When a pitcher is 43 years old, it's very difficult to state with any kind of certainty whether he is just in a slump or if his age has finally and mercilessly caught up with him. That is the dilemma for the Milwaukee Brewers as they contemplate the amazingly sad state of Trevor Hoffman's season to date. The all time leader in saves with a stunning 93% success rate is now three for seven this year in converting save opportunities.
The problem is that Hoffman was so good last year at age 42. He posted his best batting average against since 1999. He tied his second best WHIP for his career. He gave up two homers all year and only blew four saves. So the Brewers have to ask themselves is if one chronological year for a guy that is unprecedented can really make this much of a difference? How they answer this question determines whether he keeps getting the ball or not.
Right now, he cannot make it happen. He has given up a run in six of his nine outings. He has blown four saves already. He has given up six homers already. His WHIP is double his career average. Teams are batting .357 against him. His ERA is 13.00. The numbers boggle the mind. This is Trevor Hoffman we are talking about. It has to be a slump right? He couldn't have fallen off a cliff this fast, could he?
Last year's splits don't help us any. Hoffman had a better ERA in the second half than he had in the first half despite being perfect in April and May (he had a bumpy June). So last year gives no indication of what is happening this year.
That, of course, is little comfort to the brass in Milwaukee. The Brewers have little in their rotation. When they have a lead with that rotation at the end of the game, they have to get the win. Losing four games after being ahead when they gave the ball to Hoffman is unacceptable on every level no matter who the closer is.
With the hole the Brewers have dug (with Hoffman's help unfortunately), they have little chance in being a factor in the division. They have small odds at the wild card. So it really won't hurt them terribly to give Hoffman a few more weeks to see if he can bounce back. If he doesn't, it may be the end of a long and classy career.