Hoffman to Milwaukee

According to Rosenthal, the Brewers have signed Trevor Hoffman to a one year, $6 million contract for 2009. Hoffman will go to Milwaukee to replace the retired Salomon Torres as the closer for the Brew Crew, leaving the west coast for an opportunity to be the 9th inning guy on a contender.

How much does Hoffman have left, though? At 41-years-old and with an average fastball of 86 MPH, he’s clearly going to be blowing anyone away at this point. He still relies on an excellent change-up that’s been his bread and butter for his whole career, and while his strikeout rate remained as good as ever last year, he was victimized by a lot of long balls that could spell some trouble for his future.

As with most soft-tossers, Hoffman is one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in baseball. Nearly half of his balls in play go in the air, which is the main reason that he’s been able to run a career .280 BABIP – flyballs get turned into outs a lot more often than groundballs. Combined with his excellent command, this has allowed Hoffman to keep people off the bases and rack up the saves.

However, there’s a big difference between being an extreme flyball pitcher in Petco Park and in Miller Park, which will be his new home. While Petco suppressed home runs by 14%, Miller Park inflates them by 6%. San Diego is heaven for extreme flyball guys like Hoffman, and leaving the friendly confines of that huge outfield could present some problems for him.

His CHONE projection for 2009 has him at a 4.17 ERA in a neutral park. In Miller Park, that’s probably more like 4.30 to 4.40. Given that, it’s tough see Hoffman being better than a +1 win pitcher this year. I’m betting that this isn’t going to work out as well as Milwaukee would have hoped, and they’ll be right back in the market for a closer again next winter.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Harry Pavlidis

Dave – Hoff posted a very high HR/FB last year, compared to his career. His rate shot up at home and on the road. Sure, probably an anomaly, but perhaps not far off his expected performance this year, by coincidence?