5 reasons Hoffman reaches Hall next year

5 reasons Hoffman reaches Hall next year

SAN DIEGO -- The disappointment in Padres country was palpable following Wednesday's announcement that legendary closer Trevor Hoffman had missed out on the Hall of Fame by five measly votes.

"I don't take being on the ballot lightly," Hoffman said in a statement. "I'm grateful for every vote, and I'm truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family and friends."

That day might not be far off. In the wake of Hoffman becoming only the sixth player in history to finish within one percentage point of election, here are five reasons to believe he won't fall short on next year's ballot.

1. Voting trends
Sure, Wednesday's news was tough to take for Padres fans. But in reality, Hoffman's jump to 74 percent this year practically guarantees his induction. All five players who missed out by 1 percent are currently enshrined. And the past nine players on the ballot after hitting the 70 percent threshold were elected the following year.

Need more assurance? Take a look at the two inductees this year who were returning to the ballot. Tim Raines received 22.6 percent of the vote in his second year, while Jeff Bagwell accrued 56 percent. Under modern voting rules, every player to surpass 50 percent in his second year ultimately reached the Hall. (Gil Hodges received exactly 50 percent in 1971 but hasn't been enshrined.) By these precedents, Hoffman isn't just knocking on the door; he's about to kick it down.

2. A decluttered ballot
Regardless of your thoughts on the rule limiting writers to 10 votes, there's no denying its impact. According to Ryan Thibodaux's BBHOF Tracker -- which keeps track of ballots as they are made available to the public -- at least four writers would've voted for Hoffman if given more space. Without the rule in place, it's likely Hoffman would already be in.

Next year, Bagwell, Raines and Ivan Rodriguez will no longer be on the ballot. Among first-timers, Chipper Jones is the only surefire pick (though Jim Thome's case is strong as well.) It's a crowded ballot, but less so than in 2017. And those extra spots could make all the difference.

Smoltz on Hoffman

3. He's in the public eye
Let's face it, this was Raines' year -- at least in terms of the buildup to the announcement. That's understandable. It was his final shot, and -- after 10 long years -- he got the call. In a similar vein, Bagwell had spent seven years on the ballot, and he also finished with more than Hoffman's 67.3 percent in 2016.

The attention given to Raines and Bagwell undoubtedly forced a few voters to rethink their choices. Now, it's Hoffman's turn to step into the spotlight. Come voting season, his name will be at the forefront, causing many to take another look at his candidacy.

Hoffman sets career saves record

4. Love for relievers
By now, you've heard the arguments against Hoffman: He didn't pitch enough innings and therefore didn't garner enough overall value. His career WAR, after all, is only 28 according to baseball-reference.com.

But take a look at the state of affairs in the Major Leagues this offseason. Three of the seven biggest free-agent contracts have been given to relief pitchers. More than ever, teams are making certain they have dominant arms to lock down the highest-leverage innings. Hoffman, behind only Mariano Rivera, was perhaps the second best in history at doing so.

Hoffman's career save No. 600

5. Hall of Fame numbers
OK, OK, let's get into Hoffman's actual case for the Hall of Fame. The four points made above are relevant. But they're merely an analysis of voting trends and voter tendencies. Ultimately we're asking one question: Was Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer?

Hoffman pitched 18 seasons in the Majors, finishing second all-time with 601 saves. In that regard, he and Rivera are so far ahead of the pack that they're the only two members of the 600- and 500-save clubs. Among relievers with 1,000 innings pitched, Hoffman's save percentage (88.8) is second, his ERA (2.87) is eighth, his ERA+ (141) is fourth, his opponents' batting average (.211) is second, his WHIP (1.06) is second and his K rate (25.8) is first.

Are those the numbers of a Hall of Famer? This year, 327 voters thought so. Only a handful more will be needed in 2018 for Hoffman's plaque to hang in Cooperstown.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.