Hoffman to Milwaukee

According to Rosenthal, the Brewers have signed Trevor Hoffman to a one year, $6 million contract for 2009. Hoffman will go to Milwaukee to replace the retired Salomon Torres as the closer for the Brew Crew, leaving the west coast for an opportunity to be the 9th inning guy on a contender.

How much does Hoffman have left, though? At 41-years-old and with an average fastball of 86 MPH, he’s clearly going to be blowing anyone away at this point. He still relies on an excellent change-up that’s been his bread and butter for his whole career, and while his strikeout rate remained as good as ever last year, he was victimized by a lot of long balls that could spell some trouble for his future.

As with most soft-tossers, Hoffman is one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in baseball. Nearly half of his balls in play go in the air, which is the main reason that he’s been able to run a career .280 BABIP – flyballs get turned into outs a lot more often than groundballs. Combined with his excellent command, this has allowed Hoffman to keep people off the bases and rack up the saves.

However, there’s a big difference between being an extreme flyball pitcher in Petco Park and in Miller Park, which will be his new home. While Petco suppressed home runs by 14%, Miller Park inflates them by 6%. San Diego is heaven for extreme flyball guys like Hoffman, and leaving the friendly confines of that huge outfield could present some problems for him.

His CHONE projection for 2009 has him at a 4.17 ERA in a neutral park. In Miller Park, that’s probably more like 4.30 to 4.40. Given that, it’s tough see Hoffman being better than a +1 win pitcher this year. I’m betting that this isn’t going to work out as well as Milwaukee would have hoped, and they’ll be right back in the market for a closer again next winter.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

8 Responses to “Hoffman to Milwaukee”

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  1. Dave – Hoff posted a very high HR/FB last year, compared to his career. His rate shot up at home and on the road. Sure, probably an anomaly, but perhaps not far off his expected performance this year, by coincidence?

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  2. Charles Kinbote says:

    Dave–I think you’re missing a “not” in the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph. P.S. I love your writing!

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  3. Mike Ketchen says:

    His HR/Fb didnt just shoot up it doubled aganist his career norm. From .8 to 1.58.
    His skill set reamined very well intact and his swing and miss percetange has increased for three straight season accordin to statcorner.com
    He posted a K/BB over 5 and BB/9 under two. I think this is a great buy low signing for the Brew crew and really taking advantage of
    B)the market

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  4. Pip says:

    Mike makes some good points. Dave notes that with an 86-mph fastball, Hoffman’s not blowing anyone away anymore. But that’s been the case for several years now — his fastball has been 85.4, 84.6, 85.1 in the previous three seasons — so it’s not like he suddenly fell off the map. He’s been successful with that fastball.

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    • drew says:

      I think Daves reference to fastball speed was just to relate it to Hoffman flyball tendencies and how Hoffman would be better suited for Petco. Thats how I read it anyway.

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  5. drew says:

    Isn’t it interesting that in 08 Hoffman GB% is also higher than its ever been and up 7% from his career avg? Increasing GB rates and increasing HR rates in the same season. WTF?

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  6. Sam says:

    In his reliever size sample, just 3 or 4 HR makes such a huge difference. His FB percentage actually went down last year. I think the extra HR’s can be attributed mainly to natural variance. And its not like players are suddenly squaring up the ball much better against him. In fact, it was the opposite last season – his LD% dropped significantly down to a very good 13.8%.

    Also, note that Hoffman gave up 7 of his 8 HR last season at Petco. What does that say about their randomness?

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  7. Craig says:

    Signing looks pretty good so far, 12/12 saves, 14 scoreless innings, 0 walks, .43 WHIP

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