Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 27, Jeff Hoffman (0.3 rWAR)
The Colorado Rockies were looking for answers on their pitching staff, and specifically in their starting rotation, all season. Some of the answers they needed were for the short term, as in, how were they even going to fill out a rotation to get through the rest of the season? And some of the answers they needed were for the long term as they tried to figure out how they can turn their rotation back into a strength in the 2020 season and beyond.
As we would have predicted at the time, Jeff Hoffman was one of the first pitchers the Rockies turned to when they needed somebody. He made his first start of the season on April 23, and it actually looked like there were signs of hope. Hoffman did allow four runs, but he made it through five innings with six strikeouts while allowing no walks or home runs.
So maybe this was a new Jeff Hoffman, we thought to ourselves. Unfortunately the rest of the season mostly brought us more of the old inconsistent Hoffman, as the 26-year-old kicked back and forth between the Rockies and the minors and struggled with his usual command and consistency issues.
Sometimes Hoffman’s struggles with command manifest in classic fashion with a bunch of walks, adding up to his 4.4 BB/9 on the season. Other times it’s bad command in the zone, especially with his fastball, that just makes Hoffman too hittable. His 21 home runs allowed were third-worst on the team, but he allowed all those dingers in 70 innings pitched, as opposed to German Marquez allowing 29 home runs in 174 innings and Kyle Freeland allowing 25 in 104 innings.
It all adds up to another disappointing chapter for Hoffman with the Rockies. He went 2-6 in 15 starts with a 6.56 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and 79 ERA+. You watch him and you see the stuff is there, but he still is just too inconsistent.
Where does that leave Hoffman when we get to the beginning of the 2020 season? He’ll likely be in a “make or break” position in spring training because he is out of options. If he can’t show signs that his mechanics and command are consistent enough to earn him a spot in the rotation, that might be the end of his time with the Rockies.
The Rockies could also still look at Hoffman in the bullpen to see if his stuff could play up there. I’m not sure why that isn’t discussed more often as an option for him. For example, Nick Groke just makes a passing comment in this article that Hoffman “didn’t take to the role.” Are the Rockies sure that’s the case based on 14 career relief appearances?
Maybe they are sure. Maybe it just isn’t a fit for Hoffman and it’s starter or bust. Whatever the case, we would all hate to see a former first rounder and the centerpiece of the Troy Tulowitzki trade never find his footing with a franchise that desperately needs pitching. Hopefully Hoffman can finally put things together in 2020.