A Steady Diet of AC/DC
By Jeff Falconio
The acquisition of Trevor Hoffman is now final and with it Brewers fans can start looking ahead to 2009 knowing one of two key pieces to a return to the playoffs is in place. Though Hoffman is not the total lockdown closer he once was, he still has plenty of ability and the price is right. One year, $6 million. Hoffman brings less risk at a lower price than last year's closer extraordinaire Eric Gagné.
The closer role has been a killer for the Brewers for awhile now. An inconsistent bullpen necessitated the need to trade for Francisco Cordero. When he became inconsistent the asking price of $15 million was too much so Gagné was brought in. When he became inconsistent the $10 million tag looked like a bad deal by Brewers GM Doug Melvin. So there's two trends here: finding a good closer at a reasonable price and finding a closer who can actually close on a regular basis.
Inconsistency nearly cost the Brewers a shot at the postseason after the exact same problem prevented them from October baseball in 2007. Hoffman stabilizes a bullpen that will once again look completely different than the previous year. In 2008 Hoffman saved 30 games in 34 opportunities with an ERA of 3.77. The number of saves went down from 2007 but that was more a product of the Padres than of Hoffman. The previous year when the Padres were contenders Hoffman delivered 42 saves with an ERA of 2.98. What would be good numbers for Hoffman now that he's back with a competitor? 40 saves and an ERA near three would be outstanding.
But how many opportunities will Hoffman get? Now we come to the second key, starting pitching. The rotation hasn't been settled and the Brewers haven't made any major moves to bolster the depleted starting staff. Obviously, for Hoffman to be successful, the Brewers need to have the lead. Right now a rotation of Yovanni Gallardo, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and whoever fills the fifth spot isn't bad but there are a lot of "ifs" there. If Gallardo stays healthy, if Parra can pitching strong the entire year, if Bush can be consistent and if Suppan can do anything of value, the Brewers might just have enough to compete in another free-for-all for the NL playoffs. But you get the feeling another move needs to be made. Another arm needs to be signed into the rotation.
As Hoffman's 2008 numbers suggest, he can get the job done when given the chance. Can this rotation give him more than 40 opportunities? Hoffman is well known for entering a game with his theme song playing over the loudspeakers. If Brewers fans here AC/DC's "Hells Bells" two dozen times this summer, there might just be more than one October for Milwaukee.