The 'change' in Hoffman's approach 

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
8:11
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On the first day of the strike in 1994, hard-throwing closer Trevor Hoffman -- who could routinely rush the ball to the plate at 95 mph -- played catch with a football on the beach in San Diego. He dove into the waves to grab a pass and when he landed on his right shoulder, as he recalled a few years ago, it sounded like air going out of a tire. He has never had the same velocity since, and for that reason he developed a remarkable changeup that has allowed him to compete while sometimes throwing a fastball in the range of 83-84 mph.

Getty ImagesHoffman's approach is predicated on change of speeds. It's just that "speed" sounds silly when considering his fastball these days.
Hoffman's velocity Wednesday had scouts checking their radar guns. The 42-year-old closer had picked up his 592nd career save Tuesday, throwing fastballs and changeups.



Hoffman was called into Wednesday's game to protect a lead, and his first pitch was a curveball, for a strike. Just something to show the hitters, something for them to gnaw on, because Hoffman almost never throws curveballs.

His percentage of curves thrown the past three years, according to Inside Edge:

2007: 0.1 percent

2008: 1.1 percent

2009: 2.4 percent

With one out, Hoffman faced the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, and with a 2-2 count, Hoffman threw his signature pitch, the changeup -- and Gonzalez took it low, to run the count full. So the young left-handed hitter probably had a lot on his mind: Would Hoffman throw the changeup again? The curveball?
Nope. He fired an 87 mph fastball, letter high, which probably looked like 110 mph, and Gonzalez swung through it. Hoffman reached 88 mph on the last hitter, which is, for him, excellent velocity.

His average fastball velocity the past three years:

2007: 85.1

2008: 86.0

2009: 85.5

He is now seven saves away from becoming the first reliever ever to reach 600 in his career.

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It was a team win for the Brewers, writes Tom Haudricourt.

Dings and dents

1. Cliff Lee is a week away from pitching in a simulated game, and figures to miss the month of April.

2. Lance Berkman aims to play Monday.

3. Ian Kinsler just doesn't seem to be healing quickly, Drew Davison writes.

4. Gil Meche has been penciled in to start Sunday.

5. Within this piece, there is word that Oakland reliever Michael Wuertz is making progress.

6. Jeff Suppan is going to start next week.

7. Jose Reyes is set to return Saturday.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. After Jason Heyward's extraordinary Opening Day performance, you could see the Cubs scrambling for ways to pitch to the rookie. On Monday, Carlos Zambrano tried and failed to beat him by throwing fastballs inside, and Heyward would not chase pitches up and in. He rocketed another fastball in his first at-bat Wednesday for a run-scoring double. Well, in his last three at-bats, the Cubs went to Plans B and C -- first, Ryan Dempster began to use off-speed pitches against Heyward, tossing changeups and splitters low and away. And then Lou Piniella brought in lefty Sean Marshall to face Heyward, and Marshall, too, went to his off-speed stuff and got Heyward out. We'll see what adjustments Heyward makes.

The Braves are undefeated in the Heyward era, and the buzz continues to grow; as mentioned within this piece, attendance was up significantly over last year.

2. Todd Helton got a day of rest, Jim Armstrong writes.

3. The Rockies are not pursuing Jarrod Washburn.

4. The Jays have their Cuban prospect in the fold.

5. The Cardinals complained, and got a response.

6. Ricky Nolasco learned about a new rule.

7. David Ortiz's struggles are the talk of Red Sox Nation, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

Wednesday's games

1. Matt Garza needs to move into the elite group of pitchers if the Rays are going to win the AL East, and he was outstanding Wednesday night, Marc Topkin writes.

Why Garza won, from Puneet Nanda and Andrew Davis of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • He kept himself in the game: Eight innings pitched is the longest of the season by a starter and Garza's longest in his past 12 starts.
  • Good slider control: 79 percent of his sliders were thrown for strikes (11-of-14) and 57 percent of pitches out of the zone were chased by hitters.