The Miami Marlins this season may give one lucky Marlin the honor of being one of the worst All-Star bids in team history. The current 2013 Miami Marlins are awful, and their All-Star representatives on the ballot reflect that. If the team continues to play this way, the Fish may end up with one terrible representative who may eclipse some of the worst in team history.
But what Marlins have made the All-Star cut in the past, and have they been undeserving? Naturally, there were a couple of post-fire sale seasons in 1998 and 1999 that likely saw undeserving candidates get the nod. Maybe a year or two in the early seasons of the franchise were questionable selections made only because every team needs a representative. Let's take a look at the All-Star selections of Marlins history and see if they were deserving candidates.
1993: Bryan Harvey, Gary Sheffield
Bryan Harvey was no slouch. Any way you look at his early career, it seemed clear he had a future in the majors as an elite closer. His career ERA was just 2.49, and he posted a career 28.3 percent strikeout rate and 9.1 percent walk rate. In the inaugural 1993 season, he had a 1.63 ERA and 47 strikeouts versus just seven walks in 38 2/3 innings. If any reliever was going to make an All-Star team that year, it was going to be Harvey.
Sheffield was traded to the Marlins on June 24 of that year, so he did most of his damage with the San Diego Padres. Sheffield hit .298/.358/.482, which actually is not that great, but was good enough at third base apparently.
Verdict: Deserved, Deserved
1994: Jeff Conine
Conine was hitting .313/.372/.519 in what was first of his two consecutive elite hitting seasons. This was his first All-Star bid and it was quite a deserving one. Conine proved to be a decent enough left fielder and not the prototypical strikeout machine at the position, as he whiffed only 18.5 percent of the time. The Fish only had one representative in 1994, but he was a good one.
1995: Jeff Conine
Conine came back in 1995 and did even better before the All-Star break, batting .322/.417/.559 en route to a second straight All-Star bid. This was also the season in which he won the All-Star MVP award for clinching the National League's victory. He cannot be undeserving with that kind of batting line and the hardware.
1996: Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Gary Sheffield
Kevin Brown pitched 233 innings that year, walked just 33 batters, and gave up just eight home runs. His performance in the first half was identical in run prevention as it was in the second half, as he posted matching 1.89 ERAs in both halves. Had he not been blown away by John Smoltz's 24 wins and 272 strikeouts that year, Brown probably would have (deservedly) won the Cy Young award.
Gary Sheffield hit 42 home runs that year, and that still stands as the team's record for most homers in one year (Giancarlo Stanton may be able to break that soon). Sheffield was hitting an insane .295/,441/.614 with 25 home runs before the break, but somehow got even better in the second half, batting .336/.495/.638 in what is sure to go down as the best individual offensive season in team history. His 185 wRC+ beats the next closest competitor, Miguel Cabrera's 2006 campaign, by more than 30 points.
Al Leiter had a 2.43 ERA in the first half, but he already began showing the hefty chinks in his armor. He struck out 105 guys in 118 2/3 innings, but he also walked 63 batters in that same time frame, Thankfully, he suppressed a lot of home runs, otherwise his line would have gotten a lot uglier. Still, does a 3.82 FIP strike you as an All-Star appearance? Not quite, but it's not that bad.
Verdict: Deserved, Undeserving (by a small margin), Deserved
1997: Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson
Brown amped up the strikeouts in 1997, but his walks also climbed a little, leading to a very similar season to the 1996 campaign in terms of his peripherals. Seasons similar to Brown's 1996 year are definitely deserving All-Star years.
Moises Alou's lone year with the Marlins saw him be the best hitter on the team. Alou batted a cool .293/.376/.471 before taking his game to a slightly higher, more powerful level in the second half. Still, for a guy who was clearly the team's go-to player at the plate, Alou had surprisingly subdued numbers, akin to Sheffield's in 1993. He was 28 percent better than the league average by wRC+ that year; that is akin to what Ian Desmond, Nick Swisher, and Torii Hunter did in 2012.
The 1997 season was Johnson's second-best career year at the plate, but it was his best defensive season as well. The TotalZone metric used by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference for seasons prior to 2002 had Johnson saving 19 runs over the entire year with his glove, so it makes sense that a decent performance at the plate would get him an All-Star bid. Well, except that Johnson hit just .226/.327/.387 in the first half before tearing up the second half to the tune of a .275/.369/.525 line.
Verdict: Deserved (barely), Deserved, Deserved (barely)
1998: Edgar Renteria
Uh oh, here we go.
Had Cliff Floyd been healthy during the All-Star game that season, he likely would have been a deserving candidate. Instead, the Marlins got Renteria, who was one of the few remaining 1997 World Series members. He was hitting .302/.366/.358 at the break, but he was also playing poor defense and was barely a one-win player by season's end.
1999: Alex Gonzalez
Actually, Gonzalez was on his way to a fantastic rookie season before he got derailed by a number of things, many of which were contributed to a lazy attitude. He was hitting a pretty impressive .292/.324/.462 batting line. But he was also playing poor defense and was actually being outhit by a number of other players; Gonzalez's wOBA in the first half likely falls somewhere below the total season lines of guys like Royce Clayton and Rich Aurilia for that year. It's a close call, but I would say that Gonzalez should have barely missed the cut.
Verdict: Undeserving (barely)
2000: Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster had a 3.67 ERA in the first half, and while his 120 strikeouts in 123 innings were quite impressive, he had an Al Leiter-like problem with his 51 walks. If Leiter was undeserving with a better ERA, you would think Dempster would not be deserving either. Except that this season came at the height of the offensive era in baseball, and Dempster's meager ERA was actually 19th in baseball when compared to league average. Unfortunately, his FIP was much worse.
Verdict: Undeserving (barely)
2001: Cliff Floyd, Charles Johnson
This was Cliff Floyd's tour de force in the league, when he announced his superstardom to the world. He hit .317/.390/.578 for the season and a Sheffield-esque .342/.414/.633 in the first half. A no-brainer choice for the Fish.
Johnson had just re-signed with the Marlins (only to be traded at the end of the following season) and followed his good year in Baltimore with a nice start with the Fish, batting .285/.359/.555 to start the year. Combine that with good defense and you get another no-brainer.
Verdict: Deserved, Deserved
2002: Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell
Luis Castillo was batting .341/.399/.398 to start the year, thanks in part to a career-long 35-game hitting streak. His defense was in its infancy in terms of skilled play, as he had not developed his Gold Glove yet. But his strong start and the league lead in steals was enough to get him an All-Star ticket.
Mike Lowell did it the traditional way. He bashed his way to a .311/.374/.527 start to the season before cooling off in a big way in the second half. By then, Lowell's prowess on defense was recognized, but it was the bat that earned him a deserving nod.
Verdict: Deserved, Deserved
2003: Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell, Dontrelle Willis
There was more of the same for Castillo and Lowell in 2003. Castillo hit .317/.375/.407 to start the year, and by now he was earning some deserving praise on defense. Lowell hit an impressing .271/.356/.586 with 28 home runs in the first half, and his season would have been even more impressive had he not gotten injured in the second half and missed of the latter part of the year.
Dontrelle Willis had an excellent first half, and there is nothing that needs to be said about it. He posted a 2.08 ERA with a 24.0 percent strikeout rate and seven straight pitcher wins to start out the year. He had Livan Hernandez's fantastic start, except that he looked like a much better pitcher.
Verdict: Deserved, Deserved, Deserved
The early history of Marlins All-Stars, aside from the post-fire sale years, was loaded with well-deserved All-Star bids. Would that continue in future seasons? Almost certainly yes, and we'll look into that at a later time.