Trevor Hoffman was the best relief pitcher I saw pitch in a live game. I say this, because you never know when you will see a relief pitcher in a game, and early in their career it might not be memorable. Lucky I remembered this game. Rob Nen my 22nd relief pitcher also pitched in the game.
It is hard to have a good understanding of relief pitchers in the hall of fame. While the writers and others who have actually vote for the hall of fame have elected a good amount of relief pitcher 8. Besides Hoffman there is Mariano Rivera my number 1 reliever, Dennis Eckersley (2), Hoyt Wilhelm (3), Goose Gossage (4), Rollie Fingers (5), Lee Smith (9) and Bruce Sutter (12). There is some controversy about Sutter but being in the top 12 for your position is an accomplishment. There is also talk that Fingers and Smith aren’t Hall of Famers. problem is that WAR and win shares measure the reliever as he actually does to help win ball games. I think relievers, practically ace relievers do more than that. They can pitch a lot when game are on the line and are very valuable in the post season. What I did was use the result of a Bill James study he did a few years ago and award relief pitchers more points based on that formula. This put Rivera at 20th on my all-time list, which seemed right for someone who just got elected to the hall of fame unanimously. The rest I did the same formula and they fell where they fell. However, I believe their ranking are reasonable. I have no problem with Hoffman being elected to the hall of fame.
Earlier I talked about ace relievers being more valuable in the playoffs. However, that has become less and less true through the ages. In the 1950s there were a couple of relief aces used as starters in the World Series. Heck, Joe Black started three games in the 1952 World Series and pitched 21.1 innings of good baseball. In the Rollie Fingers article, I told you how he and Mike Marshall pitched over 20 percent of their teams innings in the World Series. Goose Gossage had playoff series in the late 70s and early innings where he pitch 2 innings or more a game in play series.
In 1998 when Trevor helped get San Diego to the World Series he pitched 9.1 innings of the relief. However, that was is in three series where the team played a total of 14 games. I know in the 2016 playoffs the managers in the playoffs were using relief pitchers a lot. However, that was probably not helped when Joe Madden over pitched Aroldis Chapman in the World Series, which led to Chapman giving up the game tying home run in game 7. Andrew Miller for Cleveland wasn’t the ace, but had some great relief outings, but tired out despite a couple of days rest by game 7 of the World Series. One problem now is that the playoffs go 3 rounds and relievers can’t go from a regular season of careful usage to three series of about a month of hard usage. A lot of teams have gone to using starters as relievers for an inning to save the bullpen in the playoffs for the last 4 years. That has seemed to be an effective tool.