Brewers Sign Hoffman to 2010 Deal

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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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

8 Responses to “Brewers Sign Hoffman to 2010 Deal”

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  1. Logan says:

    As a Mets fan, the part about this being the “standard closer overpay” couldn’t ring truer, considering how much we wasted on “K”-rod (whose K/9 is dropping enough each year that he’ll need a new nick name come 2011).

    Nice little bit of analysis on the batted ball stats. I often wondered how much control pitcher’s had of IFFB. This was pretty enlightening. The mantra of this site should be “Leave the writing to the Daves”.

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  2. JoeR43 says:

    I’ve said it before on here. Hoffman’s career BABIP is nice and low (probably as a result of his stuff), but it looks downright Ponsonian compared to Joe Nathan’s.

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  3. Andrew says:

    It is standard closer overpay, but a closer’s value isn’t just in his WAR. A really dominant closer (i.e. Rivera, Nathan, and Hoffman) sells a lot of tickets and is a draw in and of itself. Those teams are also able to identify themselves with their closer and use that for marketing purposes. Having the all-time saves leader on the team is alone worth close to a million dollars in advertising and merchandising.

    Granted this is still money that would be better spent on a SP, but there is some logic to it and it’s nowhere near as bad as the K-Rod deal.

    If you ask the average non-Padres fan to name a “great” player who was with the Padres for a long time they probably couldn’t name anyone besides Hoffman, Gwynn, and Peavy.

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  4. David says:

    I think there’s also a morale issue at play. Your starting pitchers and hitters aren’t gonna be happy if they are consistently leaving the game with leads but your closer continually blows saves. Sure, according to the advanced metrics, Trevor Hoffman isn’t even worth 2 wins more than a replacement level pitcher. But I kind of feel like if you had, I dunno, Miguel Batista closing out your games and blowing 10 saves a season – even if he’s only “1.5 wins worse” than Hoffman, it sure doesn’t *feel* that way to your pitchers and hitters.

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  5. Andrew says:

    Yeah that too. A kicker in in football isn’t that important or even the field that much but there are few things more frustrating then a kicker who consistently misses FGs/key PATs.

    An inconsistent closer is one of those things.

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    • Alex JN says:

      Well, right, kicking and closing performance is very important, the issue is just that, because of the high-variance nature of kicking and closing, paying money for an established closer and actual performance by the closer aren’t necessarily as strongly correlated as, say, spending money on other positions and getting performance on the positions. The Indians, led by saber-friendly Shapiro, seemed to cave to CW in signing Wood to an expensive deal (especially for them, with money tight) in response to Borowski’s inconsistency the year before, but, like the Mets with K-Rod, they found that simply opening up the pocketbooks didn’t solve their closer problem.

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    • Andrew says:

      Yea, I agree with this. I don’t think a closer outside of the really elite group I mentioned (Nathan, Rivera, Hoffman) deserves big bucks, especially not from a small market team.

      K-Rod was just obviously flawed though and he was on a clear downward trend. But you have to look at a business perspective too. I had a conversation with a Mets fan the other day where I pointed out the Mets could have both Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn for what they paid K-Rod, and his response was the problem with the team was the closing, not the hitting. Well, If you’re winning games by 5-6 runs then your closer problems aren’t that big. It’s a question of allocation of priorities.

      What Mets fans wanted was a closer, not a good use of their money.

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  6. Kincaid says:

    Do FanGraphs WAR have any consideration for leverage index for closers, or are their runs converted to wins with the same run-to-win conversion as if they were pitching in any other situation? I can’t find any indication that they are treated differently in the series on WAR in the glossary, but maybe I missed it or that has changed.

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