MLB.com, closer Trevor Hoffman has decided to retire, ending a successful 18 year career. He spent part of one season with the Marlins in 1993 before being moved mid-year to the Padres, where he played through the 2008 season. He played the last two years of his career for the Brewers. He retires as the all-time career saves leader with a total of 601 saves. He had an average of 39 saves per season and a career ERA of 2.87. He completed saves in 89 percent of his chances and his career K/9 was 9.4. Seven times he was selected as an all-star and he even finished second in Cy Young voting (hard for a closer) twice, in 1998 and 2006.
Now, what are Hoffman's prospects for getting elected to the baseball Hall of Fame? Closers are few and far between in Cooperstown, as they are still a relatively new phenomenon in baseball. At the current moment, only five pitchers have been elected to the Hall mainly because of their exploits as relievers: Goose Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm (also a significant career as a starter), Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley (also a significant career as a starter). Lee Smith, who ranks third on the all-time saves list behind Hoffman and Mariano Rivera with 478 saves, only received 45.3 percent of the vote on the HOF ballot this year (well short of the 75 percent needed for election). John Franco, who is in fourth place with 424 saves, received only 4.6 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility, meaning he won't even be on the ballot next year. Neither Smith nor Franco was as dominant as Hoffman, and while they are ranked 3rd and 4th on the all time saves list, they fall 123 saves and 177 saves short of Hoffman, respectively. Expect Hoffman to be elected to Cooperstown, but not on the first ballot.
Of course, Hoffman won't even be number one in saves for long, as a still dominant Mariano Rivera sits only 42 saves back of Hoffman with 559. A spectacular 2011 could allow Mariano to break the record this upcoming season, but early in 2012 seems a bit more likely. Rivera, of course, is a surefire Hall of Famer and a probable first ballot selection.