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Assessing Trevor Hoffman's Hall of Fame candidacy

Can you hear the theme music to Hells Bells? Here comes the discussion on Trevor Hoffman and his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

The high leg kick of Trevor Hoffman was as intimidating as his stare
The high leg kick of Trevor Hoffman was as intimidating as his stare
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Trevor Hoffman was one of the most dominant and consistent closers in MLB history. Will that be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame?

The case for Hoffman as a Hall of Famer

Hoffman was destined to be a reliever. From the start, after being drafted he made every appearance in his career out of the bullpen, save 11 starts in 1992, and one rehab "start" in 2009. He was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, but was lost to the Florida Marlins as part of the expansion draft in 1992. Midway in 1993, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres in the Gary Sheffield deal.

He took over the closer duties for the Padres in 1994 and would not relinquish that spot until he left to become the Milwaukee Brewers closer in 2009. So in effect, he was the closer in 16 of his 18 seasons (the other non-closing season being in 2003 when he was injured).

He finished his stellar career with the most saves in history, 601 (now second to Mariano Rivera). He also had just 76 career blown saves, which gives him a 88.8% save conversion rate.

He also tallied seven All-Star appearances, four Cy Young finishes, including two second place finishes in 1998 and 2006, and five MVP finishes.

Hoffman finished his career with a 1.058 career WHIP, with only two seasons above 1.20. That career 1.058 is good enough for eighth all-time. His career K/BB ratio of 3.691 is also fifteenth all-time. He also second all-time in games finished and has the fourteenth best ERA+ at 141.

The case against Hoffman as a Hall of Famer

In reality, this boils down to whether or not one believes that relievers, in in particular, closers deserve enshrinement.

Akin to the designated hitter debate for Edgar Martinez, the closer has become a defined role in the past quarter century. But the closer also rarely comes in with men on base. And he does not always face the toughest part of the lineup.

His career innings pitched is just over 1000. Is that enough to really define a career? That is what a voter must decide.

Obviously with so few innings, the cumulative WAR numbers are far below the normal threshold of fielders or starting pitchers. But if one scales that WAR for just one inning of work, it obviously shows how much value Hoffman had in that closing role.

Final WAR numbers

Baseball Reference has his WAR at 28.4. JAWS has him at 24.0. And Fangraphs has his WAR at 26.1.

My two cents

I think Hoffman should make it. He was such a great closer for his entire career. He would make my list of ten if I had a vote. But I fear the BBWAA voters will not see it this way. My best guess is that he'll finish around 50% (+/- 5) and the discussion of his candidacy will continue next season.