Results tagged ‘ Trevor Hoffman ’

Hoffman keeps closer role, but where's the changeup?

Trevor Hoffman suffered another blown save on Tuesday, but the Brewers have no plans to hand the baseball to anybody but Hoffman for the ninth inning. 
“He’s the all-time saves leader,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said after Hoffman surrendered five runs in a 7-3 loss to the Pirates. “I mean, I think he’s got a pretty good feel for what he’s doing out there.” 
Hoffman, 42, has a Major League record 594 saves but couldn’t get No. 595 on Tuesday, when he entered with a one-run lead and surrendered a tying home run to Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno on his second pitch. Five batters later, catcher Ryan Doumit hit a grand slam for a 7-3 Pirates win, snapping Milwaukee’s 22-game home winning streak against Pittsburgh. It was Hoffman’s third blown save this season, and they’ve all come in his last four chances. 
The Brewers do have potential backup options in LaTroy Hawkins, who has 87 career saves including 11 last season as a fill-in for injured Astros closer Jose Valverde. Todd Coffey also has closer’s experience in Cincinnati’s Minor League system to go with 11 saves in the big leagues. 
But Hoffman’s long track record of success affords him a very long leash, though Macha did concede that his early-season struggles qualify as “a concern.” 
Equally confounding is why a man who built his Hall of Fame career on a devastating change-up throwing so many fastballs this season. Macha was asked that question on Tuesday and so was Hoffman, who said the issue is not necessarily pitch selection but fastball location. 
Take the at-bat against Cedeno, who looked at a first-pitch strike from Hoffman to start the ninth inning. 
“I felt like in that situation, getting ahead, 0-and-1, we could continue to expand with the fastball,” Hoffman said, “and the ball was not down and away.” 
Instead, it was down Wisconsin Ave., as radio broadcaster Bob Uecker likes to say. All four of the hits off Hoffman were on fastballs, including Doumit’s second career grand slam on a 1-and-1 pitch. 
Hoffman has surrendered five home runs in eight innings this season, versus two home runs in 54 innings in 2009, when Hoffman logged 37 saves with a 1.83 ERA. Four of the home runs against him this year have come off fastballs. 
Not counting his four intentional balls on Tuesday, Hoffman threw 20 pitches against the Pirates and only three were changeups. Twelve were fastballs. 
It followed a trend this season. According to the Web site fangraphs.com, Hoffman had thrown 69.1 percent fastballs entering his outing on Tuesday versus. 17.8 percent changeups. Compare that to last year, when he threw 56.1 percent fastballs (with the exact save average velocity — 85.5 mph — as this year) and 29.9 percent change-ups. For his career, Hoffman has thrown 62.8 percent fastballs and 29 percent changeups. 
The trouble, according to Hoffman, is that he has not been able to get into the kind of two-strike situations this season in which the change-up is such an effective pitch. Thus, more fastballs. 
“I’ve pigeonholed myself into situations where the hitter can be a little more patient and doesn’t have to offer at [the change-up],” Hoffman said. “That’s pitching behind in the count. You can’t do that in the big leagues, and the numbers will indicate that. [The change-up] is more of an ‘out’ pitch, not a ‘get back in the count’ pitch.” 
It’s something that Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson will look into. 
“We’re going to have to talk to him, make sure he uses his pitches,” Macha said. 
Hoffman insisted that his confidence remains high. 
“And physically, I feel good, too,” he said. 
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Odds and ends…

Brewers PR man Mike Vassallo must have had plenty of coffee on the team’s charter flight to Washington DC because today’s game notes are particularly chock full of tidbits. Cutting and pasting at will here…

TV and Radio schedule
Due to Milwaukee Bucks NBA playoff games, the Brewers have been moved from FS Wisconsin to WMLW for their televised games next Tuesday at Pittsburgh and on 4/26 vs. Pittsburgh…..the team’s radio games on Tuesday at Pittsburgh and 4/24 vs. Chicago-NL will be moved from WTMJ 620 AM to 94.5 Lake FM.
LOB
The Brewers left 15 runners on base in their 8-6 win yesterday at Chicago, marking the 41st time in team history that they left at least 15 on base…..the team had not left that many on base in a 9-inning game since a 9-3 win on 5/10/03 at Cincinnati.
Check the Board
The Brewers have used a different lineup in each of the first 9 games of the season.
We’re Going Streaking!
Rickie Weeks (.333, 2hr, 7rbi) has hit safely in each of his first 9 games this season…..he is looking to become just the fifth player in franchise history to open the season with a hitting streak of at least 10 games…..listed are the players to accomplish the feat (Elias):
Player/Year… Streak
Dickie Thon (1993) . . . . . . . . . . . .13 games
Steve Hovley (1970) . . . . . . . . . . .10 games
Dale Sveum (1987) . . . . . . . . . . . .10 games
Ronnie Belliard (2000) . . . . . . . . .10 games
Hoff the Charts
Trevor Hoffman needs 7 saves for 600 in his career…..the all-time saves leader enters today’s game with 593 career saves…..Hoffman also needs just 11 appearances to become the 14th pitcher in Major League history to pitch in 1,000 career games…..a look at pitchers Hoffman is approaching on the all-time games pitched list (Elias):
Pitcher… Appearances
11. Roberto Hernandez . . . . . . . . . . . .1,010
12. Mike Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1,005
13. Goose Gossage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1,002
14. Trevor Hoffman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .989
Everyday People
Prince Fielder has played in 194 straight games, which is the longest active consecutive games streak in the Major Leagues. (Elias)
Player… Streak
Prince Fielder, Mil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .194g
Everth Cabrera, SD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106g
End of cut and paste. I’m not with the team in D.C. but I’ll be back on Tuesday for the series-opener in Pittsburgh. Until then…
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Third time's a charm for Hoffman's 594th

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AramisRamirez.jpg
It wasn’t exactly easy, but Trevor Hoffman finally notched career save No. 594.  
Hoffman worked through a wild, wind-blown ninth inning at Wrigley Field on Thursday but came away with his third save this season when Aramis Ramirez hit a dangerously deep fly out to end an 8-6 Brewers win over the Cubs. Hoffman essentially recorded six outs; right fielder Corey Hart lost one fly ball in the sun and couldn’t close on another that dropped between Hart and Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.  
“In Corey’s defense, I’ve played right field here,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “I held my breath the whole game. That’s a terrible sun field out there, so it’s tough.”  
Hoffman finally retired Ramirez, who represented the tying run, on his 29th pitch of the afternoon. It’s been that kind of a stretch for the all-time saves leader, who suffered consecutive blown saves against the Cardinals on Friday and Sunday while allowing three home runs. 
Those games were at climate-controlled Miller Park. Thursday’s game against the Cubs was at Wrigley Field, with an 18 mph breeze blowing out to right field.  
“You just have to battle a little bit harder,” Hoffman said. “The guys are playing their butts off out there, and things happen. Balls found a little spot to land. … It’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, no!’ You just have to continue to make pitches.”  
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Macha: No worries about Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman has been working hard in his first two Cactus League outings. He was touched for four more hits and two more runs by the Dodgers on Monday, three days after he allowed a run on two hits against the Angels. 
Manager Ken Macha isn’t worried. 
“He’s free and easy,” Macha said. “If he’s healthy, he’s going to pitch.”
Macha was curious to see the radar gun readings from Hoffman’s outing. Hoffman was not the only Brewers pitcher knocked around by the Dodgers’ starter Doug Davis surrendered three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. 
All nine of the Dodgers starters had at least one hit in their 8-4 win over the Brewers, who were out-hit, 16-6.
“I thought the Dodgers had a tremendous approach,” Macha said. “That’s why they had eight runs. They hit the ball to the middle of the field, they hit the ball the other way and I thought their approach against Trevor and against Davis was tremendous. I hope some of our young guys were watching the game.”
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Hoffman takes step toward Friday debut

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The all-time saves leader moved a step closer to his Cactus League debut on Monday, when Trevor Hoffman threw 35 pitches in a live batting practice session at Maryvale Baseball Park. The next time he’ll take the mound it will be in a game, on Friday against the Angels.  
“It felt good to get a hitter in there,” Hoffman said. “The next progression will have the umpire back there and no screen.”  
Hoffman has been taking it easy this spring, partly because he only needs a handful of appearances to be ready for the regular season and partly because he has been working through some soreness in his upper back, behind his shoulder.  
Last year, Hoffman pitched much earlier in camp and strained a muscle on his rib-cage. He began the season on the disabled list and did not make his Brewers debut until April 27.  
The Brewers would like to avoid a similar setback this spring, so the team’s medical staff has had Hoffman on a more conservative Spring Training program. Before Monday, he had only thrown from the bullpen mounds at the team’s complex but Monday’s session was on a field with a few dozen fans watching. Six Minor League hitters stepped into the box against Hoffman including outfielder Jose Garcia, who was born in 1991, the year Hoffman converted to pitching.  
Hoffman was not sure how many Cactus League appearances he would need to feel ready for the season. Monday was at least a step in that direction.  
“It’s better than going straight from a bullpen to a ballgame,” Hoffman said. “Live BP, it felt just like it was supposed to.” 
Hoffman enters his 18th Major League season with a record 591 saves, nine shy of becoming the first man to reach 600. He was a National League All-Star in his first season with Milwaukee, posting a 1.83 ERA in 2009 while converting 37 of 41 save chances. 
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In the “A” game today against the Indians, Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers. I incorrectly reported yesterday that Chris Narveson would pitch, but he’s slated to go on Tuesday against the Royals. 
Here are the lineups today. Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, of course, were part of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008:
INDIANS
Michael Brantley  CF
Luis Valbuena  2B
Matt LaPorta  1B
Austin Kearns  RF
Lonnie Chisenhall  3B
Mike Redmond  C
Luis Rodriguez  SS
Chris Gimenez  LF
David Huff  LHP
BREWERS
Rickie Weeks  2B
Alcides Escobar  SS
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Jim Edmonds  CF
Gregg Zaun  C
Corey Hart  RF
Adam Heether  3B
Yovani Gallardo  RHP
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The Brewers will play a seven-inning “B” game against the Rangers at 2:30 p.m. local time in Surprise on Thursday. The regularly-scheduled “A” game is at 6 p.m. Dave Bush will start one game and Manny Parra the other, yet Macha was not ready to announce the plan as of Monday morning. 
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Gomez working on his swing (with some data)

Brewers manager Ken Macha said Carlos Gomez has been tweaking his swing to produce more ground balls. The key for the speedy center fielder is keeping his lead elbow low, and thus keeping the bat head from dropping down.
“Yesterday’s batting practice, I thought he swung the bat as well as he has this spring,” Macha said. “We want him to get it on the ground, but I don’t want him to conscious about it. … A lot of the balls he hit in batting practice were hard and low.”
Macha asked his statistical gurus to prepare a report of Gomez’s success on fly balls, line drives, ground balls and bunts. It bore out what Macha suspected, that he would be well-served to avoid hitting everything in the air. 
Here’s the data, courtesy of Brewers manager of advance scouting and baseball research Karl Mueller:
Career batting average by batted ball type… 
Ground Balls – .268 (306 put in play)
Line Drives – .631 (123 put in play)
Fly Balls – .195 (261 put in play)
Bunts – .446 (102 put in play, 10 of which were sacrifices)
It’s no surprise that the line drive average is so high. The Major League average is about .700.
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Macha repeated what closer Trevor Hoffman said Tuesday, that there’s no reason to worry about the fact he has yet to appear in a Cactus League game. Hoffman is taking it easy this spring to avoid a situation like the one that emerged last year, when he strained a rib-cage muscle. 
Hoffman threw a bullpen session on Monday and said he could debut in a game at some point next week. 
“Myself, personally, it’s not a concern for me right now,” Macha said. “He’s got plenty of time to get ready.”
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Third baseman Mat Gamel remained a “non-participant,” to borrow Macha’s phrase, on Wednesday as he tries to quiet a sore shoulder. Outfielder Trent Oeltjen (wrist) has been taking swings in the batting cage at 75-80 percent, Macha said, and was to see one of the team’s doctors on Wednesday. So was right-hander Josh Butler, who has a sore right elbow or triceps. 
Butler had a cortisone shot several days ago and conceded that unless he gets back to throwing very soon, he might miss out on Cactus League action. 
“It’s going to be close,” Butler said. “Hopefully I can [pitch in a game] but the biggest thing right now is getting healthy.”
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The Brewers play split-squad games on Thursday and again on Saturday, so third base coach Brad Fischer made a point in the team’s morning meeting of telling players to make sure they know where they are going over the next few days. 
This early in camp, the extra games are a good thing, at least from a pitching perspective. The Brewers say they are considering seven men for the starting rotation, and this week lines up such that Chris Narveson can pitch on the road against the Reds on Thursday while Randy Wolf works against the A’s at home, and Dave Bush and Manny Parra can each start a game on Saturday, when the Brewers play at home against Colorado and on the road at the White Sox. 
“We’ve got a large number [of pitchers] in camp and we’ve got a big competition in the starting [rotation] so we’ve been able to slot guys,” Macha said. 
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Hoffman still taking it easy

Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman told me this morning that he is still a week or so away from appearing in his first Cactus League contest. Hoffman has been working closely with the team’s medical staff this spring on a plan to avoid a repeat of last spring, when Hoffman developed a rib-cage strain that sent him to the disabled list for the start of the season. 

At 42, Hoffman obviously knows what he needs to be ready for Opening Day. He ramped up to a bullpen session on Monday and will probably only pitch in a handful of Spring Training games.
“It’s 3 1/2 weeks until we start [the regular season], so it’s probably time to get going,” Hoffman said. “We’re still where they want me to be.” 
If Hoffman indeed waits into next week to make his spring debut, the Brewers are at Maryvale Baseball Park on Monday to face the Indians (a TV game on FS Wisconsin). Then they are away for three days until returning for four straight home games from Friday, March 19 to Monday, March 22. 
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Photo courtesy of Scott Paulus/Brewers
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Bill James sees solid season for Gamel

Just got an e-mail from stat guru Bill James‘ publisher and thought I would pass it along. It includes a positive prognostication for Mat Gamel — if he plays — but not so much for Rickie Weeks. Another 200-strikeout season for right-hander Yovani Gallardo but only 12 wins, and another struggle for lefty Manny Parra.

They key “if” in these projections is playing time. For example, the release offers projections for Gamel, Weeks and Casey McGehee assuming at least 425 at-bats for each, but it’s difficult to envision that scenario. James explains in his quote below.

Here’s the text:

In the recently-released Bill James Handbook 2010, baseball guru Bill James projects the 2010 seasons for players on the Milwaukee Brewers — and predicts a potentially solid year from third baseman Mat Gamel.

“In any season, the vast majority of players play in a manner that seems a natural extension of what they had done before,” James says in his new book. “When that happens, our projection should be reasonably accurate.”

Although he’s been in the projection business for almost twenty years, one thing James has no control over is playing time. “It is always my argument that we have no chance of figuring out, in October 2009, who will get playing time in 2010,” James says. “But what we should do is try to answer this question: If this player plays, how will he play?”

With this in mind, here are the five key Milwaukee hitters for 2010, according to the new Bill James Handbook 2010:

Key Brewers Hitters (by OPS)
Player                   At-bats     R     HR    RBI     SB     Avg.    OPS
Ryan Braun             615     112     39    119      17     .315    .972
Prince Fielder          601     103     44    124       3      .286    .967
Mat Gamel              455      65      17     73       3      .277    .817
Rickie Weeks          425      80      16     48      14     .259    .807
Casey McGehee      492      63      15     76       0      .272    .757

Projecting stats for pitchers is very different from projecting offensive stats for hitters. “We used to believe that pitching performance was much, much less predictable than batter performance,” James says. “This is probably still true…due to injuries and other factors. Sometimes a pitcher gets hurt, and when that happens our projections for him are knocked into a cocked hat.”

Here are the three key Milwaukee pitchers for 2010, according to the new Bill James Handbook 2010:

Key Brewers Pitchers (by ERA)
Player                       IP     W    L     K      SV    ERA
Trevor Hoffman         63     4     3     57     39     2.43
Yovani Gallardo       186    12    8     205     0     3.53
Manny Parra           147     7     9     130     0     4.59

The complete projections for the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers can be found in the Bill James Handbook 2010.

For further information on the Bill James Handbook 2010 go to www.actasports.com.

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Happy Birthday, Hoffy

hoffman.jpgHappy birthday to Trevor Hoffman, who blew out his candles on Tuesday and will become the Brewers’ first 42-year-old pitcher when he steps on the mound next season.

In fact, he’ll be Milwaukee’s second-oldest player, period. Hoffman, who last week agreed to a one-year contract to return, will be 42 years, five months and 24 days old when the Brewers play their 2010 opener on April 5. The only member of the Crew with more gray hairs was Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was 42 years, seven months and 28 days old when he played his final game in 1976.

The only other 42-year-old Brewer was catcher Rick Dempsey, who celebrated on Sept. 13, 1991, and played 10 more games that season, his last on Oct. 5 when he was 42 years, 21 days old.

The way Hoffman pitched in 2009, it looks like he could go on forever.

“I just go one day at a time,” Hoffman said during the season. “I was fortunate to catch some breaks when I did and was able to weather some ‘activity’ with some low pitch counts.”

For more on Hoffman’s place among the game’s most “experienced” players, see my story on Brewers.com.
 

Tidbits: Hoffman, Suppan, Sheets, Hardy

The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:

- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years. 

 “By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?’” 

- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.

Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.

- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year. 

“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.” 

- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.

“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”

- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph

“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.” 

- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season. 

“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.” 

- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar. 

“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”

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