Game 20 Thoughts: Hoffman Avoiding the Change?

fangraphs

W: Brendan Donnelly (2-0)
L: Trevor Hoffman (1-2, BS 3)

PIT HR:
Jeff Clement (3), Ronny Cedeno (2), Ryan Doumit (2)
MIL HR: George Kottaras (2), Prince Fielder (2)

Good grief.

Things were going perfectly for the Brewers again. George Kottaras tied the game with a solo home run in the 7th, and Prince Fielder led off the bottom of the 8th with a booming homer off the batter’s eye in center to give the Brewers a 3-2 lead.

Trevor Time, game over, right?

Not this year. Trevor Hoffman blew his third save of the season, and he blew it in spectacular style, giving up 5 runs in the Pirates 9th. The Brewers went down without a whimper in the bottom half of the 9th.

Look, I’m a patient guy. Unlike a lot of people right now, I’m not calling for Trevor’s head or for him to be replaced as the closer. I think he at least deserves the chance to get save #600 before the Brewers start looking to replace him.

I just want to know why the hell he’s throwing so many fastballs.

He’s known for having one of the best change-ups in the game, and quite possibly one of the best change-ups ever. And tonight he threw three of them in his 24-pitch 9th inning.

It’s one thing to fall in love with your fastball when you can sling it at 96 mph. It’s another thing entirely when you keep throwing it down the middle at 86 mph. Hoffman really hasn’t been the same since Nick Stavinoha somehow popped a change-up over the fence off one knee — who knows if he’s become afraid of using his signature pitch since then, but hitters certainly aren’t getting fooled by his so-called “sneaky fastball” anymore.

As I write this, Tom Haudricourt posted Hoffman’s comments on why he hasn’t been using the change-up as much:

“I’m pigeon-holing myself into situations where the hitter can be a little more patient. He doesn’t have to offer at (the changeup). I’m pitching behind in the count. You do that in the big leagues, the numbers will indicate that. It’s more of an ‘out’ pitch than a ‘getting back in the count’ pitch. That’s the dynamic of that pitch.”

That’s fine and dandy if your “getting back into the count” pitch isn’t a fastball that looks like it came out of a pitching machine.

Hoffman needs to go back to what made him so effective last year, otherwise the Brewers’ already-small playoff window will be closing a lot sooner than expected — and that could mean Hoffman finishing this season in a different uniform.

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