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Happily Trevor after: HOFfman eyes '18

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman, one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, came just shy of closing out his Hall of Fame legacy on Wednesday.

In his second year on the ballot, the legendary Padres closer fell a mere five votes short of the 332 required for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman, one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, came just shy of closing out his Hall of Fame legacy on Wednesday.

In his second year on the ballot, the legendary Padres closer fell a mere five votes short of the 332 required for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

:: 2017 Hall of Fame election coverage ::

Only Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez received the 75 percent needed for enshrinement in Cooperstown on Wednesday. Hoffman ultimately finished at 74, making him only the sixth player in history to fall one percentage point shy of being voted into the Hall.

"I first want to send a very heartfelt congratulations to Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez. All three men exemplify what it means to be a Hall of Famer in our game," Hoffman said in a statement. "For me, falling short of this class is disappointing, but I don't take being on the ballot lightly. I'm grateful for every vote and I am truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego."

Despite Wednesday's disappointment, Hoffman saw a significant uptick in his vote totals after he received 67.3 percent last year. Those numbers seem to indicate that he'll reach the Hall eventually -- possibly as early as next year. (Players are given a maximum of 10 seasons on the ballot.)

Since the Hall of Fame changed its voting structure in 1969, 15 players have returned to the ballot after receiving at least 70 percent of the vote. Only Jim Bunning was not elected by the BBWAA -- and he was later voted in by the Veterans Committee.

Hoffman joins Craig Biggio, Bert Blyleven, Bunning, Jimmy Williams and Nellie Fox as the only players to fall one percentage point short. The other five are all Hall of Famers. Biggio -- the most recent case -- came the closest at 74.8 percent in 2014, before he was easily elected the following year.

Hoffman pitched 18 seasons in the big leagues, 16 of which came in San Diego. During that time, he racked up 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera. 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).

Perhaps the two numbers that most harmed Hoffman's case were his 28 wins above replacement and his 1,089 1/3 innings pitched. (Only Bruce Sutter has been enshrined with fewer innings.) Of course, those numbers merely highlight Hoffman's role as a one-inning closer. In recent years, debate has arisen about the importance of the job.

But within the constricts of that job, Hoffman is undoubtedly one of the best ever, and the numbers back him up.

Now, he'll have to wait -- at least one year, perhaps longer -- to be recognized with baseball's highest honor.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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