On May 23, 2010 against the Minnesota Twins, Trevor Hoffman pitched game No. 1,000 for his career, coming on during the eighth inning in a 4-3 victory. He became the 14th player in major league history to accomplish this.
We then went back to our daily routines.
For a sport so focused on the milestone stats, it's interesting to see this one completely slip by. We have 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, and others. Yet, any milestone for games played is not really looked at as any accomplishment. It's a testament to little more than longevity, right?
Well, let's take a look.
Of the previous 13 to play in 1,000 games, three are in the Hall of Fame: Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Goose Gossage. The other 10 feature names you'd expect and names you likely have forgotten.
Topping the list is, of course, Jesse Orosco with 1,252. Following are Mike Stanton (1,178), John Franco (1,119), Eckersley (1,071), Wilhelm (1,070), Dan Plesac (1,064), Mike Timlin (1,058), Kent Tekulve (1,050), Jose Mesa and Lee Smith (1,022), Roberto Hernandez (1,010), Michael Jackson (1,005), Gossage (1,002), and now Hoffman.
The list is a tangled web of obvious hall of famers, those that have gotten close (Smith), those who did not get close (Plesac and others), and those who won't have a chance at it (Mesa).
However, the Hall of Fame has already established how valuable this stat is: it isn't. Just recently, Orosco, Plesac, and Jackson could not crack the 5 percent threshold. Neither could Tekulve despite a sub-3.00 ERA.
Interestingly enough though, many on this list are recent additions, and have just recently retired. Is this looking to be a continuing development? Will there be more pitchers crossing the mark who aren't necessarily good, just reliable?
Looking beyond the hall of fame, and instead just looking at the number, it's certainly possible. After all, Orosco pitched in 65 games in his final major league season despite an ERA over 7.50. So perhaps Hoffman's games pitched isn't a symbol of anything but luck and health.
Just about all of those pitchers above were still pitching 60 games when they hit 40, so maybe it means nothing. At the same time, maybe it's an under-appriciated number, one that shows consistency and reliability, something that is needed more than anything in a bullpen, especially with how dynamic they are.
So, what does the mark mean to you? Sheer luck? Solid pitching? Nothing at all?
In my case, I think it shows a model of consistently good, though not necessarily great, pitching. It's not a number on the same caliber as the others I noted earlier, far from it, but it can be a second-tier stat that is nice to achieve. After all, everyone but Mesa has a career sub-4.00 ERA, and all pitched until at least 39, so there is some health and luck involved as well.
What does it mean to you though? Something to think about. There won't be 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, or 300 wins for a while, so let's enjoy this accomplishment by Trevor Hoffman, even if it means little.