Aging closers learning to adjust

Updated: March 3, 2004, 5:15 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
"I'm a good real estate agent. I rely on location, location, location. I haven't had real good velocity in four or five years.'' - Trevor Hoffman, San Diego Padres closer.

"I'm not a superstar. I'm not a professional athlete, per se. My job just happens to be on television. If plumbers were on TV, ass cracks would be famous.'' - Rod Beck, Padres setup man.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Trevor Hoffman and Rod Beck have more in common than a boat-load of Rolaids Relief points. Two things that immediately spring to mind are their respect for the sanctity of the ninth inning, and their ability to see the closer's job from both sides of a radar gun reading.

They've combined for 1,319 relief appearances and 638 saves in the big leagues, and that's largely a reflection of their willingness to adapt.

Ten years ago both pitchers threw in the mid-90s and routinely worked out of tight situations by unleashing the heat. But it's easy to be bold when you throw a fastball like Billy Wagner or Eric Gagne. The best thing about velocity, Hoffman says, is that it gives a pitcher greater margin for error.

The reality is, Hoffman and Beck don't have the stuff to overpower hitters anymore. Age, attrition and injury have taken care of that.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer