Throughout the 2016-17 offseason, Fish Stripes is counting down the top 100 Marlins of all-time. For comparison’s sake, we are using the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric as a measuring device. The top 100 WAR ratings are being featured. Today’s Marlin, Ryan Dempster, earned 3.0 while with Florida. To avoid confusion later, he earned 5.0 WAR as a pitcher, but lost nearly 2.0 WAR at the plate to make up his overall 3.0 rating.
Dempster, a 6’2”, 215 lb. right-handed hurler from Sechelt, British Columbia, was born on May 3rd, 1977. In 1995, the Texas Rangers selected him in the third round of the amateur draft, between Randy Winn and Bronson Arroyo. Also chosen that round were former major leaguers AJ Hinch, Onan Masaoka, JJ Putz, and Rob Bell.
After his selection, Dempster played most of his first professional season with the Rangers’ Gulf Coast League rookie team (eight games, six starts, 3-1, 2.36 ERA, 1.485 WHIP, 37 K’s in 34.1 innings). Near the end of the season, he made a single start for the New York-Penn League Hudson Valley Renegades at low-class-A. He got the win, pitching 5.2 strong innings while striking out six.
In 1996, Dempster started the campaign with the South Atlantic League’s Charleston Riverdogs, in class-A, where he put up a 7-11 record over 23 starts, with a 3.30 ERA, a 1.233 WHIP, and 141 strikouts in 144.1 innings pitched. On August 8th, the Rangers traded him with a PTBNL (Rick Helling) to the marlins for John Burkett. Dempster finished out the season with the Kane County Cougars, for Florida’s class-A Midwest League affiliate. He went 2-1 in four starts, allowing 18 hits in 26.1 innings and striking out 18 batters.
Dempster graduated to the high-A Brevard County Manatees in 1997, in the Florida State League. He held down a rotation spot for the entire season, going 10-9 over 26 starts, with a 4.90 ERA, a 1.427 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts in 165.1 innings.
1998 would see Dempster fast track from the double-A Eastern League Portland Sea Dogs (seven starts, 4-3, 3.22 ERA, 1.097 WHIP, 33 K’s in 44.2 innings), to the triple-A International League Charlotte Knights (five starts, 3-1, 3.27 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 24 K’s in 33.0 innings), all the way to the major leagues. He made his debut with Florida on May 23rd, and allowed three earned runs in one inning of a 10-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was pretty terrible through his first four appearances, actually, allowing 16 earned runs in eight innings of work, with a WHIP of 3.250, but he settled down soon afterward. On June 28th, he struck out six over seven innings, giving up one run in a 5-1 win against the Boston Red Sox for his first major league victory. He ended the season with a 1-5 record over 11 starts and three relief appearances, with a 7.08 ERA, a 2.012 WHIP, and 38 walks (to just 35 strikeouts) in 54.2 innings. He earned a -1.2 WAR rating as a pitcher and another -0.2 as a hitter that season.
Aside from five starts for the Pacific Coast League’s Calgary Cannons in 1999, Dempster was pretty much ensconsed in the Marlins rotation for the next three and a half seasons. Along with a four-seam, a two-seam, and a cut fastball, he also brought a mid-80’s slider and a low-80’s splitter to the fold.
Dempster joined Florida’s rotation on May 11th after starting the 1999 season with the Cannons, and earned a 7-8 record over his 25 starts (the team went 11-14 when he started, versus 53-84 when another pitcher did). Dempster led the Marlins with 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings, totaling 126 in 147 innings. He also had a 4.71 ERA and a 1.626 WHIP. He also had his first positive WAR, racking up 1.5 from the mound and -0.2 at the plate.
Dempster really hit a good stride in the last third of that season for the Marlins. On August 8th, Dempster threw eight four-hit innings against the Rockies, allowing one earned run and striking out nine in a 2-1 win over Colorado. On September 7th, he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers, limiting Los Angeles to just four hits in a 2-1 Marlins victory. On October 2nd, in Florida’s last game of the season, Dempster tossed eight innings, striking out seven and giving up no runs on five hits in a 1-0, 10-inning win against the Atlanta Braves.
2000 would be Dempster’s high watermark for the Marlins, and his best overall season until his 2008 campaign with the Chicago Cubs. He earned his first all-star selection as Florida’s number two pitcher, going 14-10 over 33 starts, with a 3.66 ERA, a 1.356 WHIP, and an NL fourth 209 strikeouts in an NL eighth 226.1 innings. He also ranked eighth in the NL with 8.311 strikeouts per nine innings. The Marlins went 21-12 in games that he started, and 58-70 otherwise. He closed the season with a 4.2 pWAR and a -0.6 oWAR.
On May 7th, Dempster struck out eight and gave up just one hit in a complete game, 3-0 win against the New York Mets. On June 3rd, he whiffed five and gave up one run on four hits and zero walks over seven innings as the Marlins defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1. Two starts later, he went the distance against the Phillies, striking out seven and giving up four hits and one run in his second complete game of the season. On August 4th against the Reds, Dempster allowed a single run on six hits, striking out seven in eight innings of a 2-1 victory over Cincinnati. On August 15th, in a 7-3 win against the Dodgers, Dempster gave up just one run on three hits, striking out eight over the first eight innings of play. He struck out nine and gave up just an unearned run on September 2nd, working eight innings of a 10-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. On September 19th, he struck out eight over 8.1 innings, allowing one run on five hits in a 3-1 win against the Montreal Expos.
In 2001, Dempster started opening day for the Marlins and led the team with 34 starts, wins with a 15-12 record, 211.1 innings, 171 strikeouts, and two complete games. He posted a 4.94 ERA, a 1.562 WHIP, and struck out a team-best-tying 7.3 batters per nine. The team, 76-86 overall, went 18-16 with Dempster and 58-70 without. He came out even with a 0.0 pWAR and a -0.7 oWAR for the Marlins.
On June 22nd against the Phillies, Dempster went one-for-two from the plate and struck out nine over eight innings, allowing one earned run in an 8-1 win against Philadelphia. Two starts later, on July 3rd, he pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only four hits to the Expos in a 7-0 Marlins’ win. Five days later, he struck out six over eight frames, again allowing just four hits in a 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He pitched a complete game three-hitter on July 31st, whiffing eight Brewers and allowing just an unearned run as the Marlins came out on tip by a 5-1 final margin. On September 2nd, in a 5-1 Marlins’ win against the Mets, Dempster gave up one run over eight strong innings, striking out five and allowing five hits.
2002 would start with Dempster again anchoring the rotation as the number one starter. He posted a 5-8 record for the Fish over 18 starts, striking out 87 in 120.1 innings, with a 4.79 ERA, a 1.504 WHIP, and 6.5 K’s per nine innings.
In Dempster’s second start of the season, on April 7th, he limited the Phillies to one run on five hits over eight innings, collecting six strikeouts as the Marlins won, 3-2 in 11 innings. On June 23rd, Dempster struck out 10 in seven innings, earning a no-decision in a 3-2 victory against the Detroit Tigers. On July 11th, the Marlins traded Dempster to the Reds for Juan Encarnacion, Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare.
Dempster pitched for the Reds for the next season and a half (37 starts, 8-12, 6.39 ERA, 1.684 WHIP, 150 K’s in 204.1 innings), later joining the Chicago Cubs for eight-and-a-half seasons (374 games, 154 starts, 67-66, 87 saves, 3.74 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, 1070 strikeouts in 1182.2 innings). He joined the Texas Rangers via trade halfway through 2012 (12 starts, 7-3, 5.09 ERA, 1.435 WHIP, 70 strikeouts in 69.0 innings) before closing his professional career with the Red Sox in 2013 (32 games, 29 starts, 8-9, 4.57 ERA, 1.453 WHIP, 157 strikeouts in 171.1 innings).
The MLB Network took on Dempster as in in-studio color analyst in April, 2014.