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, Joshua David Willingham, earned 6.1 over his three full seasons with Florida.
Willingham (career WAR 18.4), a native of Florence, Alabama, was born on February 17th, 1979. A 6’2”, 230 lb. left fielder, he was selected in the 17th round of the 2000 amateur draft by the Marlins, with the 491st overall choice. It was the same round which also saw the selection of Paul Maholm (12.1 WAR), Mike Napoli (27.6 WAR), and Rich Harden (17.6 WAR).
Willingham made his major league debut with the Marlins in 2004, and got into 12 games through the month of July. He totaled five hits in 25 at bats, drawing four walks and striking out eight times. In just his second career game, on July 7th, he reached base four times, with two hits and two walks in a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 11 days later, he hit his first home run, a solo shot in a 4-2 loss - again to the Pirates. The team went 4-8 in games in which he appeared, versus a 79-71 mark when he sat.
Willingham permanently joined Florida after the roster expanded in 2005, and collected seven hits in 23 at bats for a respectable .304 average, along with four RBI and two bases on balls in 16 appearances through the end of the season. The Marlins, again an 83-79 ballclub, went just 5-11 when he played and 78-68 when he didn’t.
2006 would see Willingham appear with the club through the entire season, making a team-fourth 142 appearances for the 78-84 club. He finished ninth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting at seasons’ end, with a slashline of .277/.356/.496/.852, a team-second 26 home runs, 74 RBI, and 54 walks versus 109 strikeouts in 573 plate appearances. The Marlins were 64-78 when he played and 14-6 when he sat. On April 29th, in an 8-7 loss to the Colorado Rockies, he collected two RBI with two singles and a home run. On July 5th, he went four-for-six with two singles, a double, and a round tripper as the Marlins trounced the Washington Nationals, 18-9. On July 30th, he had his second career two-homer game, earning four RBI in an 11-5 setback to the Philadelphia Phillies. He also homered in the second game of that day’s doubleheader, a 9-2 loss.
He swung the bat great. We felt all along Hammer was going to hit. He's had to battle. He's had a couple of good months and a couple of tough months. That's just learning how to string hits together over a long season. That's an art, too. You have to grind it out. - Marlins manager Joe Girardi
In 2007, the Marlins dropped to 71-91, 60-84 with Willingham and 11-7 without. In 144 games, he hit .265/.364/.463/.827, with 32 doubles, 21 home runs, 89 RBI, and 66 walks against 122 strikeouts. In the field, he ranked third in the National League with nine assists out of left. He had 35 multihit games out of his 140 starts, including 15 contests with three hits or better. On May 1st, Willingham collected all five RBI in a 5-2 Florida win against the New York Mets, with a triple and a home run. On July 1st, he went five-for-five with a run and two RBI in a 6-5, 10-inning victory against the Atlanta Braves. On August 11th, he hit two singles and a homer, totaling five RBI as the Marlins defeated the Mets, 7-5. He earned six RBI on two long balls on August 23rd, in an 11-3 Marlins win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
I was thinking about battling and hitting something hard somewhere. - Willingham
2008 would be Willingham’s last season with the Marlins, and would see him hit .254/.364/.470/.834 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 102 contests. He drew 58 walks in 416 plate appearances, striking out 82 times. The Marlins, who surprised a lot of people that season with an 84-77 record, went 56-46 in Willingham’s games and 28-31 in his not-games. On June 30th, he collected three RBI on two homers, including a walk-off shot against the Nationals in the 10th inning of a 6-5 Marlins’ win.
After the campaign, the Marlins dealt Willingham with Scott Olsen to the Washington Nationals for P.J. Dean, Emilio Bonifacio, and Jake Smolinski. After two seasons with the Nationals (247 games, .263/.377/.479/.856, 40 home runs, 117 RBI), he went on to play a season with the Oakland Athletics (136 games, .246/.332/.477/.810, 29 home runs, 98 RBI), two and a half years with the Minnesota Twins (324 games, .232/.353/.446/.799, 61 home runs, 192 RBI), and 24 games with the Kansas City Royals (.233/.249/.384/.732, two homers, six RBI).
I’ll be writing up through number 21 in this countdown based on WAR, but YOU, dear readers, will order the top 20 based on popular vote! The list below is self explanatory. Keep checking back here as we continue the march to Opening Day, right here at Fish Stripes.