Trevor Hoffman Should Not Have Been Inducted Into The Hall of Fame

With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.

The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves.  At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher.  In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006.  The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?

It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time.  The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge.  Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.

That closer was Lee Smith.  What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time.  The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field.  At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years.  Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.

Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.

In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9.  He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards.  From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.

In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9.  He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards.  From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.

In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards.  In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better.  Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another.  We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.

Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days.  He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.

It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith.  However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.

That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.

It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.

It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards.  This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards.  His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.

It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves.  It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.

19 Replies to “Trevor Hoffman Should Not Have Been Inducted Into The Hall of Fame”

  1. Doubleday’s 1999 Mets says:

    I did see him pitch in the post season.

    If Lee Smith had been in more post season games.
    That was dominance, that was automatic.
    The Cubs had some battles with Mets.
    Smith left me deflated so many times….

    The closer is what we see last.
    Like the last opinion you hear.

    SD’s lone AllStar how many times?
    National TV audience….

    If Frankie Rodriquez has an resurrection, he too can have a WAR over 28.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Doesn’t matter. He didn’t get to 600 saves

  2. - 1953 Lincoln High Varsity Baseball Team - says:

    more deserving?

    Patriot who served in WWII

    Missed 4 1/2 years ….
    Ages 31-35

    WAR of 57.5 in an era of HRs?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I’m not sure I understand invoking Greenberg into this discussion

  3. metsdaddy says:

    Thank you for that well reasoned rebuttal.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      You really showed me by visiting my site at least two times.

  4. Saul's Colorist says:

    Hello Milwaukee!

    The Dodgers could not match?

  5. Kidcub says:

    I wonder if Mariano Rivera could have had 600+ saves by himself? If Hoffman pitches for the Yankees everyone says he’s aHOFer. Problem is he pitched for a garbage organization.. And the argument between he and Smith doesn’t really jive. Regardless of WAR for closers the only true stat you can compare is saves themselves. The fact is closer are now a full part of the game, have been now for over 3 decades and need to be fully recognized. And Franco comparison? Really? 21yrs, didn’t touch a 1000 K’s, not 450 saves, no prominate states that would say HOF’er. There needs to be bench marks in the game. And if 600 saves is t a benchmark then I’m not sure what should be for a position that’s been established for again over 3 decades. It like Edgar Martinez getting in. No 500hr no 300hits.. He never really played defense so he only effected the games maybe 3-4 times a day. Now look at Ozzie Smith. By stats he’s not even close to a HOFer. What he did was change the game defensively. So for you to argue Hoffman shouldn’t be in and then even bring up John Franco, you kind of lost a fan on that one. Ridiculous actually..

    1. metsdaddy says:

      My point with Franco was if we’re choosing just arbitrary save totals and not value, why not look at where Franco was.

      Many of the same points you made about Hoffman apply to him. Garbage organization. Would’ve been better recognized and had more chances as a Yankee.

      And no, I don’t buy pure save total as the only measure you can judge relievers.

      As for Ozzie and Edgar, there’s a chasm that makes the Grand Canyon look small between theirs and Hoffman’s games and innings played. Those things should matter.

      Ultimately, if Hoffman is your threshold, Lee Smith should go in. You can now make better arguments for Franco and Wagner.

  6. Luis Medina says:

    Relievers and now DH are underrated HOF positions; it’s been bad enough to be measured by sabermetrics when some players didn’t play with it when it was established. So, players must be judged by the established measure of their day and not the current day.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Not playing when sabermetrics was established is a red herring. Are we really to believe players would have played differently if they played in an era of WAR and ERA+?

      Bottom line – value is value.

      And while WAR should not be the end-all, be-all, it should be a factor.

      1. Luis Medina says:

        True value = value but the bottomline he was valuable to the Padres, Brewers and Marlins for his time with them. 600 saves isn’t something you skip over or ignore its value.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Franco was valuable to the Mets and Reds. Wagner was valuable to the Astros, Phillies, Mets, and Braves. Lee Smith was valuable to the Cubs and others.

          Does they should be Hall of Famers too?

          1. Luis Medina says:

            I would say to Smith & Wagner am a sold on Franco for if I’m mistaken he didn’t established anything new for the position.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            Franco has the most saves for a LHP

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