Closing Time: The Jeff Hoffman problem

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9896/" data-ylk="slk:Jeff Hoffman">Jeff Hoffman</a> did the walk of shame in Wednesday’s loss to Arizona (AP)
Jeff Hoffman did the walk of shame in Wednesday’s loss to Arizona (AP)

To be honest, I thought we were done discussing Colorado starting pitchers as a thing. Sure, Ubaldo Jimenez had a nice run for a few years. And yes, Jon Gray had some moments last season. That 16-strikeout parade against the Padres leaves a mark.

But at the end of the day, gravity always wins, right? The park is too big, the air too thin, the curveballs too flat. Why run uphill when you don’t have to?

Alas, the Coors Field pitching discussion has bubbled back into the discussion this year. Part of it is Colorado having a winning club — largely helped by the pitching staff — and part of it is the pedigree of some staff members. Gray might be on the DL, but everyone knows what a ballyhooed prospect he was.

And then there’s the case of Jeff Hoffman, who allowed nine runs in Wednesday’s loss to Arizona. We’ll get back to that start a little later. Let’s sketch out the background first.

You remember Hoffman, Toronto’s first-round pick in 2014 despite his pending Tommy John surgery. He nonetheless rose through the minors quickly — and was a key piece in the Troy Tulowitzki deal. The three main scouting clipboards had Hoffman as a Top 50 prospect entering 2017.

Hoffman joined the Rockies in May and rattled off three wins in his first five starts. He allowed just one run in four of those appearances. After the fifth start, he was sitting on a 2.25 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, and he was striking out more than a batter per inning.

I was still sitting it out, clinging to Gravity Always Wins, when Hoffman was forced into the discussion last week. In one expert league, I was unsolicitedly pushed a 3-for-3 trade where my key acquisition would be Hoffman. (When I kindly told him I had no interest in a Colorado pitcher, he changed to a 2-for-2 that still centered around Hoffman. Trading is fun.) Later in the week, a friend of mine asked me for a Hoffman opinion.

With the topic starting to gather steam, I went onto Twitter and broadcast my simple-yet-unchanged view of Colorado pitchers. Sure, it’s not rocket science, but Occam’s Razor is our friend in so many fantasy areas.

Of course, not everyone agreed with this stance.

I’m not going to list every reply on the Coors tweet — you can peruse the thread if you want. A handful of people nodded and sheepishly agreed, almost with the “nothing to see here” look.

It’s hard to crush a pitcher for one bad outing, but Coors can do a number on you. Hoffman didn’t get out of the fourth inning Wednesday, giving up eight hits and nine runs. No taters, but plenty of loud contact. He walked two, struck out two.

Hoffman’s ERA rose to 4.29, the WHIP to 1.12. To be fair, that ERA is playable in 2017 and the WHIP is still excellent, not that I know many fantasy owners who jumped into the Hoffman sweepstakes right away.

A lot of reasonable roto players are suggesting that Hoffman and others can be seen as road-only pitchers; just skip their home turns, use them everywhere else. It sounds nice in theory, but look at the division. Not only do Arizona and Los Angeles have loaded offenses, but they’re first and second in home scoring this year. I don’t feel comfortable starting any visitor in Chase Field, and it’s getting that way in Dodger Stadium, too. The Mets pitching staff got obliterated in Chavez Ravine all week.

Hoffman is still a valued commodity in Yahoo leagues, checking in at 62 percent. I can see why people want to buy in; I acknowledge the pedigree, respect the arsenal. Antonio Senzatela (4.10/1.21), Kyle Freeland (3.42/1.41), and Tyler Chatwood (4.08/1.30) have been useful for much of the year.

Nonetheless, I’m still out on these guys. Summer just started. The next 10 weeks are the worst time of year for any pitcher. I realize it’s been difficult to find credible pitching this summer, but my search will not be routed through Blake Street.

If you feel I’m wrong, state your case in the comments, or come throw some chin music on Twitter.

Brandon Drury got the best of the Arizona box score, knocking four hits and driving in six. His season is a little light on the category juice (eight homers, one bag), but a .304/.348/.500 slash plays in most formats, especially when you add three positions of eligibility (second, third, outfield). Drury is still ready to go in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Lonnie Chisenhall has been a flash-and-fade commodity in the past, but these days, business is good. Lonnie Baseball is on a .381 binge since returning from a concussion issue, homering four times in 42 at-bats. The Indians offense is also surging, with a .282/.354/.488 slash in June. Let’s get a piece of this group, where we can. Chisenhall is scarcely owned in Yahoo, checking in at eight percent.

• The Cardinals have a logjam in the outfield, but they can’t sweep Tommy Pham away. He’s hit four homers in the past week (two on Wednesday), and he’s also swiped six bases in his 40 games. A .281/.373/.481 slash is legit, justifies a lineup spot. His plate discipline has improved, and he’s walking at a high clip. Pham is ready for your call, unclaimed in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.

What to Read Next