This is our old blog. It hasn't been active since 2011. Please see the link above for our current blog or click the logo above to see all of the great data and content on this site.

POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on January 12, 2011

Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement yesterday.

He finishes as the all-time leader in saves and games finished as well as his run as the active leader in appearances as a pitcher.

Few people know that the Padres were actually Hoffman's third team. He was originally drafted by the Reds in 1989 (a few spots behind Kelly Stinnett in the year that Ben McDonald was taken first overall), and was then plucked off the vine by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft. In the middle of his first big league season, he was one of the youngsters shipped to the Padres in a trade that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida. Then, 16 years later, he signed with the Brewers as a free agent, spending his final 2 seasons in Milwaukee.

There is no doubt that Hoffman is one of the best closers of all time. The question of his candidacy for the Hall of Fame has, I think, more to do with how closers are valued overall.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers and have a vote.

For Trevor Hoffman in the Hall of Fame

  • As already mentioned, he's the all-time leader in saves. Given that pitchers (especially closers) are used different now from how they were in the 1980s and earlier, this is a less-impressive record than some others, but it's still quite impressive.
  • Hoffman is one of just 14 players with 1,000 games pitched, coming in at #9 overall. Again, this is somewhat tempered by the fact that he pitched fewer outs per game than most of the rest, but it's not his fault how he was used. (Incidentally, I did the math offline. Among the 14 guys with 1,000 games, Dennis Eckersley of course had the most IP per game at 3.07 since he was a starter for a large portion of his career. The next highest guys are Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, and then Jose Mesa at 1.51 IP/game. Hoffman is the 4th lowest at 1.05 IP/game, followed by Jesse Orosco, Dan Plesac, and lastly Mike Stanton at 0.95 IP/game.)
  • His Win Probability Added is 19th all-time since 1950 among pitchers, right between Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax.

Against Trevor Hoffman in the Hall of Fame

  • Before he's eligible for the Hall of Fame, there's a very good chance that he'll no longer be the all-time leader in saves, as Mariano Rivera is just 42 shy. Although, with Bill Wagner retiring, nobody else is anywhere close, with no other active pitching having even half of Hoffman's save total. Rivera is also quite likely to take over the lead in games finished.
  • Rivera is already way ahead of Hoffman in WPA, ranking 6th all-time at 50.81 (compared to 34.35 for Hoffman.) In the comparison between Hoffman and Rivera, it's clear that Hoffman comes up well short, and I think this will be commonly accepted if Rivera pitches a couple more years and passes Hoffman in all the counting stats. This alone doesn't mean that Hoffman isn't also excellent (the Hall of Fame, after all, has more than one member...)
  • Interestingly, Hoffman does fairly poorly in career WAR, coming in at 215th among pitchers, a bit behind Derek Lowe and Carlos Zambrano. Rivera, by comparison, is currently 69th all-time, a little behind Roy Halladay. I assume this is due mainly to the difference in their core numbers--whereas Hoffman has amassed more saves, Rivera's ERA+ is much better (141 for Hoffman vs all-time best 205 for Rivera.)
  • Despite leading in saves, Hoffman only led his league in saves in two individual seasons (1998 and 2006).  This suggests that perhaps he has the record more on longevity and not because he was usually the best closer in the league. (But to be fair, he had 7 other finishes in the top 3 in saves, and he might have had fewer save opportunities than other guys in many years.)
  • Hoffman's post-season record is spotty, including a series-ending loss in the 1996 ALDS and a loss in Game 3 of the 1998 World Series. It's true that he allowed earned runs in only 3 of 12 post-season games, but as is often is the case with closers, when those runs were allowed, they really hurt his team.

So what do you think?

173 Responses to “POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame”

  1. MikeD Says:

    It's a poor decision to vote a player into the HOF simply because he's the all-time saves leader and, fortunately, I don't think we've seen evidence of that happening, at least based on the vote totals of Jeff Reardon and then Lee Smith. (Well, I guess it's fair to see we're seeing evidence of *some* voters are voting for Smith, but just not enough.)

    Having the all-time saves record is less impressive than it sounds. It's only been since the 1970s that the current saves rule has been in place, and in those early days relief pitchers were used quite differently, pitching more innings per appearance, while generating lower save totals. Sparkly Lyle won the Cy Young Award in 1977 with 26 saves, but 13 wins in 137 innings pitched. John Hiller pitched 150 innings one year, winning 17 games, but only saving 13 games. Notching save totals wasn't a goal, it was simply an outcome of pitching well and being there to throw the last pitch in the game. Saves increased with each decade as the game was slowly moving toward the one-inning save that Eckersley and LaRussa popularized starting in the late 1980s It really wasn't until the 1990s that the one-inning save became more the norm, allowing for higher save totals. So really, Hoffman is the king of saves over the past fifteen years or so years, not since the 1870s!

    Rivera has been the games most dominant reliever since arriving in the mid-1990s. I'd say Billy Wagner has been the most dominant reliever in the NL since the mid-1990s. Hoffman? He's been one of the most consistent relievers, but should he be a HOFer? I don't know. I don't think he's better than Smith, who I don't think should be in the HOf. ERA+ has Rivera at 205. Wagner at 187. Hoffman at 141. Not sure ERA+ is a great stat for relievers, yet it does seem to be telling us something here.

    My fear is if Rivera stays healthy and passes Hoffman for the all-time career-saves record, Rivera's greatness may elevate the importance of the all-time saves record simply because Rivera holds it. That means if some good, but not great, reliever comes along and is a compiler of saves and passes Rivera (or even approaches him) , then future BBWAA voters may automatically vote that player into the HOF, ignoring the fact that Rivera is not going into the HOF because he's the all-time saves leader, but because he's Mariano Rivera.

  2. Derek D Says:

    "The one where he finished 2nd in the MVP voting."

    Well, you can't ignore a guy who hit 40HR and had 128 RBI's, but I agree...with those obviously inflated COL numbers, never should've been #2 in voting.

  3. Chuck Says:

    "with those obviously inflated COL numbers,"

    Coors Field wasn't the only thing that inflated Dante Bichette.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What are you arguing then? If he was a so-so player, as you said, he certainly could and should have been ignored. Since he wasn't, he was overrated.

  5. John Q Says:


    I was going to respond but Twisto beat me to the punch.

    Bichette also won the silver slugger that season and made 4 All Star appearances as a Rockie.

  6. -Mark Says:

    I guess I am pretty simple about these HoF things: pitchers need to pitch. Closers, by their definition, don't really do that, certainly not to the same extent as other HoF pitchers. Is Hoffman Koufax good? Gibson good? Could he pitch a perfect game? Or a shut-out? Could he even pitch a complete game? Don't think so.

    Sould a DH go the the HoF for being a great DH? It is a real skill, but no. Neither should the world's best relieving catcher. Just tough for these guys that they are either born at the wrong time, or didn't get the breaks. Though that is not going to be unique to closers.

  7. illdonk Says:

    @106 So you don't see the specific value in what Mariano Rivera has accomplished? I know we're dealing with a different level, but since if you're going to argue that closers shouldn't be in the Hall, it's a reasonable question.

  8. Dvd Avins Says:

    @52, Ruffing doesn't belong on that list. If you don't consider his hitting, he's a very bad pick. But he probably contributed more value by his hitting than any other player who was only a pitcher. Once you factor that in, he's just past the point where most players get in and probably deserve to.

  9. Jimbo Says:

    It's too bad Wagner retired so soon. He seemed like he had a lot left and just had a career year.

  10. -Mark Says:

    @107 Rivera is the exception and he has clearly had a great career, and he will certainly go to the HoF.

    Though, personally, I wouldn't send him there (probably 😉 ). The truoble is a great pitcher can also be a great closer, though not vise versa. Look at Randy Johnson in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. If you had to choose a closer, and you had the choice of Rivera or Johnson knowing that both to have thrown 100+ pitches the day before, which would you take? Could Rivera have done that? We'll never know.

    And there-in is the issue. The great HoF pitchers could all pitch through 9 and you could rely on them in a pinch situation. Unfortunately that makes me a purist. Unless you are a great, and truely great, you shouldn't get a ticket to the Big Hall.

    Johnson? Yes. Clemens? Yes. Martinez? Yes. Schilling? Maybe. Halliday? Maybe. Rivera? No. Hoffman? No.

  11. Jimbo Says:

    I think you can hold alot against closers, but I can't see any justification for Rivera not being a hall of famer. His post season success and consistent unmatched dominance is just too much qualification. And he's a class act and great team player from everything we've ever heard.

    Halladay isn't a Hall of Famer now, but he looks to be on his way.

  12. barkie Says:

    The gut-guy in me says, God yes.

    Some people have a resume, so awesome on its face, it's almost insulting to squeak the numbers. I know it's not a sabre-criteria, but some people are so universally agreed upon to be awesome, I think you have to hold off judgment til the vote. He'll be a first-vote with one of those legendary high % rates.

    P.S. on a different note, here's how clueless I am in using this site. Is there a way to reach Andy or Sean or any of those guys to suggest a topic?

  13. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ Barkie
    Open your window and shout. Andy is very auditorily sensitive.
    Carrier Pigeons for Sean.

  14. barkie Says:

    Am training the pigeon, as we speak.

    More specifically, is there a place/opportunity where stat-heads meet in person?

    If I can find a hard-core sabrehead in the Detroit area (wayne county) that can answer my questions and back their points, I'll spring for the beers (though that might not be a good combination).

    P.S. get the idea Andy is too far away for my voice. Will gargle regularly and hope for the best.

  15. Andy Says:

    You can email me at andy (followed by an "at" sign)

  16. Dvd Avins Says:

    @56 Dent underrated? Are you serious? Except for one shining moment, he was about the same as Fred Stanley. The Yankees would have been well advised to keep the $400,000 and Oscar Gamble that they gave up for him. BTW, while Nettles and eventually Randolph were very good in the field, Chambliss made them all look better than they actually were. They could take chances making throws that on other teams they'd better swallow because Chambliss would always catch the ball and usually still be on the bag, no matter how wild the throw was.

  17. Dave V. Says:

    @98 Derek D -
    ""Bernie, O'Neill, Cone, Guidry, Nettles, Randolph, Munson, Posada, Pettitte, Wells, Giambi, etc. all had strong careers. Some have better HOF cases than others."
    None of those guys belong in the HOF, if you look at the numbers strictly. Munson maybe based on sentiment? Wells maybe, if his record wasn't so inconsistent from year to year. Guidry maybe, except that his career was sorta short at 14 years (and 2 of those early on were a wash), and his last three seasons he went a stinky 16-23.
    I could break each player down more, but i'd bore you all to tears. "

    You say Wells "maybe, if..." and don't even mention Cone. Feel free to break down Wells vs. Cone and say why Wells even warrants a "maybe, if" but Con doesn't even warrant a mention. Don't worry, it won't be a bore as I am interested to know your rationale.

  18. John Autin Says:

    Silly me. For some reason, I worked up an argument for keeping Billy Wagner out of the HOF -- then I realized that nobody was arguing for his induction, but rather, calling him comparable to Hoffman and using that as a reason Hoffman should not be inducted.

    I'll leave my original argument at the bottom, in case someone's really bored.

    But as far as Wagner being comparable to Hoffman, I have two counterpoints:

    1. Wagner has pitched just 903 innings. That's 17% less than Hoffman's 1,089 -- or, if you prefer, a difference of 3 full seasons at their average rate of IP per year.

    2. Though I hate to go "through the looking glass" into the bizarro world where "One-Inning, Save-Only Closer" is considered a vital job, I think we must do so when comparing closers of this era who were used in that fashion. So although my eyes goggle at Wagner's K/9, WHIP, K/BB and ERA+, which are all better than Hoffman's, the actual assignment for both was to convert save chances into saves. And at that, Hoffman was better than Wagner, not only in total saves but in conversion rate (89.1% to 86.4% during their careers as closers).


    Why Billy Wagner should not be elected to the HOF:
    (in case someone ever wants to argue in his favor)

    Wagner has had a fine career, and was probably underappreciated. But as far as the HOF, I would view him as the thin end of the wedge: if Wagner gets in, it will open the door to what may be a lot of pitchers with about 400 saves in the not-so-distant future.

    Two reasons I would vote against him:

    1. Wagner has pitched just 903 innings. Sutter's 1,042 is the lowest total for any HOF pitcher; Wagner's total is 13% less than Sutter, 17% less than Hoffman, 21% less than Rivera. And say what you will about Fingers and Gossage, they both had over 1,700 IP. The IP alone makes Wagner a very dubious candidate, and his gruesome postseason record seals it.

    2. To a certain class of HOF voters, I think Wagner's induction would come to be viewed as all about his save total. Yes, we know he had great rate stats, but there are many voters with whom K/9 and WHIP still don't resonate. If Wagner were to get in, consider the next pitcher to come up for a vote, with 422 saves and an 86.4% conversion rate, but without Wagner's dominant rate stats. What else could we say to distinguish the HOFer Wagner from Pitcher X?
    -- Wagner never led the league in saves; he ranked 2nd once, 3rd twice, 5th once, 6th and 7th twice each, 9th and 10th once each.
    -- He was invisible in CYA and MVP voting: not one 1st-place vote for either award, and a total of 0.04 CYA shares, 0.05 MVP shares.
    -- No championships; never played in a World Series; his teams lost 7 of 8 postseason series; and his personal postseason record is awful (just 11.2 IP, but still, a 10.03 ERA and 3 disastrous games out of 14 appearances).

  19. Dave V. Says:

    @106 Mark -
    "I guess I am pretty simple about these HoF things: pitchers need to pitch. Closers, by their definition, don't really do that, certainly not to the same extent as other HoF pitchers. Is Hoffman Koufax good? Gibson good? Could he pitch a perfect game? Or a shut-out? Could he even pitch a complete game? Don't think so.
    Sould a DH go the the HoF for being a great DH? It is a real skill, but no. Neither should the world's best relieving catcher. Just tough for these guys that they are either born at the wrong time, or didn't get the breaks. Though that is not going to be unique to closers."

    Closers don't pitch?

    You qualify that by saying "not to the same extent as other HOF pitchers". Well as already noted here on this board, Greg Maddux doesn't have near the same amount of CG's as other HOF pitchers (and non-HOF pitchers to boot). Is he a HOF'er? Is Pedro Martinez? Is Is Roger Clemens? Today's starting pitchers can't hold a candle to prior pitchers in terms of innings and complete games. So by your standard, are they worthy of the HOF?

  20. Dr. Doom Says:

    It looks like around 85% of us think he'll get in. I'm a little surprised. I thought it would be closer to 70%. Huh.

  21. Dave V. Says:

    This just in...Topper009 predicts that Shane Spencer is going to make the HOF in 2050 because of a New York bias.

  22. Dave V. Says:

    I voted Yes, Hoffman deserves to get in. He's done his job extremely well, better than almost everyone else in his particular role and that is worthy of the HOF in my personal opinion.

    To people who say his position is an "invented" position, well you know, every baseball position is an "invented" position. Think about it. And also realize, the game evolves. If you're not happy with that, well then any pitcher who doesn't pitch CG's on a Cy Young or Walter Johnson level should not be worthy of the HOF based on that logic.

  23. Jonathan Says:

    My only concern is his 61-75 record. That aside, he has a low ERA and 600 fricking saves. He is hard to ignore.

  24. Biff Says:

    "To people who say his position is an "invented" position, well you know, every baseball position is an "invented" position. Think about it. And also realize, the game evolves. If you're not happy with that, well then any pitcher who doesn't pitch CG's on a Cy Young or Walter Johnson level should not be worthy of the HOF based on that logic."

    I'll further that notion by saying that if closers as well as DHs are positions deemed worthy for consideration of winning the Cy and/or MVP awards (which they have won), why should we then deem them not worthy for HOF consideration?

    Keep in mind that I hate when closers win the Cy (should be an exclusive award for starters) and hate the DH rule altogether, but I have to throw the question out there.

  25. John Autin Says:

    Dave V. @119: "Today's starting pitchers can't hold a candle to prior pitchers in terms of innings and complete games."

    I realize that you made that statement in defense of relievers being HOF-worthy. Still, I must quibble. While the CG and IP/year for today's ace pitchers are less than for those of any other era, career IP totals are a different story.

    Take Lefty Grove. With a career record of 300-141, he's obviously a first-tier, top-rung HOFer. And yes, Grove completed 65% of his starts (298 of 457).

    But Grove pitched 3,941 innings -- a total surpassed by Greg Maddux (5,008), Roger Clemens (4,917), Tom Glavine (4,413), Randy Johnson (4,135) and Jamie Moyer (4,020, though I hope he's not a future HOFer).

    And Grove does not even represent a typical HOF innings total. Among the HOFers from those golden days when "men were men" and finished what they started are 10 who made the Hall with less than 3,000 IP, and 20 with less than 3,500 IP. Of the 52 (or so) starting pitchers who made the HOF on the basis of careers from 1890 onward, the median career IP is about 3,760.

    In addition to the 4 current-era pitchers I mentioned above with over 4,000 IP, Mike Mussina had 3,563 IP; John Smoltz had 3,473 (despite spending 4 years as a closer); David Wells had 3,439 IP, and Kenny Rogers 3,303.

    Among active pitchers, C.C. Sabathia has 2,127 IP through age 29 (averaging 240 IP for the past 4 years), and Felix Hernandez has 1,155 through age 24.

    Or to look at it in terms of overall frequency, let's compare the number of pitchers who reached various career IP levels from 1920-60 (the live-ball, pre-expansion era) and 1961-2010 (the expansion era):

    2,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 47 pitchers, 0.14 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 176 pitchers, 0.14 per team/season.

    3,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 25 pitchers, 0.04 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 47 pitchers, 0.04 per team/season.

    4,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 4 pitchers, 0.006 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 16 pitchers, 0.012 per team/season.

    Of the all-time top 20 in career IP, 10 pitched entirely in the expansion era.

    The career IP gap between top starters of today and those of yesterday is not as big as some might think.

  26. Zack Says:

    My HOF threshold is high - I'm a limited Hall guy, but. Yes on Hoffman.

    Just during Hoffman's career, thousands of major league pitchers tried to do what Hoffman did - close games. Minus one guy, Hoffman's ability exceeded all others.

    And it ain't Hoffman's fault that baseball/Padres used him a certain way. He still did his job better than almost anyone. He was dominant at what he did for a long time.

    That's HOF.

  27. mfw13 Says:

    For me, relievers simply do not belong in the HOF because of the fact that they pitch so few innings and therefore have a relaively minimal impact on the game. Hoffman pitched fewer than 1100 innings in his career....that's the equivalent of about five decent seasons for a starter, and nobody would even dream of voting for a starter who only pitched five seasons.

    Add to that the fact that saves are a hugely overrated statistic, and Hoffman's achievements become much less impressive. After all, in a majority of those 601 saves, all he had to do was simply pitch a scoreless inning, something that even mediocre pitchers generally manage to do over 50% of the time. The number of times he had to actually "save" the game (i.e. enter the game with the tying run on base) is probably quite small.

    It would be very helpful if some of the stats geeks out there were able to create a stat which differentiates among the different toughness levels of saves...i.e. ones in which the closer enters with a 1-run, 2-run, or 3-run lead and/or in which the closer enters with a 1-run lead and the bases empty versus a runner in scoring position.

    I'm guessing that out of Hoffman's 601 saves, probably less than 10% involved him entering the game with the tying run in scoring position, and probably less than 30% with the tying run at the plate.

  28. -mark Says:

    @119 "So by your standard, are they worthy of the HOF?"

    Those guys, yes. I am one of those "best of the best for HoF" guys, not just a "best at what he does". Hoffman? Not for me. Blyleven? He was good stats but not HoF for me.

    And I have been thinking about Rivera and I'll change my mind on him. He is one of the best of the best, he just happens to be a closer. If he wasn't a closer, I think that he would still be in there, which is not the case for Hoffman. It would be the case for Maddux, Johnson, and the others.

  29. fredf Says:

    all who say rp dont belong in the hof neither should dh and the 27 nyy had a fewplayers who shoulldnt be in either except hoyt maybe

  30. Does the W-L record matter for closers? » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] our Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame post, a couple of readers remarked on his career W-L record of 61-75 as being a detriment to his HOF [...]

  31. Andy Says:

    Way back at #50 Kds, thanks for pointing that out, I have fixed the post.

  32. Dave V. Says:

    I've seen a few comments against Tony Lazzeri being in the HOF but I'm one who thinks he is a legit HOF'er. Amongst 2B who have played long enough to get a WAR of 35 or higher, he's 5th in OPS, 10th in OPS+, 6th in RBI, 9th in OBP amongst other stats. He's "only" 15th in WAR. But keep in mind that when he was elected to the HOF in 1991, only 8 2B eligible for the HOF had a higher WAR (not that anyone even knew what WAR was then anyways).

    Randolph retired in 1992, Whitaker in 1995, Sandberg in 1997, Alomar in 2004, Kent in 2008. Grich had already retired but wasn't yet HOF-eligible (he came on the ballot the following year, in 1992).

    I'm not sure if those against Lazzeri's inclusion are doing so partially on the basis of WAR at all, but if so, you have to look at things in context. He was one of the very best according to WAR at the time of his election. And his stats still hold up now I think as well.

  33. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #110/-Mark Says: "... And there-in is the issue. The great HoF pitchers could all pitch through 9 and you could rely on them in a pinch situation. Unfortunately that makes me a purist. Unless you are a great, and truely great, you shouldn't get a ticket to the Big Hall. Johnson? Yes. Clemens? Yes. Martinez? Yes. Schilling? Maybe. Halliday? Maybe. Rivera? No. Hoffman? No."

    Mark, I think it's rather foolish to declare "no relief pitchers ever belong in the HOF". There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF, so it's already been decided that they DO belong in the HOF - that horse left the barn years ago. Now it's a question of _what_ the particular standards for relievers are going to be. Rivera will almost certainly be elected on the first ballot, despite your protestations.

    As for the only pitchers being qualified for the HOF those that "could all pitch through 9 ", again, that simply is _not_ the standard anymore, and hasn't been for many years. Greg Maddux (about 15% CG) has a lower complete game % than Seaver (35%), Seaver less than Spahn (58%), Spahn less than Lefty Grove (65%), Grove less than Walter Johnson (80%), and Johnson less than Cy Young (90%). The % of complete games has been declining for over a hundred years now.

    If CG are so important to you, how about the HOF merits of one Jack Taylor, who completed every game he started for FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS (1902-1906)?

  34. Chuck Says:

    "There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF"

    And two of them, Fingers and Sutter, are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections.

    Wilhelm and Gossage were elected on the downward side of their eligibility, and Eckersley in part due to his twelve seasons spent as a starter.

    So, yes, there is a precedent on relievers/closers in the Hall.

    Not a very good one, however.

  35. John Autin Says:

    @129, Mark said: “If [Rivera] wasn’t a closer, I think that he would still be in there, which is not the case for Hoffman.”

    I don’t know; this sounds like a back-door way to get Rivera past the IP road-block you’ve set for the HOF, just because (in the common phrase) he “feels” like a HOFer.

    What is the alternative role you’re thinking of for Rivera -- old-style “fireman,” or starting pitcher?

    If it’s fireman, I think there’s a chance that he would have been HOF-great in that role, but there’s little actual evidence, and what evidence exists in terms of his stamina is not in his favor. (See next paragraph.) Would he have been able to amass enough innings to meet your standard? After all, only three fireman have made it to the Hall -- Wilhelm, Fingers and Gossage -- and each had at least 1,700 IP. And while we may guess that Mariano would have thrived working longer outings and more IP per year, there’s not a lot of evidence to go on: Rivera has made only 17 relief appearances longer than 2 IP, just 2 of those since 1996. By contrast, the three HOF firemen each had at least 10 times as many relief games of over 2 IP: Gossage had 180 (including four in his final season, age 42); Fingers had 205 (eight over his final two seasons); and Wilhelm had 254. So to get from Rivera’s actual workload to that of a HOF fireman requires a hefty extrapolation.

    And if you’re thinking of Rivera succeeding in a starting role, I don’t see it. He did come up as a starter, but he got pounded in 10 starts as a rookie: 5.94 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 8 HRs in 50 IP. He didn’t show much stamina in the minors, averaging less than 5 IP both in his 13 career starts at AAA and over his last three minor-league seasons combined. And if the Yankees had thought Rivera had a future as a starter, I think they would have left him in that role. After all, in his second year, 1996, when Rivera worked setup for Wetteland, the Yankee rotation included Dwight Gooden (5.01 ERA in 29 starts), Ramiro Mendoza (6.79 in 11 starts), and mediocre years from Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Key (each with a 4.68 ERA in 30 starts). Their ’97 rotation still had Gooden and Rogers, both doing worse than the year before. They certainly could have used help in the rotation.

    Summing up: I think it’s a stretch to surmise that Mariano Rivera would still have had a HOF-worthy career if he hadn’t been a closer. And so, if the 1,150 innings Rivera has actually pitched (so brilliantly) still leaves him shy of the Hall in your eyes, then you should leave him there.

  36. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #134/ Chuck Says:"{ "There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF"} And two of them, Fingers and Sutter, are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections."

    Chuck - EASILY the worst BWWAA selection? Howzabout:
    - Pie Traynor
    - Herb Pennock
    - Rabbit Maranville
    - Catfish Hunter
    - Tony Perez
    - Kirby Puckett

    There's been plenty of discussion in these here parts of the merits (or lack thereof) of these selections also...

    On the number of ballots it took to get elected: Eddie Mathews took five years, Gary Carter took six years, Duke Snider took eleven (!) years - does that make them less worthy enshrinees?

    Well, regardless of the merits of particular relievers elected in the past, the BWWAA is going to elect relievers in the future, so it's foolish to pretend that _no_ relievers belong in the HOF, or should ever be elected.

  37. Dave V. Says:

    It always interests me when there is talk of how Rivera would have done as a starter if he never went to the pen. The answer is...we'll never know. He may have been great, he may have flopped and he may have come somewhere in between. Looking at his history, I don't think we can assume he would have failed.

    Rivera did average a low amount of innings as a starter. Perhaps it was a stamina issue. Perhaps the Yanks were babying him. He wouldn't be the first starter to average a low amount of innings in the minors. For example, CC Sabathia averaged amount 5.4 IP's his last season in the minor. Now he was pretty young and I'd bet the Indians were babying him. He's since went on to become one of the top workhorses in the bigs.

    Rivera's 10 GS's in his rookie year don't look great but then again, neither do these rookie seasons:

    --Maddux: 5 GS - 30 IP - 5.40 ERA - 1.80 WHIP
    --Glavine: 9 GS - 50.1 IP - 5.54 ERA - 1.75 WHIP
    --Smoltz: 12 GS - 64 IP - 5.48 ERA - 1.67 WHIP

    Looking in depth at Rivera's 10 GS's, half of them were lousy but half of them were respectable-to-excellent:

    --The Bad:
    GS #1 - 3.1 IP - 8 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs - 5 K
    GS #3 - 4 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 7 Runs - 3 K
    GS #4 - 2.1 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 5 Runs (4 ER) - 0 K
    GS #8 - 5.2 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs (4 ER) - 3 K
    GS #10 - 4.1 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs - 5 K

    --The OK/Good:
    GS #2 - 5.1 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 1 Run - 1 K
    GS #5 - 8 IP - 2 H - 4 BB - 0 Runs - 11 K
    GS #6 - 6 IP - 6 H - 1 BB - 1 Run - 5 K
    GS #7 - 5 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 3 Runs - 3 K
    GS #9 - 5.1 IP - 2 H - 2 BB - 1 Run - 5 K

    Incidentally, in that GS #5 of Rivera's career, he had an 85 Game Score. Tom Glavine, who was mentioned above, didn't have a Game Score that high until his 3rd season (and only 9 games with an 85 GS or higher across his entire career).

    Rivera showed some promise as a starter his rookie year. He also had some rough patches. The Yanks were fighting for a playoff spot his rookie year and couldn't deal with rough patches like that, so he went to the bullpen. He had some good games and then in the playoffs, he kept the Yanks in the series as much as he possibly could, specifically in his first game (Game 2 of the ALDS):

    Gm 2: 3.1 IP - 2 H - 0 BB - 0 Runs - 5 K
    Gm 3: 1.1 IP - 0 H - 0 BB - 0 Runs - 2 K
    Gm 5: 0.2 IP - 1 H - 1 BB - 0 Runs - 1 K
    In that Game 5, he came into the game with runners on 2nd and 3rd of a tie game in the 8th inning and got a strikeout looking. BTW, that BB he gave up was an intentional BB the following inning.

    So Rivera sort of came out of nowhere to do a great job for the Yanks in the playoffs. Rivera didn't do anything to lead them to believe he wouldn't be effective as a reliever in 1996, as he had a 1.25 ERA by the end of April and a 0.98 ERA by the end of May. There's no way the Yanks were going to go away from the tandem they know had set up, with Rivera followed by Wetteland. With that duo (and they had Stanton and Nelson in front of Rivera), games were considered 6 inning games for the Yanks. Finish the 6th with a lead, hand off to the bullpen and win. The formula helped the Yanks win the World Series that year. Rivera was so successful in the pen and Wetteland left as a free agent after that 1996 season that it made perfect sense to keep Rivera in the pen...they did and the rest is history.

    So could Rivera have had a HOF-worthy career as a starter? We really don't know. Its all just guesswork. Other HOF starters of this era were mediocre as starters just as Rivera was. Their teams kept them starting and they panned out. Rivera's team had a need for a reliever, it worked out fantasically well to start out with and the Yanks kept him in that role. He has had a HOF-worthy career as a reliever and that's all that counts.

  38. Dave V. Says:

    sorry for the typos above...
    "For example, CC Sabathia averaged ABOUT 5.4 IP's his last season in the minorS."

    "There's no way the Yanks were going to go away from the tandem they NOW had set up"

  39. John Autin Says:

    @136, Dave V. -- "So could Rivera have had a HOF-worthy career as a starter? We really don't know. Its all just guesswork."

    Well, thank you for reinforcing my point. I wasn't trying to show that Rivera couldn't have suceeded as a SP (though I reserve the right to remain skeptical), only that there was no reason -- none -- to think that he would have done so.

    I was responding to Mark's claim that “If [Rivera] wasn’t a closer, ... he would still be in [the HOF], which is not the case for Hoffman” (emphasis added). My point was, upon what evidence did he distinguish Rivera's possible alternate careers from Hoffman's?

  40. Dave V. Says:

    @139 John Autin - I hear you and overall with the Rivera info, I just wanted to give as much info as I could on his rookie season. The way I see it, he isn't a "failed starter" (though I have seen some call him that across threads before). IMO he's a pitcher that the Yanks tried as a reliever out of need and he succeeded beyond all wildest expectations, so he stayed in that role. If he had started multiple seasons, did poorly and then the Yanks put him in the pen, I wouldn't have a quibble with him as a "failed starter". But that's not how it shaped up for Mo.

  41. John Autin Says:

    @132, Dave V. -- “… when [Lazzeri] was elected to the HOF in 1991, only 8 2B eligible for the HOF had a higher WAR….”

    I count nine: Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie, Morgan, Gehringer, Frisch, Robinson, Herman, and Evers (48.4 WAR ). And many have argued that Evers didn’t deserve the honor.

    A larger point is this: At the time of Lazzeri’s induction, only two HOF 2B had a lower WAR than Lazzeri: Bobby Doerr (barely), and Red Schoendienst, another sentimental selection. Here were the WAR values for the 11 HOF 2B selected before Lazzeri: 127.8, 126.7, 104.2, 103.5, 80.9, 74.8, 63.2, 55.6, 48.4, 47.7, 40.4. How does Lazzeri’s 48.3 look in that list?

    And this: In the 14 times Lazzeri appeared on the writers’ HOF ballot, he never got more than 33.2% of the vote, and was down to 5.0% in his last year of eligibility (1962). Three decades later, the Vets’ Committee anointed him, in what looks to be a case of “if Doerr [1986] and Schoendienst [’89] are in there, Lazzeri should be, too!”

    Lazzeri had a very short career by HOF standards: At the time of his election, his 7,303 PAs were fewer than all but two HOF 2B, Jackie Robinson (asterisk, anyone?) and Evers, and all 2B elected since then also have more PAs. Lazzeri remains the only HOF second baseman who did not play at least 1,500 games at 2B.

    So if he had a very short career, he must have had a high peak of several years, right? Well … His top three season WARs were 7.8, 5.8 and 5.3; his next three were 4.7, 4.5 and 3.3. (Lou Whitaker’s detractors say he didn’t have enough peak value, but he had two seasons of WAR over 6, and 14 seasons of WAR 3.3 and up.) And Lazzeri’s only notable impact in MVP voting was a 3rd place in 1928 -- when Ruth and Gehrig were ineligible, as prior winners.

    Lazzeri’s far from the worst HOF inductee, but I don’t think he belongs.

  42. John Autin Says:

    @140, Dave V. -- I agree that it's not right to call Rivera a failed starter.

    If I had a lot of time on my hands, I'd love to construct a timeline of everything connected with the "Rise of the Closer." I'd like to have a sharper sense of exactly when:
    -- MLB teams became willing to switch a once-promising starter to relieving after just a year or two of unsuccesful starting;
    -- MLB teams began to develop pitchers as relievers from the start of their careers;
    -- college and H.S. teams began pigeonholing pitchers as relievers.

  43. Cyril Morong Says:

    This is only slightly related to #142, but I did a study called "Starting Pitchers As Relievers Over Time" It is at

    Over time, the trend for starters to become exclusively starters seems to be fairly gradual, starting maybe in the 1920s. I have both tables and timeline charts in this post

  44. Andy Says:

    JA, I did a series of posts somewhat related last year.

    Check out this one:

    It shows relief appearances broken down into fraction more than one inning, exactly one inning, and less than one inning. I excluded save situations---not sure why. There must be an earlier post from me looking at save situations vs non-save situations but I couldn't quickly find it.

  45. Dave V. Says:

    @141 John Autin - you're right, there are 9 as I missed Jackie Robinson (I set the % of games at 2B too high and missed him). As far as Lazzeri goes, you make fair points. One thing that makes Lazzeri look bad is that he *should* (IMO) have been elected earlier than he was. As you note, he never did well on the writers' HOF ballot (but unfortunately as we know, that's the case for many candidates). Lazzeri first came on the ballot when there were only a handful of guys in the HOF. The ballot was extremely overcrowded and that may have made it difficult for a guy like Lazzeri to gain traction in the vote. Esp. as his numbers didn't compare to that of a HOF-worthy 1B or outfielder. But as a 2B (which like SS was not traditionally known for huge offense outside of a few guys who rank amongst the game's alltime greats), he was one of the best of his day.

    Overall, while you're on the side of the fence that says "far from the worst HOF inductee but doesnt belong", I'm on the side of the fence that says "far from the best HOF inductee but he does belong". JMO 🙂

  46. Cyril Morong Says:

    Another study I did that is only slightly related is "Did The Increased Use Of Relief Pitching Cause A Decline In Clutch Hitting?" It is at

    It seems that starting with the early 1950s, as the % of complete games went down and the % of batters faced by relievers went up, how batters did in the clutch fell relative to their non-clutch performance. So it is possible that the way pitching staffs are managed and the way relievers are deployed makes sense

  47. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ John Autin

    Usually you have some of the most insightful things to say here, but to call Rivera a 'failed starter' is surely not one of them. Or to say he couldn't make it as a starter, so...
    Does that make Ruth a failed starter?
    Eck a failed starter?
    Smoltz a failed starter, then a failed reliever?
    Peyton Manning couldn't of made it as a Fullback?
    I'm missing your point.

  48. MikeD Says:

    @147, Dukeofflatbush, because of time limitations right now, I can't read all the postings above (I tried to do a quick review), so I'm not sure where the Rivera is a "failed starter" line came from, or what set it off, yet it's not correct. What's also not correct is we can't call Eck or Smoltz or Ruth failed starters, because all three had success as starters.
    Unlike those three, however, we can't call Rivera a "successful starter" either. He is neither a failed starter or a successful starter. He is an unproven starter, who had all of ten starts in the majors as a rookie, which were spread out sporadically over the course of the season, with roughly half of those starts occurring prior to his recall from the minors when he was clearly a different pitcher. His velocity kicked up quite a bit, and on his first start back in the majors against he White Sox, pitched a two hitter over eight innings. He made a few more starts, appeared in mop-up situations out of the pen, but he rarely was used regularly in critical situations, that is until Buck Showalter was forced to during game two of the playoffs against the Mariners in '95. I believe I was living in Chicago at that time, so the first time I really saw Rivera was in those playoff games, and I remember clearly my reaction was "Who is this guy?" He had crappy stats but looked really difficult to hit.
    Anyway, I've gone off track. Rivera had ten starts on the season, and only about five or six as the "new and improved" Rivera spread out over months, and he was still about a year away from developing his signature cutter. (He had four pitches in the minors, including a change-up, which was rated as pretty good. He shelved it once he became a reliever.) Trying to guess what kind of starter Rivera would have been in pointless. We just don't know. It would be like calling Billy Wagner a failed starter. He wasn't. He was a starter in the minors, and decisions were made and a level of success was reached early on out of the pen, that he never go the chance to start. The all relievers are failed starters meme isn't always true.

  49. -Mark Says:

    @139 -- John A

    Yup, I am flip-flopping on Rivera, though please note that I know he will go into the HoF. First time around, probably.

    The issue, for me, is more one what kind of HoF would I like. And for me it is the best guys overall. For a pitcher I, just me, want a legend, a guy who can do it all and be up there with the best. Like Randy Johnson. He not only gave the promise, he showed he could do it: a real go-to guy. Start, pitch deep, close, come back after a big day prior and make the big plays -- that is HoF material, IMO.

    The other extreme would be a guy who is the best ever at pitching in a 2-out, two-one, one-run, late innings. Important. Sure. HoF just on that criteria? Too narrow for me, when compared with the other guys, like Cy Young or Koufax. Rivera? He did a bit more, did it very often, and is the best. Enough, under my criteria for my HoF? I think so, though I am not 100% sure 😉

    And this is just my little, limited view of the HoF. I know that the real one is very different. And so it goes...

  50. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Mike D,

    i was quoting and critisizing someone else's labeling Rivera a failed starter.
    I couldn't agree with you more. I think you read that wrong or I wrote it wrong, or maybe you should read the first 145 rambles for it to make sense.
    Actually though, my point was it was irrelevant if he failed as a starter or not. I think Thomas Edison dropped out of highschool. Lousy student, that Tommy. We should just forget what he 'did' and did better than anyone, and stop at what he didnot do...?

  51. Tyler_K Says:

    I think Rivera's greatness seems to come with such ease, and the fact that he throws one pitch (which really isn't quite true) makes some assume that his skills would never translate to being a starter. Maybe, but if I had to guess, I'd say he'd have been a great starter, at least for a few years. It would be more of a question of endurance to me. Could his body type stand up to the strain. We'll never know.

    What makes Rivera so great is two-fold. It's his ability to repeat his motion, time and time again, probably better than any pitcher in the game today. It gives him great command and control. Add in his legendary cutter, and the fact he varies the pressure on it to change its movement, and it's clear we're watching not a great relief pitcher, or a great closer, but we're watching a great pitcher.

    I don't want it to appear that I'm taking credit for anyone else's work, even in part, so I'm including two links below from stories by Baseball Prospectus' Cliff Corcoran, who penned a story for SI on Hoffman, and the other more Yankee/Rivera specific for one of YES' blogs. He originally intended the SI piece to rate the greatness of Hoffman and to place him in historical context, which he does. What became most obvious is how much better Rivera is compared to all relievers, including Hoffman. It reaches Ruthian levels. Both are good reads. Links below:

  52. Chuck Says:

    Lawrence #136

    What I said..

    "...are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections."

    What you've quoted me as saying;

    "..EASILY the worst BWWAA selection"

    Kinda changes the whole meaning, doesn't it? And also kinda makes your post irrelevant.

    I don't mind getting called out for saying something dumb, but at least have the common courtesy of getting the bleepin' quote right.

  53. MikeD Says:

    @150, Duke...

    My intent was to write a quick note about agreeing with you, but then went into a more in-depth note on why I also didn't agree with the "failed starter" language that others had posted. So I did know we were in agreement, but my note took on a life of it's own!

    @151, Tyler...

    I think the most telling thought in the article(s) regarding Rivera's dominance is when referring to Rivera's peak. There is no peak. His entire career fifteen year (and counting) career is his peak. We're still waiting for the off-peak to figure out his actual peak years!

  54. DM Says:

    People are overthinking this. Of course he's a Hall of Famer. Yes, there are very few closers in the Hall, and so the standards are fuzzy, but whatever you think the baseline for closers is or should be, he's clearly over it. He was consistent and excellent for an extended period of time. Rivera is amazing, but Rivera's excellence shouldn't diminish Hoffman's results. If you don't let Hoffman in, who among closers (besides Rivera) can even hope to get in? The Hall of Fame is meant to honor the best. Hoffman clearly qualifies. Funny, everyone seems to think that closers are so important to success, but then you don't want to honor someone who is clearly among the top closers of all time?????

    Comparing Lee Smith to Hoffman is folly. Smith was a very good closer, although I think he's a little short of being Hall of Fame worthy, but essentially everything about Hoffman's record was better. Better ERA, more saves, better K/9, better control, fewer hits per 9.

    Keep it simple.......He deserves to be in.

  55. nesnhab Says:

    Joe Baseball's comment is one of the best ones I've ever seen about closers.

    Starting pitchers don't have the luxury of pitching in specially selected circumstances. Platoon players do. When was the last time they put a platooner in the HOF?

    Every time I hear one of those sportscasters proclaim how the latest hot closer has become the most important man on the team, I imagine myself talking back to the TV. I say, "didn't the rest of the team do anything all day?"

  56. Coming On Like a Hurricane | Ducksnorts Says:

    [...] POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame (Baseball-Reference, Andy) [...]

  57. Pat Says:

    "In 10 years from now when many more closers have had long careers being 1 inning guys Hoffman's total may not look so dominant."

    Really? Any idea who these closers might be? Could you give me an example of the many closers who are going to average above 40 Saves per year for the next decade?

    "Hoffman looks now probably how Met Ott's 511 HRs looked in 1945 which was the 3rd most ever at the time. A staggering number for 1945, still respectable but nothing amazing for today's standards."

    Wow! So 511 is not amazing because it's now only 23rd All Time? In over a century of baseball, nearly a century of live ball, 23 guys have hit 511 or better out of 10's of thousands of professional baseball players, but it's not an amazing total? Interesting world you live in.

  58. Pat Says:

    "Couldn't disagree more. Olerud was nowhere near Mattingly during his prime, not even close. Mattingly should have had 2 MVPs, and was among the best (if not THE best) in the game during that stretch. I've said it before, but think of Olerud as a poor man's Keith Hernandez."

    Mattingly's five best seasons by WAR: 6.9, 6.4, 6.3, 5.7, 3.9

    Olerud's five best seasons by WAR: 8.2, 8.1, 5.3, 5.3, 5.2

    Mattingly's were essentially consecutive seasons while Olerud's were a bit more spread out, but his prime far exceeds Mattingly. Fangraphs has it closer (those are from B-R), but still an edge to Olerud.

  59. Pat Says:

    "I know that 2007 Game #163 against the Rockies is technically a regular-season game, but in terms of the idea that for a closer, he certainly didn't come through in big moments, it's obviously a post-season game."

    The HOF is a career achievement and bringing up isolated incidents such as this, or its obverse, such as Morris's 10 IP World Series game, as an argument for or against is ridiculous.

  60. Dvd Avins Says:

    @158, Prime is not cherry-picked seasons over a prolonged period. It's how good was he really, doing the best we can to remove the luck that goes into a single year's statistics, at his very best. The power you're responding to may have overstated Mattingly's case, but suppose you could clone Mattingly as he was in 1985. Doesn't mean he'd duplicate 1985's season, things could break better or worse. But you could expect a hell of a season. At no point in Olerud's career was he especially close to that level of ability.

  61. Cyril Morong Says:

    I think some measures show Olerud was, at some points, as good as Mattingly was in 1985.

    Matt 85) 156 (actually had 161 in 86)
    Olerud 93) 186
    Olerud 98) 163

    Remember, Olerud hit over .350 in each of those years with 20+ HRs, lots of 2Bs and OBP well over .400 without missing very many games. We can see something similar if we use Adjusted batting runs or Offensive winning percentage.

    But Mattingly had, from 84-87, OPS+'s of 156-156-161-146. The year before Olerud had his 186, he had 126. The year after it was 124. The year before he had the 163, it was 135. The year after it was 128. He was not able to string his best 3-4 years together. They were spread out. His next best year was 2002 at 140. Playing in Seattle probably did not help

    Mattingly's best 3 year OPS+ average (simple averagge) was 157.667. 4-year average was 154.75. Olerud's were 145.333 and 137.75.

    It helped Mattingly that he put 3-4 great seasons in a row in NY while winning an MVP award. Olerud can match Mattingly for single seasons but not for a 3-4 year period. If Olerud had back-to-back .350+ seasons in NY, he would have gotten alot more attention

  62. John Autin Says:

    @147, Dukeofflatbush (addressing my by name) -- " call Rivera a 'failed starter' is surely not [insightful]. Or to say he couldn't make it as a starter...."

    I post a lot here, so it's natural that sometimes statements are wrongly attributed to me, or that my meaning is completely mistaken; and I am not taking offense at this one. But I still want to set the record straight:

    If you read my posts mentioning Rivera @ 135, 139 and 142, it's clear not only that I never called Rivera a "failed starter" (or any other words to that effect), but also that I specifically said @142, "I agree that it's not right to call Rivera a failed starter."

    As Mike D noted, Rivera cannot be classed as a failed starter, but he did have a brief time as a starter and had very little success in that role. That's all I ever meant to say on that topic.

  63. John Autin Says:

    Also, for the record, I am one of Mariano's greatest admirers, and I have posted many selections from the voluminous evidence of his unparalleled greatness as a closer -- for example, #82 on this thread:

  64. John Autin Says:

    @164, DM: "whatever you think the baseline for closers is or should be, [Hoffman is] clearly over it."

    I think what some people are saying -- though not I -- is that there is no baseline for "closers" to be in the HOF, as a simple matter of innings pitched. The Hoffman discussion isn't so much about whether he's one of the very best closers ever, but whether closers as a group should even get a "seat at the table."

    I think they should, and I cast my vote for Hoffman. Even if he was a failed starter. (JOKE)

  65. John Autin Says:

    Looking at Hoffman's stats, it occurred to me that he might become first HOF pitcher who never started a single game in the majors. But no; Sutter never started, either.

    Interestingly, Sutter was a reliever from day one in the minor leagues -- back in 1972. He made only 2 starts in the minors, out of 116 games.

    Just looking around at names that come to mind....

    -- Kent Tekulve began his pro career as a starter, in 1969 (7 starts in 9 games), and seems to have done very well in that role, with a season ERA of 1.70 that year. But they switched him to exclusive relief the next year, anyway. He never started in the majors.

    -- Goose Gossage began his pro career as a starter. In his second year in the minors, 1971 in A ball, Goose went 18-2, 1.83, and averaged 7.5 IP per game. He spent all of '72 in the majors, making 35 relief appearances before his first big-league start at the very end of the year, which was an unmitigated disaster: 3 IP, 13 hits, 9 ER, 3 walks. That one game shot his ERA from 3.39 to 4.28, in a season of 80 IP; as a reliever, he had allowed just 59 hits in 77 IP. He was up & down between majors & minors in '73, mostly starting in the minors and mostly relieving in the big leagues; his MLB era was 7.43 in '73 and 4.13 in '74 (and by the way, his combined K rate for those first 3 years was a modest 6.3 K/9). It was only in '75, working exclusively in relief, that Gossage finally burst through with a great year -- 142 IP, 1.84 ERA, MLB-high 26 saves. So naturally, in '76, the White Sox made him a starter again. Those would be the last starts he ever made.

    -- Rollie Fingers was a SP throughout his 4-year minor-league career.

    -- Sparky Lyle was a starter in his first pro season, but switched to relieving in year 2 and never did start a big-league game.

    -- The first pitcher to have a long career without ever starting a game was Bob Locker, 1965-75. Locker appeared in 576 games, all in relief. He was a starter throughout his minor-league career, and a good one, with a 2.58 ERA in 485 IP; in his final year on the farm, Locker hurled 226 innings and fanned 178. But when the White Sox brought him up in '65, he pitched out of the bullpen only. Locker was a member of Oakland's first two division champs (and first World Champion), then was dealt to the Cubs for Billy North. He had an excellent year for the Cubs in '73, going 10-6 with 18 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 106 IP -- yet the Cubs swapped him back to Oakland after the season for a reliever named Horacio Pina. He missed all of '74, I guess with an injury, and at the end of that season the A's traded him ... back to the Cubs, along with Darold Knowles and Manny Trillo, for an aging Billy Williams. Locker pitched poorly for the Cubs and was released in June, his career over at age 37.

  66. kds Says:

    Note that Hoyt Wilhelm had one full season as a starter and started less than a seasons worth in other years. In that one year he led the league in ERA and ERA+. This was 1959 when there were many fewer career relievers and a lot more people still believed that a reliever was a failed starter. He also led the league, (the other league), in ERA and ERA+ in 1952, his rookie season. All of his appearances that year were in relief. Has anyone else ever led the league in ERA pitching only in relief. tough to qualify. (Those 2 years were the only years Wilhelm qualified, even though he pitched until he was 48. (Of course he was a 29 year old rookie.))(Who else has led the league in ERA in both of the major leagues?)

    I could see an argument that the proper HOF line for relievers lies just below Rivera, and that he will qualify, but no one else, including Hoffman has yet.

  67. Pat Says:

    @ 160: "Prime is not cherry-picked seasons over a prolonged period. It's how good was he really, doing the best we can to remove the luck that goes into a single year's statistics, at his very best."

    WTF? Because Olerud put up an 8.1 WAR season at 24 before having 3 years where he struggled with health and then put up 5.2, 8.2, 5.3, 3.5, 5.2 and 5.1 WAR seasons I'm cherry picking? At his best Olerud was capable of putting up 8 WAR and consistently putting up 5+ WAR seasons. As I posted, his prime exceeded Mattingly's. ymmv, but there was no cherry picking involved. And, yes, prime is over a prolonged period. It's different than peak, which is all Mattingly had.

  68. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    If you put Hoffman into the hall, it's hard not to seriously consider Wagner also, which would give you 8 relief pitchers in the hall. This is a hall that has only 13 catchers, 3 of whom were dubious selections.

    I'm starting to get uncomfortable, even though I voted yes for Hoffman and have been assuming he belongs since I started thinking about him.

    Ok, on the other hand, you can probably use save conversion rate and IP under very similar usage to distinguish hoffman from Wagner. And a couple of extant relievers in the hall don't really belong, so maybe it's 5 guys. Still seems like a lot for a position that pitches so little.

    Even though I hate arguments like this, John Q? made a point about wagner and precedent that has stuck with me. His WPA and FIP stats are up in hoffman range, but more traditional stats are less impressive, and unlike Hoffman, if current closer usage patterns don't change much, his save total is quite likely to be matched by a ton of guys who are nowhere near HoF borderline caliber.

    I suppose that also means Wagner won't get in, as the same folks who would be in danger of using him as a bad precedent, won't understand why he's almost as good as Hoffman.

    Even 5 relievers seems like a lot to me, but that said, the WPA totals suggest that at least these cream of the crop guys really did provide as much value as a lot of HoF players.

  69. barkie Says:

    Gotta admit it, Jim Heyman really hit the Trevor Hoffman thing on the head.

    If you read his SI piece; Appreciating Trevor Hoffman, he does point well to a world unmeasurable by things like WAR.

    Also, he's right. Let the guy revel in his retirement lap for a while before we pounce on his legacy.

  70. John Autin Says:

    @166 Kds -- That fact you posted about Wilhelm is one of my all-time favorite oddball facts: Out of 21 seasons, Wilhelm spent just one as a regular starter -- and led the league in ERA! His career line as a SP includes 52 starts with a 2.68, 20 CG, 5 shutouts and an average of 7-1/3 IP per start.

    Doesn't it make you wonder why he wasn't used more often as a starter?

    In response to one of your questions, I don't think anyone but Wilhelm has won an ERA title working solely in relief, but Mark Eichhorn came close in 1986; he had 157 IP, and his 1.72 ERA would have led both leagues by a large margin. Helluva rookie year (14-6 record with 10 saves), but he ran just 3rd in the ROY vote, behind Canseco and Joyner.

  71. John Autin Says:

    @169, Barkie -- I would be very surprised to learn that Trevor Hoffman reads these threads, so I don't think we're really interfering with his victory lap. 🙂

  72. Who was better – Don Mattingly or John Olerud? » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] our recent Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame post, some readers got into a debate about which player--Don Mattingly or John Olerud--had the [...]

  73. Eqshamu Says:

    Cough Cough, several people have aluded to Mel ott and his 511 homers and all. Well, let's be clear on the fact that his HoF crederntials did not solely rely on 500 homers to say the least. Even if 511 Homer runs when he retired came short only to Ruth's and Foxx' totals.
    Sure 60+ years later you look at just the numbers outside their context and they look run of the mill in this Atomic baseball era, with musclebound hulks that rely exclusively on their multimillion dollar contracts to pay the bills in the offseason and leave them plenty of time to chug "vitamins"and train constantly.
    He only once ht 40 home runs after all. late 90s early 2000s, 20 peaople did that every year probably. In his case however, it was plenty of power to earn him 6 Homer Run titles, quick math tells me thats a more exclusive club than the 50 homer or maybe even 60 homer club.
    He lead the NL in walks 7 times, and OBA a handful of times too. He was no Ruth, Gherigh, Hornsby, Foxx.... (could take a while to go through that list) but he was definitely not a just some bloke who happened to amass tha needed 500 homers and comparing his extraordinary career to Hoffman who happened to be a very good closer yet never THE closer of his time in ANY year he played, well , thats just a crime.
    Not to say that Hoffman may not deserve his HoF berth if he gets it at some point. I suppose it will all come down to if 20 nickels is as good a 10 dimes in his case.
    How some people decided that Ott's 511 homer was a good point of comparison for Hoffman's 600 saves beats me.