The neon baseball-themed clock at Miller Park reads 2:30 on a warm July day in Milwaukee. At this time, most of the players are either reporting to the stadium or in the clubhouse or batting cages, taking a few swings.
But the oldest of them all is out on the field, shirt off, and iPod on full blast, undergoing intense abdominal and strength workouts that most of us could not do at the age of 26.
That man is 42-year-old closer Trevor Hoffman. Before each and every game, Hoffman does that workout—whether he pitched the day before or not. This dedication has led him on his endeavor to becoming baseball’s all-time saves leader.
Hoffman remains in peak physical shape throughout the year—whether in season or off.
All of this work has paid off in a large part for Hoffman. And if my word doesn’t satisfy you, allow his career stat line to do the job: 2.73 ERA, 591 saves (most all time), 820 games finished (most all time), 985 games, 9.5 K/9 IP, 2.5 BB/9 IP, 1.041 WHIP, 0.8 HR/9 IP, seven time All-Star, 1999 NL Champion—and the most famous entrance song: “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC.
That should just about say it all.
During the 2008-09 offseason, Brewers GM Doug Melvin signed Hoffman to a one-year deal. It turned out to be a great move. Hoffman went 3-2 with an incredibly low ERA of 1.83, saving 37 games. He only gave up two long balls all season and garnered his seventh career All-Star appearance, pitching a scoreless inning for the NL.
He was so stellar that he didn’t give up a single run until two-and-a-half months into the season—on June 14, which was also his first blown save. For the greater majority of the season, he was unhittable.
Hoffman’s go-to pitch—the one he can use in any count, any situation, and even when the hitter knows it’s coming and still can’t hit it—is the change-up. Opposite of Johan Santana’s change-up, Hoffman's pitch uses a circle grip.
It clocks in the vicinity of 79 or 80 mph—compared with his fastball, which is around 86 or 87 mph. This is incredible because most closers throw gas at 95, such as Detroit’s Fernando Rodney, who regularly reached 101 mph.
Hoffman's change-up appears to be a fastball coming out of his hand, judging by his arm speed—but it slows down and drops at the last split second.
Evidence of the filth of the pitch came in a series with Cincinnati in late May. Ahead by one in the ninth and with the go-ahead run at the plate in outfielder Jay Bruce, Hoffman threw him three consecutive change-ups—all of which Bruce whiffed on for the final out as the Brewers won, 3-2.
Two days later, with Milwaukee once again up in the ninth and Bruce batting, Hoffman threw him three more change-ups—and Bruce once again looked foolish, missing them all and allowing the Brewers to win.
Along with his change-up, Hoffman is famous for is entrance song, “Hell’s Bells." The song opens with the deafening sound a bell profoundly ringing, eventually followed by a guitar solo and words.
For a quiet guy like Hoffman, such an intense and intimidating entrance is quite surprising, but it works. When he steps out of the bull pen and that first bell rings, you can simply look over at the visiting dugout and sense intimidation.
And if they think that’s intimidating, just wait until they face his change-up.
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