Matt Hoffman Hopes His Slider Elevates His Career
by, 03-02-2014 at 09:11 PM (548 Views)
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."