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All-Time Top 100 Marlins: #42 Al Leiter

Al Leiter was part of Florida’s starting rotation for three seasons.

Florida Marlins v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn /Getty Images

Throughout the 2016-17 offseason, Fish Stripes is recapping the Top 100 Marlins to ever appear with the franchise. Using the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric, all 523 players were considered, whether they played for the Florida or Miami version of the Marlins. Today’s Marlins, Al Leiter, earned 4.8 while with the team.

Leiter was a 6’2”, 200 lb. left-handed pitcher from Toms River, New Jersey. Born on October 23rd, 1965, he was selected in the second round of the 1984 amateur draft by the New York Yankees with the 50th overall selection, after Greg Maddux (Cubs, 31st) and Tom Glavine (Braves, 47th).

After a few seasons of toil in the minor leagues, Leiter concurrently made 22 starts for the Yankees spread over three seasons. He posted a 7-8 record, with an ERA around four and a half while striking out 110 batters over 116.2 innings. In 1989, the Yankees traded him to the Blue Jays for Jesse Barfield.

Leiter was met by more of the same in Toronto, and would spend the majority of his first four seasons with the franchise in their minor league system. He eventually made it to their rotation in 1993, and over parts of seven seasons posted a 26-24 record over 91 games (61 starts, with a 4.20 ERA, a 1.526 WHIP, and 329 K’s in 415.1 innings.

On December 14th, 1995, Leiter signed to play for the Marlins for three years and $8.6 million.

This will be the first time in 12 years I haven’t had to leave home when the season started - Leiter, who lived in Plantation, FL at the time.

Hard as it is to believe considering the state of professional athlete’s contracts in today’s environment, a lot of people were saying the Marlins overpaid for Leiter’s services. Notwithstanding, Leiter started the 1996 campaign as Florida’s number three rotation starter. He led the team with 33 starts and with 200 strikeouts in a team-second 215.1 innings, leading the major leagues with 6.4 hits allowed per nine innings. He went 16-12 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.263 WHIP, and his first all-star appearance.

In Leiter’s second start of the season, on April 9th, he pitched nine scoreless innings, striking out eight and allowing just four hits to the Padres in a 5-2, 10-inning victory. On May 11th, Leiter pitched the first no-hitter in Marlins history, striking out six Colorado Rockies in an 11-0 Marlins win. He allowed only three baserunners, on two walks and a hit batsman in the win.

It’s like a numb feeling. I mean, you see it on TV, you see how guys react after they’ve thrown one. I didn’t expect it. It’s more a feeling of jubilation, relief, exhaustion. - Leiter

On May 27th, Leiter struck out four batters and gave up just three hits over eight innings to defeat the Reds, 6-2. June 17th would see him take a 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants, allowing only a solo home run and two singles over seven innings, striking out eight batters. Five days later, he earned a no-decision when he pitched eight scoreless innings, striking out six and giving up four hits in a 4-1, 10-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Leiter earned a 5-0 win over the Rockies on August 13th, going seven scoreless two-hit innings. On September 21st, he struck out five and gave up three hits over seven innings, in a 2-1 win against the Astros. In his final start of the season, five days later, he earned a complete game, 7-1 win against the Atlanta Braves, striking out eight and giving up six hits.

In 1997, Leiter posted an 11-9 record over 27 starts, striking out 132 in 151.1 innings with a 1.480 WHIP and a 4.34 ERA. On June 2nd, Leiter struck out five over seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits in a 4-2 win against the Giants. On July 28th, Leiter struck out a career-high 11 batters over eight innings, allowing no runs on two hits in a 4-0 loss to Cincinnati. September 19th would see him go eight scoreless innings and strike out six while allowing four hits as the Marlins defeated the New York Mets, 5-2.

Leiter appeared in five games through the 1997 postseason run, going 0-1 with a 5.48 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 23 innings. The Marlins won the championship despite Leiter allowing a WHIP just under two.

Prior to 1998 spring training, the Marlins traded Leiter with Ralph Millard to the Mets for Rob Stratton, A.J. Burnett, and Jesus Sanchez. Leiter started 213 games for them over seven seasons, posting a 95-67 record with a 3.42 ERA, a 1.300 WHIP, and 1,106 strikeouts in 1360.0 innings pitched. On December 8th, 2004, the Marlins resigned Leiter for $8 million, including a $1 million donation to Leiter’s Landing, a foundation to help needy children.

Jeffrey Loria completely flabbergasted me and floored me with his intensity and his passion and his desire and his love for the game. - Leiter, on why he signed with the Marlins despite a comparable offer from the Yankees.

Leiter was a shadow of his former self in his return to the Marlins, and he went 3-7 with a 6.64 ERA over 17 games (16 starts). He racked up a 1.850 WHIP and struck out 52 batters in 80.0 innings. On July 16th of that season, the Marlins sent him back to where he started, the New York Yankees as part of a conditional deal. Leiter went 4-5 with a 5.49 ERA, a 1.668 WHIP, and 45 whiffs in 62.1 innings.

Leiter’s been in broadcasting now for 19 seasons, starting at ESPN, before going on to the YES network, the MLB Network, and Fox Sports Florida.