50-55, 484 saves, 2.70 ERA, 889 1/3 IP, 968 Ks
Currently the all-time leader, Trevor Hoffman should finish his career with more than 500 saves. Most of them were one-inning saves, and he has never pitched more than 90 innings in a season. He is one of the most dominant relief pitchers of his time, and has spent his entire career in the Era of Reliever Specialization. Hoffman's strikeout per nine innings ratio would rank fourth all-time if he had enough innings to qualify, which symbolizes the argument for and against him. He is a five-time all-star and four times finished in the top six of the NL Cy Young voting.
Bruce Sutter's induction paved the way for pitchers who have never started a game in the majors. Our panel, while it should be pointed out skews younger than most real HOF voters, had no reservations about the closer stigma or his innings limitations.
HOW THEY VOTED
Kevin Brewer: YES - If the one-inning closer is Hall of Fame worthy, then Trevor Hoffman should be first in line. Mariano Rivera is often considered the best closer of this era, partly because of his team's success. But Hoffman has a higher save percentage (an all-time best .896 to .882) and a higher strikeout rate (9.80 to 8.01). There's no reason why either pitcher can't continue to pitch at an All-Star level because of their superb out pitches.
Lacy Lusk: YES - When it's Trevor Time in San Diego, you know what that means. He's good enough to almost make the saves record look like it means something.
Tim Lemke: YES - Trevor Hoffman is a solid, first-ballot Hall of Famer and if we could induct a specific pitch to go along with him, his changeup would be first-ballot, too. There are very few knocks against him, unless one has a philosophical objection to putting relief pitchers into Cooperstown at all. Hoffman is the all-time leader in career saves and the only active person in a position to pass him is some guy named Mariano Rivera. It's true that Hoffman has been, for the most part, the type of one-inning closer that has dominated this era of baseball, never topping more than 90 innings in a season. So if you want to offer a preference for multi-inning relievers like
Sutter, Gossage or Fingers, go ahead. But there's no arguing that Hoffman's overall statistics, consistency and reputation have made him one of the best relief pitchers in baseball history. I'd argue that he's the second-best of the last quarter century.
Corey Masisak: YES - Pitchers who spent most or all of their careers as closers should have an easier time getting in going forward, but there still aren't that many who have sustained enough excellence to deserve it. Trevor Hoffman is one of them. He may have only led the NL in saves twice, but total chances can fluctuate from year to year. Lots of pitchers can rack up 30-35 saves in a season, but to get 40 you had to be pretty good. Hoffman has EIGHT 40-save seasons - that is two more than Mariano Rivera, four more than Dennis Eckersley and five more than Lee Smith. He will also earn bonus points for helping to create the mystique of an intimidating closer, and I hope there is some reference to "Hell's Bells" on his plaque. He is the Godfather of intro music.
Patrick Stevens: YES - Being the majors' career saves leader shouldn't automatically merit inclusion, but turning in a career only one peer (Mariano Rivera) can match should. The change-up maestro has one jaw-droppingly sublime season (1998) surrounded by 11 more superb years. He's the Gary Sheffield of closers -- maybe not the best at a given moment, but always among the elite.
John Taylor: YES - Though more than 75 percent of Hoffman's saves are of the one-inning variety, he compares favorably with the best of his era -- most notably Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. He twice led the National League in saves and will retire as baseball's all-time leader in that category. He also has a few things voters seem to love: longevity (he's still going strong at 39); years spent with one team (nearly a decade and a half as the guy in San Diego); and a devastating pitch, his changeup.
Mark Zuckerman: YES - In an era when closers became critical to their team's success, he sustained a level of greatness topped only by Mariano Rivera. And he proved you can do it without a 95-mph fastball.