Your all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman

Yesterday, the only man in the history of baseball with 600 saves (until Mariano Rivera surpasses him at some point in the next two seasons), Trevor Hoffman, announced he was retiring. The question now becomes one of his place in baseball history.

Only a handful of relief pitchers have been inducted into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Goose Gossage (2008), Bruce Sutter (2006) and starter-turned-reliever Dennis Eckersley (2004) are the most recent, while Rollie Fingers skated in on his second ballot way back in 1992. Should Hoffman join them? Or is the recent shunning of Lee Smith indicative of the way voters will treat the (for now) all-time saves leader?

Before Hoffman, starting in 1993, all the way through 2005, Smith was on top. When his name first appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, he received 42.3% of the vote. A very solid number for his first year, most expected him to make big gains and be ushered in within a few years. But that didn’t happen. His percentage has gone up and down, but has remained in the 35-45% range with the exception of 2010, when he was able to draw just over 47%. His percentage in the most recent tally? 45.3%. It looks more and more unlikely that Smith will be immortalized in Cooperstown by the BBWAA, and his fate may be left to the Veteran’s Committee.

Prior to Smith, the all-time leader in saves was Jeff Reardon, who overtook Fingers in 1993. He didn’t hold the title long, as Smith passed him in 1994. How did the BBWAA reward Reardon’s longevity and effectiveness? He was one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2000, albeit only one vote shy of getting a second chance. Out of 499 ballots, “The Terminator” was named on 24 for 4.8%.

With Mariano Rivera just 42 saves away from the all-time lead, it’s doubtful Hoffman’s name will be at the top with he appears on the ballot. Will the writers remember his dominance? For that matter, was he dominating?

It will be a few years before these questions will be thoroughly examined and answered. We’re too close to his career right now to make that call. But it does give one something to think about. Whatever the case, he had a very good career for an 11th-round draft pick.

(BTW, is this a 1991 card or a 1992 card? It has ’91 stats on it, but also a ’91 copyright date. Donruss always threw me off with their 1982-1984 Diamond Kings the same way.)

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About JT

Christian. Husband. Dad. 911 dispatcher. Baseball fan. Horror nut. Music nerd. Bookworm. Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.

Posted on January 12, 2011, in baseball, baseball cards and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. He’s gonna be a tough call for voters. He won’t get in on the first ballot. Sabermetrics will hurt him at 30 WAR for his career. But that stat underrates relievers because of how they are used. If you went by this metric, no closer other than Rivera would be worthy since the norm became 1-inning saves. He’s certainly been the 2nd best closer in the game for a very long time. I’d vote him in, I think. Interesting, Rivera is a slam dunk, and they are each other’s top similarity score on BB-Ref. Hof’s other top guys are Lee Smith and Jeff Reardon. So there’s your list of the top saves guys since Rollie Fingers.

  2. Technically it’s listed as 1991-92. If nothing else, just to confuse people further. 🙂

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