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Mixed bag for Jeff Hoffman in second pro start

Jeff Hoffman took to the mound in Jupiter last night, in his second professional start after impressing in his debut last week. In many ways, this second start was quite similar to the first, as Hoffman yielded numerous hits and allowed four runs again, with solid peripherals in terms of walks and strikeouts. His line on the night was 4.1 IP, 10 hits, 4 runs/ER, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4K. More importantly however, he showed good stuff, if not quite as top tier as in his debut.

The first inning was pretty routine, with two groundouts to second sandwiched around a decently hit single to centrefield erased quickly on a caught stealing. His control was a little off, starting off with three straight balls and only six strikes of 12 pitches thrown. After coming out last week in the first with a fastball in the high 90s, Hoffman was down a tick this week, sitting 94-96 on the Jupiter stadium gun. For the most part, he maintained this range throughout the night.

The second inning started with a pair of well hit fly balls to fairly deep centre that Roemon Fields had to go back on but didn't have particular trouble getting under and weren't in real danger of leaving the park. Hoffman got ahead of the third batter 0-2, and was looking at a quick inning but plunked Justin Bohm with a curveball at 80 that stayed in. That was followed by an infield single. Hoffman got out of the inning with a four pitch strikeout: fastballs taken at 95 and 96 for a ball and strike, a curve taken for strike two, and then another swing over for strike three.

The third inning started off looking like it might be Hoffman's best, but ended up being his most difficult as he allowed five straight hits sandwiched around striking out the side. Hoffman got ahead 1-2 on Travis Brewster leading off and backdoored a curveball (on the heels of a fastball at 93) that froze him and caught him looking. The next hitter, Yefri Perez, fouled a pitch, swung through a fastball at 98, and then he too was caught looking at the curveball for a second strikeout of the inning and third straight overall.

Then what was looking like a very quick inning went south. A blooper fell into right field for a hit, and then roller found its way up the middle for back to back hits. With two on and two outs, Felix Munoz lined a ball into left field to plate a run, the first time Hoffman was really squared up. Unfortunately, Hoffman couldn't stop the bleeding, allowing a one hopper lined to left field on a curve followed by another ball dunked into right field for two more runs. Hoffman then reared back to strike out Blake Barber to end the inning, blowing a 1-2 fastball by him on his 26th pitch of the inning. He touched 96 and 97 to his last batter, some of his better velocity of the night despite it being his longest inning.

Hoffman ran into more trouble in the fourth inning. After a weak groundout to second, he issued his first professional walk on six pitches, missing three straight times after getting ahead 1-2. He then gave up back-to-back line drives singles, the latter plating a fourth run with the trailing runner thrown out at home. He got out of the inning on a first pitch groundout to short.

Coming out for the fifth at 65 pitches, Hoffman got the first batter on one pitch, a routine groundout to first. He then engaged in a ten pitch struggle with Brian Anderson that ended his night. After a 94 fastball for strike one, seven of the next eight pitches were fouled off, including a fastball at 96, a curve, and a changeup at 90. Hoffman couldn't finish him off, and the 10th pitch was lined into left-centre for the 10th hit.

Overall, I had 76 pitches and 55 strikes for Hoffman from the broadcast, so he was throwing strikes but the balls did tend to be clumped together. That included 5 swinging strikes, but with 13 fouls and 17 balls in play made for a mediocre contact rate of about 85%. He sat mostly 93-96 with his fastball, which as noted above was down a little from last week, touching 97 and 98. He used his curveball quite a bit, and mixed in the change-up a little at 89-90.

I would note two concerns. First, in both the second and third he got the first two batters in short order, on five and seven pitches respectively. Both times he got ahead of the third batter, but couldn't finish off the inning, allowing seven baserunners to reach with two out. Secondly, after the first time through the order the Jupiter batters made clear adjustments, fouling a lot of balls off and dumping multiple hits to the opposite field. Hoffman wasn't able to make a counter adjustment, and consequently though for the most part he was not hit very hard, they were able to string together singles and put up runs. The baseball equivalent of death by a thousand papercuts.

On the season Hoffman has now pitch 9.1 innings, giving up 18 hits (16 singles, a double and HR), 8 runs, 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch and 7 strikeouts.