Hell's Bells: Milwaukee Brewers' Trevor Hoffman Is As Good As Ever
When the Brewers signed all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman this winter, critics said it was a bad signing due to Hoffman's loss in velocity and age.
After picking up his ninth save of the season Saturday, the critics have been searching for players other than the 41-year old Hoffman to find fault with.
Hoffman has never had a start to the season in his career like he has had so far for the Brewers. In 10 appearances, Hoffman has not allowed a run and surrendered only three hits in 10 innings pitched.
In his prime, Hoffman used an overpowering fastball that reached the mid-90s and one of the best change-ups ever to amass 554 career saves.
While age has cost Hoffman upwards of 10 miles per hour on his fastball, he has been able to maintain his dominance by mixing up his pitches and having excellent control.
Hoffman is also quick to credit Jason Kendall with helping him not focus entirely on his fastball.
"I've always tried to establish the strike zone with fastballs," Hoffman said. "Jason (Kendall) has been very helpful in persuading me in using some pitches in certain situations. A lot of it is just execution."
Hoffman is still able to use his change-up despite the loss of velocity. He has simply compensated and taken more off of his strike out pitch to still give the appearance of a drastic change in speeds.
I have to say, to see Hoffman enter a game in a save situation is one of the coolest experiences I've ever had at a baseball game. Hell's Bells blaring from the speakers as Hoffman jogs in from the bullpen sends chills up and down my spine.
I am envious of San Diego Padre fans that got to enjoy Hoffman for the past 16 years. It's rare to be able to enjoy a Hall of Fame player, but to enjoy the very best ever at a position truly had to be a treat.
Brewers' manager Ken Macha will likely face a dilemma with Hoffman throughout the season. Hoffman can no longer pitch too many days in a row. So far, it seems that Macha allows Hoffman up to three straight days of game use.
Hoffman is proving to be an invaluable part of the bullpen. He allows Todd Coffey, Carlos Villanueva, Mark DeFelice, and Mitch Stetter to all fit into their roles in the bullpen very well. Having a true hammer at the end of the bullpen shortens the game for Brewers' opponents.
If Hoffman can maintain his health, there is no reason to think that he will not continue his success this season.
It's still very early, however I've already imagined what hearing Hell's Bells at a playoff game at Miller Park will be like. After another clean performance, it's getting easier and easier for that dream to become a reality.
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