Throughout the 2016-17 offseason, Fish Stripes is counting down the top 100 Marlins to appear with the franchise. Using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to order the candidates, the 100 highest WAR ratings made the list. The floor was set by Adam Conley at 2.0. Today’s Marlin, Armando Benitez, racked up a figure of 2.5.
Benitez, a 6’4”, 180 lb. right-handed pitcher from Ramon Santana, Dominican Republic, was born on November 3rd, 1972. Although he went undrafted, the Baltimore Orioles signed him through free agency in 1990.
Benitez remained with the Orioles organization through his first nine professional seasons, getting to the majors for the first time in 1994. In five seasons with the Orioles, he compiled an 11-16 record and a 3.62 ERA and a 1.301 WHIP. He struck out 283 batters in 213.2 innings, and earned 37 saves, gradually taking on more closing opportunities as his career progressed. He had zero saves in 1994, two in 1995, four in 1996, nine in 1997, and 22 in 1998. Just after the ‘98 season ended the Orioles traded him to the New York Mets for Charles Johnson.
Benitez played in almost half of his career major league appearances as a Met, getting into 333 games over five seasons and compiling an 18-14 record with 160 saves, a 2.70 ERA, a 1.133 WHIP, and 456 whiffs in 347.0 innings pitched. Three days after making his first all star appearance in the 2003 contest, the Mets sent him across town to the Yankees for Ryan Bicondoa, Jason Anderson, and Anderson Garcia. He went 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA over 9.1 innings for the Bombers, then got traded to the Seattle Mariners for Jeff Nelson just three weeks later. Benitez played in 15 games for the M’s, earning a 3.14 ERA over 14.1 innings. Benitez signed with the Marlins through free agency for one year and $3.5 million prior to 2004 spring training.
Benitez ably anchored Florida’s bullpen in 2004, leading the NL with 47 saves and making the all star team for the second season in a row. He posted a 2-2 record with a 1.29 ERA, a 0.818 WHIP, and 62 strikeouts in an eyelash under 70 innings for the Marlins, allowing just 4.7 hits per nine innings pitched. That’s a figure that translates to an opponent’s batting average of just .152.
Benitez pitched in 64 games for the Marlins, and on only seven occasions did he allow more than one hit. 38 times he didn’t allow any hits, and in 29 of those games he didn’t allow a single baserunner. From April 8th to June 4th, he struck out 26 over 30.0 shutout innings, saving 20 games while allowing 13 hits and 11 walks.
On April 18th, Benitez came on in the eighth inning, trailing Atlanta by a 3-2 margin and struck out four in two perfect innings. On May 16th, he came into a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals with one in, one on and nobody out, then earned a six-out save, striking out two and walking a batter for his 15th of the season. The performance dropped his ERA to that point to 0.39. On July 22nd, he earned his 33rd save of the campaign, allowing a hit and striking out two batters in a 10-8 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins posted a 54-10 record in games in which he appeared, versus a 29-69 record when he didn't. Never mind cause and effect, that's some impressive stuff right there.
After the season, Benitez signed with the San Francisco Giants through free agency for three years and $21 million. Two and a half seasons with the Giants yielded a 6-8 record, a 4.10 ERA, a 1.482 WHIP, and 72 strikeouts over 85.2 innings. Hardly what was expected of him, the Giants traded him back to the Marlins on May 31st, 2007 with cash for Randy Messenger.
Benitez was hardly the juggernaut of three seasons past, posting a 2-5 record with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.576 WHIP, although he did strike out 39 batters in just 33.0 innings pitched over 36 appearances.
Benitez joined the Toronto Blue Jays through free agency for the 2008 campaign, but spent most of his season on the IR. He went 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA, a 0.947 WHIP, and struck out nine over 6.1 innings to conclude his major league career. He played two more seasons in the minor leagues, including part of 2008 with the New Orleans Zephyrs, but did not again get to the bigs.