7% of flyballs over the past three years (5th best). Hoffman is like the poster-boy for anti-DIPS theory.
Jonathan Hale showed that fastballs with more ‘rise’ generate more pop ups, and Hoffman’s fastball has a huge 14 inches of ‘rise’. That could partially explains his great infield fly numbers. Maybe this also plays a role in his low HR numbers, as could his excellent changeup which is always low in the zone. It would be interesting to really dissect his pitchf/x numbers and see if a full explanation for his extreme batted ball success could be found
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