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, Charles Edward Smith, earned 3.2 while with Florida.
Chuck Smith was a 6’1”, 185 lb. right-handed pitcher from Memphis, Tennessee. Born on October 21st, 1969, he was never drafted in the amateur draft, instead getting signed as a free agent in 1991 by the Houston Astros.
It was a long road to the majors for Smith, who spent four seasons in the Astros minor league feeder system before getting sent to the Chicago White Sox system for three seasons. He pitched for the Sioux Falls Canaries in the independent Northwest League in 1998 (eight starts, 5-3, 2.62 ERA, 70 K’s in 55.0 innings), then returned to the minor leagues as part of the Texas Rangers’ system for two seasons without a single taste of the major leagues.
On June 9th, 2000, the Rangers traded Smith to the Marlins for Brant Brown, then four days later, Smith played in his first major league contest. Smith struck out six in six innings that day, allowing one unearned run and no decision in a 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In his very next start on June 19th, Smith earned a loss despite striking out 11 Brewers over seven innings, allowing just four hits and a walk for two runs in a hard luck 2-0 loss to Milwaukee. On August 1st, he dropped to 1-4 on the season despite holding the Astros to just two hits and zero earned runs over seven innings, striking out seven in a 4-3 loss to Houston. He earned a no-decision in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the San Diego Padres on August 12th, pitching eight shutout frames and striking out seven batters. On August 29th, he struck out nine over eight innings, allowing one run on four hits and defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1. In his next start, five days later, he whiffed 11 in eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits in a 4-2 win against the Astros. In his final start of the season, on September 29th, Smith allowed one unearned run on four hits while again striking out 11 batters, defeating the Phillies, 7-1.
Smith was fifth on the Marlins with 19 starts, and ranked fourth with 122.2 innings pitched through the season. He led the team with a 1.345 WHIP, 8.1 hits per nine innings, 8.7 strikeouts per nine, a 3.23 ERA and a nearly identical 3.24 FIP. He went 6-6, striking out 118 over 122.2 innings. He also allowed only six homers all season, sharing the team lead with Braden Looper at 0.4 HR/9. Of his 3.2 total WAR throughout his major league career, he earned 2.8 of it in this season, and finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
The following season, Smith injured himself during spring training, slipping on home plate while scoring a run on a sacrifice fly on March 24th. During his rehab, he responded to a question about his continuing role on the club by saying:
As far as I know, I'm the No. 2 starter, and I will be the No. 2 starter when I come back. That's the only thing on my mind. ... I'm a starter. That's what Chuck Smith came here to do. I'm the No. 2 guy. - Smith
When Smith rejoined the rotation on May 6th, it was indeed as a starter. He earned a win in his return, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out seven over eight innings in a 5-1 win against the Brewers. Unfortunately for Smith and the Marlins’ rotation, it was by far his best start of the season. On May 22nd, he earned his third win of the year to go to 3-0, striking out seven in 7.2 innings and allowing one run on six hits to defeat the Atlanta Braves, 3-2.
On July 26th, Smith was placed on the injured reserve list after feeling his elbow pop on the last pitch of the fourth inning of his start two nights prior. Smith came back in the fifth and threw 22 pitches, but failed to retire a runner. Manager Tony Perez expressed his disappointment:
I tell them, `You've got to be honest with us,' you've got to be honest because you can get hurt worse. - Perez
Smith didn’t get back to the majors again that season, and prior to 2002, the Colorado Rockies purchased his contract from Florida. Smith never again got back to baseball’s top level after a season in Colorado’s system, two seasons in Atlanta’s system, and another year in the Baltimore Orioles system. He closed his major league career with an 11-11 record over 34 starts, with a 3.84 ERA, a 1.372 WHIP, and 189 whiffs in 210.2 innings.