Strong case for Hoffman's first-ballot HOF vote

Padres great set milestones, ranks second all-time in saves

Strong case for Hoffman's first-ballot HOF vote

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Trevor Hoffman is on the Hall of Fame clock.

The Hall of Fame ballots were mailed on Monday morning and for the first time, the Padres' Hall of Fame closer is among those being considered for baseball's highest honor ... enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hoffman and outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. head the list of 15 players on the ballot for the first time. A total of 32 players are under consideration for induction in 2016.

To be elected into the Hall of Fame, Hoffman must be selected by at least 75 percent of the ballots returned by the eligible voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Voters can name up to 10 players on their ballot.

Hoffman has Hall of Fame credentials ... and then some.

The anchor of the Padres' bullpen for 16 seasons, Hoffman was the first closer to reach the 500- and 600-save plateaus, and he ranks second on the all-time list with 601. He also ranks second in Major League history in games finished (856) and 11th in games pitched (1,035).

Hoffman pitched in seven All-Star Games and recorded 30 or more saves in 14 of 15 seasons starting in 1995.

Hoffman finished among the top 10 in voting for the National League Cy Young Award four times and twice for the Most Valuable Player Award.

And he was more, so much more to Padres fans.

The sight of the bullpen gate opening and the sound of the bell from his signature arrival theme of "Hells Bells" would ignite Padres crowds at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park.

Next to Tony Gwynn, no player has meant more to Padres fans over an extended period of time than Hoffman, who was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame on Aug. 30, 2014. His No. 51 is retired.

Hoffman is the Padres' all-time leader in saves (552), games (972), ERA (2.76), strikeouts per innings pitched (9.72) and opponents' batting average (.211). He ranks third in strikeouts (1,029).

Upon reaching the mound with the game on the line, Hoffman had a devastating combination of fastball and changeup, although he successfully changed his approach over the years as the velocity dipped on his fastball.

"Even if they know what's coming with Hoffy, it's tough to hit because there's so much movement on the ball," Gwynn once said of his former teammate. "But they don't know what's coming. They might have a 50-50 guess, but they don't know where, and I don't know if anyone has ever positioned the change with the precision of Hoffman."

Hoffman's greatest season came during the Padres' run to the National League pennant in 1998. He converted 53-of-54 save opportunities with a 1.48 ERA. He worked 73 innings over 66 appearances, allowing 41 hits and 21 walks while striking out 86. Hoffman finished second that season in the NL Cy Young Award voting and seventh in the MVP voting.

Hoffman also finished second in the Cy Young Award voting and 10th in the MVP balloting in 2006 when he had a league-leading 46 saves with a 2.14 ERA in 65 games as the Padres won their second straight National League West title.

Hoffman helped San Diego win the 1998 NL pennant and four NL West titles. He is the only Padre to play on four division championship clubs.

Hoffman also finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting in 1996 (42 saves with a 2.25 ERA for the club's first division championship team since 1984) and sixth in the Cy Young Award voting in '99 (40 saves, 2.14 ERA).

Hoffman started his career in the Reds' system in 1989 as an infielder and made his Major League debut as a relief pitcher with the Marlins in 1993. On June 24, 1983, Hoffman was acquired by the Padres in the trade that sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins. Hoffman finished his career with two seasons with the Brewers in 2009-2010.

With the Padres, Hoffman had nine seasons of 40-plus saves. He is tied with the Yankees' Mariano Rivera for the highest total in Major League history. The next-highest total of 40-save seasons is five.

Hoffman was named the NL Fireman of the Year by the Sporting News in 1996 and '98. He won the NL Rolaids Relief Award in 1998 and 2006. The Major League's award for the top NL reliever is now named in Hoffman's honor.

In addition, Hoffman was active in community programs. Nationally, he won the Hutch Award in 2004, the Lou Gehrig Award in '06 and the Branch Rickey Award in '08. Hoffman was the San Diego recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in six seasons and won the Padres Chairman's Award in 1999 for his community service.

There are several other statistical areas where Hoffman ranks in the game's all-time Top 10.

His career mark of allowing 6.99 hits per nine innings is the seventh-best all-time. Hoffman ranks eighth all-time in hits plus walks per nine innings (1.058) and eighth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.36).