Trevor Hoffman Career Profile

Per reader request, here is a Career Profile for the recently-retired Trevor Hoffman.

 

Trevor Hoffman comes from a baseball family: his older brother Glenn was a shortstop for the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Angels in the 1980s. Trevor himself was also a shortstop, playing for the University of Arizona 1987-1989. He wasn't considered a super-hot prospect but was drafted in the 11th round in 1989, projected as a possible utility infielder perhaps like his brother was. He was sent to Billings in the Pioneer League after signing and didn't hit much, just .249/.319/.289 in 61 games. Moved up to Charleston in the Sally League in '90, he hit a mere .212/.311/.277 in 103 games. At this point he wouldn't have been considered a prospect at all and was on the verge of release.

Hoffman's best tool was his throwing arm. Realizing that he had no future as a hitter, the Reds converted him to relief work in 1991 and the results were immediate: a 1.87 ERA in 33 innings for Low-A Cedar Rapids with a 52/13 K/BB and 12 saves. Promoted to Double-A Chattanooga for August, he remained extremely effective with a 1.93 ERA and a 23/7 K/BB in 14 innings, picking up another eight saves. Scouting reports were enthusiastic about his 90-95 MPH fastball and good curve, and his command was solid for an inexperienced pitcher. A similar successful conversion nowadays with these numbers and good scouting reports would get a Grade C+ or a B- from me.

Hoffman split 1992 between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Nashville, making a combined 37 relief outings and 11 starts, with a 3.41 ERA and a 94/43 K/BB in 95 innings, 79 hits allowed. His K/IP and H/IP were very good, but is command wobbled somewhat. He was seen as a future bullpen asset as a middle and long reliever, with some chance to close eventually. I would have given him a Grade C+ in all probability. The Reds did not protect him and he was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 Expansion Draft.

Hoffman earned a bullpen job with the Marlins in '93 and posted a 3.28 ERA with a 26/19 K/BB in 35 innings, 24 hits allowed, impressing with his stuff but struggling with control at times. He was traded at mid-season to the San Diego Padres in the Gary Sheffield deal, posting a 4.31 ERA in 54 innings for the Pads. He took over as the closer in 1994, picking up 20 saves with a 2.57 ERA, and remaining the mainstay of the San Diego bullpen for the next 14 years.

Injuries and a gradual loss of velocity hampered Hoffman at times, but he adapted very well. He developed the famous killer changeup, which replaced the curveball as his main secondary pitch. He eventually lost five-to-eight MPH off his fastball, but compensated by developing superb command. The end results: a 2.87 ERA, ERA+  of 141, 601 saves, a 1133/307 K/BB in 1089 innings, just 846 hits allowed. He is the All-Time major league leader in saves and a certain Hall of Famer once eligible.

Hoffman is another example of how greatness isn't always evident early in a player's career. He went from "A-ball shortstop who can't hit" to "Hall of Fame closer." No one in 1989 or even 1992 could have predicted this.

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