Colorado Rockies: Jeff Hoffman’s new approach to get back to his old self

DENVER, CO - JULY 13: Jeff Hoffman #34 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on July 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 13: Jeff Hoffman #34 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on July 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Scottsdale, Arizona — Jeff Hoffman went through an offseason of working on changes to his delivery. He is hoping those tweaks will be enough to get him back to his old self and back into the conversation for a spot in the Colorado Rockies’ plans for 2019.

Throughout the course of the last three seasons, the 26-year-old Hoffman has appeared in 37 games, including 23 starts, for the Colorado Rockies. After being acquired by the Rockies from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, there have always been high expectations for what the former first-round pick could bring to Colorado.

Jeff Hoffman earned 16 starts for the Rockies in 2017 but gave up 15 home runs and walked 40 batters in 99.1 innings of work. Last season, the right-hander started just once as Colorado’s rotation was solid and injury-free. In all, he pitched just 8.2 innings, surrendering 15 hits in that frame.

Hoffman knew what we was doing wasn’t working, so he started partnering with Driveline to bring data into exactly how he was pitching and what could be bettered. The results showed a couple of improvements that could be made.

“Just a few things in my drive leg and my plant leg when I finally hit and delivered toward home plate,” Hoffman said of the improvements in an exclusive interview inside Colorado’s spring clubhouse. “I tried to strengthen those two areas. We felt as a whole, both me and the guys at Driveline, who are some of the guys who I brought into my corner this year, if I cleaned those things up, I would be in a better position to have more success. So far, we think we’re in a pretty good spot.

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“The two leg things were actually discovered through the biomechanical analysis they do at Driveline. They hook you up to sensors and you throw a bullpen. Basically, they get the gist of how your body moves and some of the habits you’re in. By the analysis they did, they believed that those two areas could get a little stronger. That’s what I geared my offseason training towards and I think we’re in a good spot.”

For a pitcher to “get into a good spot” after tweaks to his mechanics, it takes some time to adjust and become mentally comfortable zone with any kind of change. Hoffman said it took him a little time but he is comfortable with what the offseason work is producing now.

“It depends on the size of the tweak,” Hoffman smiled when asked about a timeline and his comfort level. “I felt like my drive leg took a little bit longer than my plant leg. Once you start driving toward home plate, you’re not really thinking about anything other than where your hand is at, at least in my head. So shifting that focus from your hand to what is my front knee doing, that was different. I think we pretty much had the hang of it after a few weeks, maybe a month. We’ve been running with it ever since.

“We wanted to have it down before camp started. That’s just muscle memory now. I’m not thinking about anything other than going out now and competing. I think with the intensity we attacked the issue, I felt great through my first few bullpens here.”

Colorado manager Bud Black said he likes what he has seen so far from the 2019 version of Hoffman in spring drills.

“With Jeff, there is no denying the talent. He has a Major League arm and good stuff,” Black said. “What I’ve noticed so far is that his delivery looks like a little tighter, a little more compact, which is great. The shape to his breaking ball looks much better as well as his ability to control it and throw it for strikes.

“He’s working extremely hard. There has also been a natural maturity the last couple of years. I think he has learned a lot. Now I think he’s in a position to do what he’s capable of and that is, when he plays, to do well. That’s the expectation. Get outs. Get through five, six, seven innings as a starting pitcher and be productive. That’s what we want to see.”

Hoffman told me he is entering this season with more confidence … but also the knowledge that he is getting back to the basics that made some the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft and a coveted piece by Colorado in one of the biggest trades in franchise history.

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“It definitely gives me more confidence, but all it did really was enable me to get back to being me,” he said. “Stop trying to be anything other than what I am. Go out there and rip heaters and throw big breaking balls. That’s what got me here. That’s what I’m going to do.”