SAN DIEGO -- Like the ninth inning of so many games in which he pitched, Trevor Hoffman's 2017 Hall of Fame push is coming down to the wire.Live coverage of the announcement begins at 12 p.m. PT Wednesday on MLB Network and MLB.com, and preliminary results have Hoffman hovering right
SAN DIEGO -- Like the ninth inning of so many games in which he pitched, Trevor Hoffman's 2017 Hall of Fame push is coming down to the wire.
Live coverage of the announcement begins at 12 p.m. PT Wednesday on MLB Network and MLB.com, and preliminary results have Hoffman hovering right around the 75 percent threshold required for enshrinement. His case is one of the most fascinating on the ballot, and there won't be any indication of the final result until his name is -- or isn't -- called.
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In recent years, social media has diminished some of the drama surrounding the Hall of Fame announcement. Many writers divulge their ballots early, giving fans a glimpse into the potential results.
But in the case of Hoffman -- who finished with 67.3 percent of the vote last January -- the early returns have only served to add to the suspense.
Ryan Thibodaux's ballot tracker keeps tabs on Hall of Fame voting trends, accounting for all ballots released to the public. With 235 ballots on file -- just over half of the overall total -- Hoffman has received 72.7 percent of the vote.
"It's going to be a couple of percentage points either way," Hoffman told MLB.com recently. "It's going to be a little nerve-racking, no doubt about it."
Among returning voters, Hoffman has been added to 29 ballots and was dropped from eight. He missed by 34 votes last year, which would seem to put him on the verge of election this time around.
One key number worth watching, however, is Hoffman's inclusion among first-time voters. With a younger generation of writers more prone to lean on advanced metrics like WAR, Hoffman has been named on only eight of 13 first-year ballots.
Accounting for all those factors, Thibodaux estimates that Hoffman needs to gain 17 votes among the 214 or so ballots that have not been revealed.
"To me, it's not something I kind of have to have," Hoffman said after the ballot was unveiled in November. "If I'm around family, and it turns out the right way, and I get a call, I'm sure it will be fantastic."
Judging by historical trends, it's overwhelmingly likely Hoffman reaches the Hall eventually. It's his second year on the ballot, and every player who has received at least 50 percent in his first try was eventually enshrined in Cooperstown.
The case for Hoffman is clear. He pitched 18 seasons in the big leagues, 16 of which came in San Diego. During that time, Hoffman racked up 601 saves, second only to surefire Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. And among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman ranks second in save percentage (88.8), eighth in ERA (2.87), fourth in ERA+ (141), second in opponents' batting average (.211), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).
"I was actually surprised he didn't get in on the first ballot," said former Padres general manager Randy Smith, who brought Hoffman to San Diego in a 1993 trade with the Florida Marlins. "I thought he was a first-ballot guy. It's going to be very close this year. In my mind, the wait's going to be very short. If he doesn't get in this year, it's going to be next year."
The numbers back Smith's assertion. Since 2000, eight players have received 67.3 percent or higher without hitting 75. Seven reached the Hall in the following year, with Jack Morris as the lone exception.
But an induction ceremony this summer would be especially meaningful to a city reeling from the loss of its NFL team. No, Hoffman's enshrinement would not offset the effects of the Chargers' relocation to Los Angeles. But, after a difficult week, it would give local fans a reason to cheer for a beloved sports figure.
"I'm incredibly hopeful ... there's an announcement that Trevor is in the Hall of Fame," Padres manager Andy Green said. "This city would enjoy that kind of news to celebrate. He's as beloved in this city as anybody."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.