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Best Individual Marlins Pitching Seasons: The 1990s

Fish Stripes launches a new article series celebrating single-season individual greatness.

AFP via Getty Images

Who has had the best individual season in the history of the Marlins? Is it Stanton’s 59-homer season in 2017? Or possibly José Fernández’s ROY season in 2013? By utilizing sabermetrics, awards, and overall impact, we will evaluate the best individual season on both sides of the ball, and eventually conclude which Marlin deserves that distinction.

The inaugural decade of the Florida Marlins brought a lot of exciting moments to South Florida. The organization and its fans enjoyed a World Series title, incredible individual performances, as well as an All Star Game MVP performance by Jeff Conine.

Let’s start off with the pitching side of the 1990s.

Here are the pitchers who accumulated the most FanGraphs WAR as a Marlin, from 1993 to 1999:

Most Valuable Marlins Pitchers by fWAR, 1993-1999

Name Years IP fWAR
Name Years IP fWAR
Kevin Brown 1996-1997 470.1 13.2
Alex Fernández 1997-1999 361.2 6.4
Pat Rapp 1993-1997 665.2 5.7
Robb Nen 1993-1997 314.0 5.4
Chris Hammond 1993-1996, 1998 520.0 5.3
John Burkett 1995-1996 342.1 4.7
Al Leiter 1996-1997 366.2 4.6
Liván Hernández 1996-1999 469.2 3.9
Bryan Harvey 1993-1995 79.1 2.7
David Weathers 1993-1996 342.1 2.6
FanGraphs

In two seasons with the Marlins, one including a World Series title, Kevin Brown acquired the most WAR by a Marlins pitcher in the 90s. RHP Alex Fernández came into the picture in 1997, where he posted an fWAR of 3.3. An injury in Game 2 of the 1997 NLCS prevented Fernandez from pitching in 1998. When he came back the next season, he was able to practically replicate his numbers from 1997 and post an fWAR of 3.1. Left-hander Al Leiter is ranked 7th on this list. He had one of the best pitching seasons of the decade in 1996, when he posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 215 IP. Robb Nen takes the 4th spot, and that is mainly due to his outstanding 1996 season, where he saved 35 games and posted a 1.95 ERA in 83 IP.

Let’s dig a little deeper and look into the numbers.


Kevin Brown, 1996

In 233.0 IP, the right hander accumulated a bWAR of 7.9, which came second to the Cy winner that year, Pat Hentgen (who most likely won this award because of his 20 wins). Brown was characterized by his groundball rate and low walks per nine. He only had a K/9 of 6.14 in 1996, proving that you don’t need to have high strikeout numbers to prevent runs. With the help of a 1.27 BB/9 and a 0.31 HR/9, the Marlins ace had the best qualified ERA in the majors in 1996, and it wasn’t particularly close.

Very well-known names such as Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and his teammate Al Leiter all posted an ERA below 3.00 in this juiced offensive environment, but none even came close to Brown’s 1.89. Oh, and let’s not forget Hentgen, who had a 3.22 ERA and a FIP very close to 4.00.

I would love to see Kevin Brown’s GB% for the 1996 season, but sadly FanGraphs didn’t implement this sabermetric until 2002. A sub-2.00 ERA season in 233.0 IP is an incredible accomplishment for any pitcher (215 ERA+). This might be not only the best individual pitching season by a Marlin in the 1990s but a strong early contender for tops in the organization’s history.

Awards and Accomplishments

  • MLB ERA title
  • All-Star
  • 2nd in Cy Young voting

Kevin Brown, 1997

Dominance. That is all. The right hander not only had a spectacular season in 1996, but he was able to follow it up with a very similar season. The 1997 Marlins were a very special team, bringing South Florida their first World Series title. Brown was a key part of that team, being the ace that every team needs to reach baseball immortality.

In 1997, the right-hander posted a 2.69 ERA with a 2.94 FIP. He’s ERA might have not been below 2 this season, but his superiority against batters was still showing. His K/9 increased by 1.5 strikeouts, from 6.14 in 1996, to 7.77 in 1997. His immaculate BB/9 ratio was slightly harder to keep perfect from 1996, since it doubled from 1.27 to 2.50 in 1997, which was still very well above average.

On June 10, Brown completed his first ever no-hitter against a very talented Giants team. The RHP threw 99 pitches, in which 85 of them were fastballs. The Marlin struck out 7 batters and walked none, in what seems to be classic Kevin Brown style.

In the postseason that year, Brown had some success early. He pitched 7 innings of 1 run ball in the first game of the NLDS against the team he pitched a no-hitter against, the San Francisco Giants. As The Fish moved on in October, Brown was still a force on the mound. In the NLCS he pitched to an ERA of 4.20, which included a quality start of 6 innings while giving up 3 runs. Then, he had a masterpiece of a performance in Game 6, where he pitched a complete game allowing 4 runs with 8 strikeouts. The Marlins won both games.

The World Series was a different story for the ace, as he pitched to a 8.18 ERA and the team lost both of his starts.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. The Fish were able to win the final game of the season and become World Series champions.

Awards and Accomplishments

  • No-Hitter
  • World Series Champion
  • All Star

Al Leiter, 1996

The Marlins signed free agent LHP Al Leiter in the 1995 offseason. The southpaw was coming off a very solid season with the Blue Jays where he posted a 3.64 ERA and accumulated an fWAR of 3.0.

In 1996, the lefty posted a 2.93 ERA with a 3.97 FIP. His K/9 that season was 8.36, which was the second best he had in his career. His BB/9 wasn’t as impressive, at 4.97. Regardless of the walks, Leiter was still able to prevent runs, especially the long ball, since his HR/9 was a mere 0.59.

On May 11, 1996, Al Leiter pitched the first no-hitter in Marlins history against the Colorado Rockies. It was a 6-strikeout, 2-walk game where the Marlins dominated to a 11-0 dub.

Awards and Accomplishments

  • All-Star
  • No-Hitter

Bryan Harvey, 1993

Closing pitcher Bryan Harvey was a manager’s dream to see on the mound in the 9th inning. Harvey posted a 1.70 ERA (252 ERA+) in 1993 with 45 saves to his name. The closer only gave up 4 HR and struck out 72 batters in 69 IP, which helped him accumulate a bWAR of 4.0.

Awards and Achievements

  • Eighth in Cy Young voting
  • All-Star

Honorable Mentions: Alex Fernández, 1997; Robb Nen, 1996

Poll

Which Marlins pitcher had the best individual season of the 1990s?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Kevin Brown, 1996
    (12 votes)
  • 18%
    Kevin Brown, 1997
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    Bryan Harvey, 1993
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Al Leiter, 1996
    (0 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now