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Game 52 Thoughts: Hoffman Still Struggling with Control

It would be easy to sit here and rant and rave about how Trevor Hoffman stinks and should hop on the DFA train with Jeff Suppan, but that wouldn’t be completely fair.  Yes, he gave up 3 more runs against the Marlins on Tuesday night, but the go-ahead run driven in by Jorge Cantu was the result of Corey Hart playing closer to the gap than usual because Cantu apparently hadn’t hit a ball into right field all year.  That can probably be chalked up to bad luck, although I’m not convinced the 2-run hit by Ronny Paulino was bad luck, too — that one was hit harder than the Cantu ball.

So Trevor wasn’t getting his head beat in with a series of rockets, like in some other outings this season.  But he’s also not showing much improvement after Rick Peterson tinkered with his mechanics in an effort to cut down the vertical break of his pitches.  He’s also still struggling when it comes to throwing strikes — he threw 26 pitches, but only 12 were thrown for strikes.  Only three of those were swinging strikes.

Back when we were wondering why Hoffman was essentially abandoning his changeup early in the season, he said he was using the fastball more to get ahead in the count and set up the changeup.  The problem back then was that he was either missing the zone with his fastball, or leaving it over the plate to get crushed.  Looking at his results Tuesday night, he still can’t throw the fastball for strikes — he threw 8 fastballs against the Marlins, and only two accounted for strikes (and not surprisingly, neither were swinging strikes).

The mechanical fixes seem to be doing their job as far as cutting down the vertical break, especially when it comes to the changeup — the fastball average 12.53 inches of break, while the change averaged 2.49 inches.  Even if he’s slowly cutting down on the vertical movement (and getting more grounders as a result), it doesn’t do much good if he can’t hit the zone. 

It’s pretty hard to walk a Marlins hitter — their team OBP of .327 is 12th in the NL — and Hoffman managed to walk two in the 7th inning.  He walked 14 batters all of last season, but with his two surrendered tonight, he’s now up to 10 this season.  The runs he surrendered tonight may have been the result of bad luck, but he didn’t do himself any favors by walking himself into trouble.  If he’s going to return to the closer role anytime soon (and good God do I hope not), he’s going to need to hit his spots better.

FanGraphs Win Probability

W: Ricky Nolasco (5-4)
L: Trevor Hoffman (1-4)
SV: Leo Nunez (11)

Prince Fielder (8), Corey Hart (14)
FLA HR: Chris Coghlan (3)