You may not like the save stat. You may think any idiot can get three outs without blowing a lead. You may think that the race to 600 saves turned sad and embarrassing long ago.
But you have to respect Trevor Hoffman.
Has it been a tough year for him? Yes. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated his 2010 season starting as bad as it did. We knew that barring injury, Hoffman would reach 600 sometime this season — that’s why we’ve had the banner hanging up in the outfield all year. We didn’t think it would take until we were a week deep into September for him to reach the milestone.
Yet Hoffman never wavered. He didn’t blame poor performance on injury. When he lost his job as the team’s regular closer, he didn’t feel like he deserved to keep the role just because he was a veteran. We aren’t too fond of that kind of thing in Wisconsin, so he gained a lot of brownie points from fans when he was willing to step aside. Not only did he allow John Axford to take over, but instead of sulking he became a second bullpen coach of sorts — a mentor to a Brewers bullpen that suddenly became very young.
The fans saw this and continued to support him, even if his five blown saves early in the year took the team out of contention. I have to admit, I was nervous. The fans in Milwaukee tend to be tough on closers when they start to go bad — just ask Eric Gagne and Derrick Turnbow. The fans deserve just as much credit for supporting Hoffman once he entered the game, even if few of them were excited to see him on the mound.
So, in a way, both Hoffman and the fans of Milwaukee were rewarded for their patience. I am one of those people that think most MLB relievers could nail down most of their save opportunities if given the chance, but even I can appreciate a milestone like 600. If anything, it’s a testament to how consistently good he’s been — in a league that sees such a high burnout and turnover rate when it comes to closers (remember when Jonathan Papelbon was unhittable?), I think that deserves some recognition.