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  • Matt Hoffman Hopes His Slider Elevates His Career

    After reaching Detroit's AAA Toledo team as a 21-year-old, Hoffman spent his third full year with them last year as a 24-year-old. But the left-handed reliever's stats showed a change. Last year, Hoffman struck out 35 batters in 35 innings. He had never come close to that rate previously. He thinks he knows why.

    "The pitching coach, who is now the coordinator of Detroit, AJ Sager, told me I needed to learn to throw my slider for a strike," says Hoffman. You don't really think about using it as a strikeout pitch. He goes 'You need to be able to throw that 0-1, 0-0, 2-0, to keep hitters off balance.'

    "I took that to heart, went home and worked on throwing it as a strike. I would actually go out [in games] and throw 15 pitches and I'd throw 13 sliders. It was just keeping hitters more off balance than anything. You're a little more effective when you take that to heart, which you don't think about."

    Hitters figured out the change, so Hoffman further pivoted to keep them off balance. "You change it up," replied Hoffman. "You don't want them to get 'Oh, yeah, he's just going to throw sliders at you.' You're going to change it up. One outing is strictly fastballs. Or I'll throw it and pitch backwards to guys. It's one of those weird little things that you don't think about until they sit down and tell you."

    The results suggests that Hoffman may have turned a corner just prior to the Twins finding him. It wasn't a coincidence that he found the Twins, either. "[My agent] sat me down, and he has a top five list of where he would like us to go and a top five list of where we're willing to consider. And Minnesota was on there. And we had a couple of other teams, but all-in-all, the best opportunity was here to maybe get a call up."

    Hoffman and his agent looked at the Twins roster and saw plenty of left-handers, but most are young left-handed starters. I wonder if they considered that Scott Diamond might need to be in the bullpen if he doesn't make the rotation, since he's out of options. But while Hoffman isn't sure his choice will lead to a call-up, he feels like right now, he made a good decision. Because he's happy.


    "Don't tell my secret: it's been awesome. Whether I get called up or not, it's been an absolutely awesome experience for two weeks already."
    This article was originally published in blog: Matt Hoffman Hopes His Slider Elevates His Career started by John Bonnes
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Great story, John. A well-written account of a 21-year-old hurler learning to become a 24-year-old pitcher. It's all there: the pitching coach in Detroit; the slider; the cat-and-mouse game of pitching backwards; the agent who knows his client, and the organizations available to him; and now a 25-year-old young man who's happy with his decision to pitch for the Twins.

      Elegant delivery, in under 500 words. Nice pitching.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      Great story, John. A well-written account of a 21-year-old hurler learning to become a 24-year-old pitcher. It's all there: the pitching coach in Detroit; the slider; the cat-and-mouse game of pitching backwards; the agent who knows his client, and the organizations available to him; and now a 25-year-old young man who's happy with his decision to pitch for the Twins.

      Elegant delivery, in under 500 words. Nice pitching.
      I hope for the best, but why doesn't a 23 year old MLB hopeful not know he needs the ability to throw a strike with all of his pitches? It seems elementary that if the batters know your slider will always be a ball, they will never swing at it and sit on your fastball.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I hope for the best, but why doesn't a 23 year old MLB hopeful not know he needs the ability to throw a strike with all of his pitches? It seems elementary that if the batters know your slider will always be a ball, they will never swing at it and sit on your fastball.
      The slider, by my memory, is supposed to break down and out of the strike zone. Spotting the fastball in the zone is effective because it sets up the batter to flail away when the slider breaks out of the zone. If the batter is merely sitting on the fastball, pitching the slider for strikes is just another step in the chess game. Hoffman switched his strategy, and now throws the slider for strikes.

      David Cone would pitch sliders out of the zone to right-handed batters, and he would break into the zone on left-handed batters. Roger Angell tells the story of Cone's slider in the chapter "Get a Grip" from A Pitcher's Story: Innings with David Cone.


      http://www.amazon.com/Pitchers-Story.../dp/0446678465
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      The slider, by my memory, is supposed to break down and out of the strike zone. Spotting the fastball in the zone is effective because it sets up the batter to flail away when the slider breaks out of the zone. If the batter is merely sitting on the fastball, pitching the slider for strikes is just another step in the chess game. Hoffman switched his strategy, and now throws the slider for strikes.

      David Cone would pitch sliders out of the zone to right-handed batters, and he would break into the zone on left-handed batters. Roger Angell tells the story of Cone's slider in the chapter "Get a Grip" from A Pitcher's Story: Innings with David Cone.


      http://www.amazon.com/Pitchers-Story.../dp/0446678465
      Right, if a pitcher has a slider that looks the same as fastball it is going to be a very good pitch no matter what. Chris Sale and Randy Johnson come to mind here. Most don't have that kind of slider.
    1. highlander's Avatar
      highlander -
      looks like the twins are going to throw as many south paws at the pen as they can and see what sticks. i would like to see two quality south paws out of the bully, with out gas cans, to toe the bump. if matt is one of them "atta boy" if not glad you had fun. not everybody gets to get paid to play a kids game.
    1. strumdatjag's Avatar
      strumdatjag -
      We already know that a good slider from a lefty can be a strike-out pitch. It was for Francisco Liriano.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Right, if a pitcher has a slider that looks the same as fastball it is going to be a very good pitch no matter what.
      I think the corollary is that if you're going to start throwing the slider for strikes, you need to throw some fastballs up and out of the zone.
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