Trevor Hoffman just blew his fourth save of the season in seven chances. He has already given up six home runs this year, a number which he has only surpassed once in the last nine years. Nine years. He’s not walking anybody still, but he’s also not striking anybody out (4.5 per nine).
The pitching mix is off. It’s hard to tell if it’s just a sample size thing, but all of a sudden Hoffman is actually favoring his 85 MPH “heater” over his changeup (+43.4 runs career), and it’s not doing him any favors. Why is he throwing the changeup at a career low rate (17.8% this year, 29% career)? It could be injury, and a DL stint may be on the way.
Time for a little rampant speculation for his replacement. Here are the candidates, with some relevant statistical information.
LaTroy Hawkins, 8.62 ERA, 4.03 xFIP, 3.79 career xFIP, 225/277 career holds+saves / opps, 1.20 2010 gmLI
Carlos Villanueva, 0.00 ERA, 2.62 xFIP, 4.19 career xFIP, 44/51 career holds+saves / opps, 0.83 2010 gmLI
Todd Coffey, 3.72 ERA, 4.89 xFIP, 3.99 career xFIP, 67/79 career holds+saves / opps, 0.72 2010 gmLI
Coffey isn’t killing it right now, and he doesn’t have a great history of racking up saves when given the chance. His career xFIP is pretty good, but just judging from when his manager is choosing to use him this year, he doesn’t seem like the guy.
Villanueva, on the other hand, is killing it this year and also took up the closer mantle late last year when Hoffman went down. His career xFIP is misleading, as he’s racked up 27 starts worth of innings which most definitely had a higher xFIP than he’s put up as a reliever. Brian Joura just talked him up two days ago as a good dark horse candidate for saves. In fact, he might be my choice for closing… if I were running the Brewers.
Unfortunately, I am not. (I mean unfortunately for me, I don’t pretend to know exactly what is right for the Brewers in this situation.) Instead, it seems most likely to be LaTroy Hawkins, who incidentally also owns the highest salary of the group. Despite a poor ERA, Hawkins has been performing right around his career levels. But most importantly, his manager is running him out there in important situations. He has the highest leverage index upon entering games (gmLI), and it seems we could use that as a proxy for “Manager Confidence” in this case. Hawkins looks like the pickup if you are speculatin’.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.