[No, seriously. When I put “vacuum cleaner” into the Getty Image search box, I also got a lot of pictures of the Hoover Dam...]
- Date of birth: August 13, 1987
- 2017 line: 52 games, 41.1 IP, 3.92 ERA, 54:26 K:BB
- 2017 value: 0.5 bWAR
- 2017 salary: $900K
- SnakePit rating: 4.40
Whether it was “Hoover sucks” or “Hoover cleans up,” SnakePit writers always sat up and took notice whenever J.J. entered a game. All told, the results were generally better than worse, with an ERA+ of 123. By that metric, you could say he deserved a higher mark than 4.4, and that Hoover flew under the radar this season. However, his impact on games left a lot to be desired, and explains his low score. His Win Probability for the season of -76% was the worst across all 23 pitchers used by the Diamondbacks this year. His 12 meltdowns (WP worse than -6%) was four more than anyone else, and his shutdown/meltdown ratio of 7:12 is likely why he was rated so low.
He had an excellent first month-plus: on May 6, Hoover’s ERA was 1.69 and his WP was +30%. But he couldn’t sustain that, and had his worst spell of the season over the two months beginning July 28. He had an 8.18 ERA, and a WP of -149%, further the “Hoover sucks” narrative. To be fair, that included a four-week spell over the All-Star break when Hoover went on the disabled list with shoulder issues. At that time, Torey Lovullo said, “Something has been nagging and bothering him, and he’s been trying to grind through it and continue to work and pitch and do the things that we’re asking him to do, but we just figured it was the best thing for him at this moment.”
It’s possible that may still have been a factor in his struggles when Hoover returned. He pitched five times in eight days, allowing nine hits and two walks in 4.1 innings, and was sent to Reno after the final outing. He returned for a week in mid-August, and it seemed as if the team was trying to make him a long reliever, as Hoover had outings of 44 and 50 pitches. But when he came back up as part of the September expansion, he was back to regular appearances. He did finish strong, looking as good as he had in April, with a 2.35 ERA over 14 Sep/Oct games, and holding batters to a .138 average.
Hoover will be under team control, and will be in his second year of arbitration. The MLB Trade Rumors projection for him sees a modest bump in his cost, to $1.6 million. Still, a 4.71 FIP, the highest for any Diamondback with 30+ innings of work, suggests he may not have been as good as his ERA this season, making regression a distinct possibility for J.J. next year. Certainly, a 4.71 ERA could be obtained for a rather lower price than $1.6m, making Hoover a possible non-tender candidate. That decision may depend on to what extent the team believes Hoover’s balky shoulder was a factor in his mid-season struggles.
If he returns, he’ll be a back of the bullpen arm, though it may be worth looking again at stretching him out into a long reliever. Small sample size, but in eight games this year where Hoover threw more than one inning, he pitched a total of 15 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a K:BB of 17:5. That’s pretty impressive, and if it could be sustained, would make Hoover potentially an alternative to Randall Delgado for the role.