The way Hoffman pitched in 2009, it looks like he could go on forever.
"I just go one day at a time," Hoffman said during the season. "I was fortunate to catch some breaks when I did and was able to weather some 'activity' with some low pitch counts."
By "activity," he meant the days on which his arm actually felt 41 years old. Hoffman did not appear to have many of those days in 2009, when he converted 37 of 42 saves and posted a 1.83 ERA in 54 innings and 55 games. Only three Major League pitchers worked at least 50 innings with a better ERA: The Orioles and Dodgers' George Sherrill (1.70), the Giants' Jeremy Affeldt (1.73) and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (1.76).
For Hoffman, in terms of ERA, opponents' batting average and OPS, WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), and adjusted ERA (a figure that accounts for a pitcher's ballpark and how he compares to the league average), 2009 was statistically his best season since 1998, when he finished second in National League Cy Young Award balloting and seventh in the league's MVP race.
He will enter 2010 with 591 saves, most in Major League history.
"Looking from the outside, you would have concerns about age. Being around him for a year, that's a non-factor," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said last week.
How long might Hoffman be able to pitch?
"As long as he wants to," Ash said.
Hoffman was the sixth-oldest pitcher and the seventh-oldest player to appear in the Majors in 2009, a list topped by ageless left-hander Jamie Moyer of the Phillies, who will turn 47 next month and hasn't written off returning for 2010. The next oldest was Giants lefty Randy Johnson, who turned 46 on Sept. 10, then Tim Wakefield of Boston (43 on Aug. 2), infielder Omar Vizquel of Texas (42 on April 24), pitcher John Smoltz of Boston and St. Louis (42 on May 15), pitcher Doug Brocail of Houston (42 on May 16) and Hoffman.
Hoffman is already one of only six Brewers pitchers to work past his 40th birthday and one of them was the catcher Dempsey, who pitched two innings in 1991.
Another was Hoffman's teammate, fellow reliever David Weathers, who just turned 40 on Sept. 25. Last season, lefty reliever Brian Shouse turned 40 on Sept. 26, and his teammates presented him with a custom rocking chair as a birthday present. Shouse departed via free agency.
The Brewers' best 40-year-old pitcher -- before Hoffman in 2009 -- was fellow changeup specialist Doug Jones, who turned 40 in the middle of a 36-save 1997 season. Jones posted a 2.02 ERA that year and led the American League by finishing 73 games, but followed up with a 5.17 ERA in 46 Brewers appearances in 1998 before a trade to Cleveland. He had already turned 41 at the time of the deal.
The only other 40-year-old to pitch for the Brewers was Jerry Reuss, who was traded from the White Sox near the end of the 1989 season and made seven starts, going 1-5 with a 5.35 ERA.