Expect to hear the familiar strains of 'Hells Bells' for a while

Updated: June 29, 2009

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

Trevor Hoffman has 17 saves this season in Milwaukee, running his career total to 572.

"Hells Bells" are as loud as ever. Even if they are now ringing in Milwaukee instead of San Diego, the song still blares when Trevor Hoffman exits the bullpen and heads for the mound.

Longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera earned his 500th save Sunday night, but he is still well behind career saves leader Hoffman (572), who has 18 saves for the Brewers this year after needing just one pitch to finish off the Mets on Monday.

Hoffman, 41, is still chugging along. One of the major reasons for his continued success is his changeup. That pitch was almost impossible to hit when he was in his prime, and it's still been hard to hit even in the later days of his career. The great thing about the changeup is that as long as you continue to reduce its speed in relation to a declining fastball, you can still be very effective. Some pitchers lose their fastball but can't get their changeup to match. If you throw a 90-92 mph fastball, you can usually figure out an 80 mph changeup. But if your fastball is now at 85-86 mph, can you throw a changeup around 72 mph? That takes artistry.

Three guys have changeups that were absolutely essential to their success: Hoffman, Fernando Valenzuela and Mario Soto.

Those guys absolutely mastered the pitch. It was not just a pitch in their repertoire; it was the lifeblood of their existence as big league pitchers.

It all starts with the grip, but the touch and feel for the pitch is what makes the real difference. Hoffman, like Valenzuela and Soto, understands and can execute that pitch unlike almost anyone else. The first level of the changeup is basically just a bad fastball. But the next level involves understanding how to throw it. You need deceptive arm speed, spin and movement on the ball. The ability to manipulate and locate that pitch as precisely as your fastball, slider or curve and throw it for a strike is extremely valuable.

Another thing that gets talked about a lot with Hoffman is his work ethic. He works hard and smart. As an older pitcher, he realizes the importance of staying in top condition. He is a dedicated athlete in great shape, but he understands his arm and actually doesn't throw a lot between appearances. He does other things to keep fit and saves all the bullets he can.

At this stage of his career, Hoffman doesn't fit the stereotype of the intimidating closer. But in the same way a hitter needs to adjust late in a game to a hard-throwing closer, a hitter needs to adjust to Hoffman's wicked changeup.

With any pitcher there is a risk of injury, and with older pitchers it can become more of a concern. Still, in my opinion, this won't be Hoffman's last season. Don't look now, but with his ability and dedication, I think 600 career saves is likely and even 700 is not out of the question. I think the bells will be echoing in major league stadiums for years to come.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 28 | June 25 | June 24 | June 23 | June 22

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
R. Theriot, ChC7PitDukeTop 3: 1-0, 1 Outs. None on.
C. Crawford, TB7TorHalladayTop 3: 1-1, 0 Outs. 1 on.
J. Hardy, Mil8NYMNieveBot 3: 3-1, 0 Outs. None on.
R. Zimmerman, Was13FlaNolascoTop 2: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
J. Drew, Bos10BalBerkenTop 4: 1-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.
P. Burrell, TB3TorAccardoTop 7: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
D. Murphy, Tex6LAAO'SullivanBot 3: 3-1, 2 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Monday's homers

ON DECK: TUESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Red Sox at Orioles, 7 p.m. ET

John Smoltz gives it another go after a rough Red Sox debut last week. Smoltz went five innings and gave up five runs -- including four in the first -- in a loss against the Nationals. His opponent, Rich Hill, has seen his ERA climb by nearly two runs (from 4.15 to 6.03) over his past five starts.

Mets at Brewers, 7:05 p.m. ET

Johan Santana has pitched well this season, but he has been susceptible to the long ball. Santana has given up a homer in seven of his past eight starts. Mike Burns makes his third start of the season; in his previous two, he did not last past the fifth inning.

Giants at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET

Two former Cy Young winners meet, with Randy Johnson set to face Chris Carpenter. Johnson has won four of his past five decisions. Carpenter enters with a 1.78 ERA and .162 batting average against this season.

For the rest of Tuesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: TUESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Fernando Vina, Peter Gammons
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Fernando Vina

BBTN MINUTE: ROLLINS SET TO RETURN

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the dominant pitching performances across baseball on Monday night. Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt were good in complete-game wins, but they weren't alone. In the AL alone, there were some standout efforts:

AL pitchers shine on Monday
IP ER-H K
Gavin Floyd 7 2/3 0-5 5
Jeff Niemann 7 1/3 1-4 1
Jon Lester 7 0-5 8
Luke Hochevar 7 0-2 2
Sean O'Sullivan 6 2-6 5
Brett Anderson 5 1/3 1-4 7

The combined totals: 0.89 ERA, 40 1/3 innings pitched, 28 strikeouts.

WEB GEMS

MONDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
HardyJ.J. Hardy had a rough go Sunday, posting an 0-for-4, two-strikeout outing against the Giants. He rebounded well Monday. Hardy went 4-for-4 with a walk, a homer, two runs scored and a stolen base in a 10-6 win against the Mets.
WORST
PerezChris Perez's first outing with the Indians after his trade from the Cardinals did not go well. He allowed two hits and four runs, forgot to cover first base on a ground ball and unleashed a wild pitch while recording just two outs in a 6-3 loss against the White Sox.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Feliz The Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in the NL East despite their recent struggles. They have lost nine of 12, and much of their slump may be attributed to the injury of early season MVP candidate Raul Ibanez, who hasn't played since June 17.

The loss of Ibanez hurts, but the hitting slump that third baseman Pedro Feliz is mired in has also really hurt the Phillies. Since June 16, Feliz is hitting only .149 with three RBIs. Feliz crushed fastballs over his first 60 games, especially fastballs in the middle of the zone and up. During his slump, he hasn't been able to handle the heater.

Pedro Feliz's BA (2009)
First 60 games Past 12 games
Overall .318 .149
vs. fastball .376 .143
vs. fastball mid/up (in zone) .455 .167

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF TUESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Tuesday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Tuesday. Daily Notes