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Best Individual Marlins Offensive Seasons: The 1990s

Gary Sheffield’s lethal bat, Cliff Floyd’s tools and more great performances from Marlins position players.

AFP/Getty Images

After taking a look at the pitching side of the 1990’s and admiring Kevin Brown’s numbers in 1996, it is time to go to the batter’s box. Let’s take a look at the best individual Marlins offensive seasons of the inaugural decade: The 1990s.

Before we begin, let’s check out the position players who accumulated the most WAR, per FanGraphs, from 1993 to 1999:

Most Valuable Marlins Position Players by fWAR, 1993-1999

Name G PA wRC+ WAR
Name G PA wRC+ WAR
Jeff Conine 718 2852 119 14.7
Gary Sheffield 558 2358 155 14.4
Charles Johnson 376 1433 97 10.5
Edgar Renteria 393 1742 91 5.5
Greg Colbrunn 326 1284 103 4.5
Mark Kotsay 316 1215 82 4.3
Cliff Floyd 283 1091 118 4.3
Chuck Carr 353 1446 75 3.2
Kurt Abbott 424 1461 91 2.4
Luis Castillo 288 1211 82 1.7
Alex Arias 423 1012 85 1.6
Fangraphs.com

Jeff Conine sits atop the list due to his amazing stint with the Marlins from 1993 to 1997. The outfielder had a wRC+ of above 100 in 4 out of 5 seasons with the Fish, missing the benchmark in 1997 by just 1 point (99 wRC+). Gary Sheffield proved himself as one of the organization’s most valuable players ever as he led the National League with a 1.090 OPS in 1996. Backstop Charles Johnson was praised for his defense, but a couple of great offensive seasons (1995, 1997) have placed him third on the list. Cliff Floyd comes in at No. 7, thanks to reaching the 20 HR/20 SB mark in 1998.

Who had the greatest season of them all?

Jeff Conine, 1995

Jeff Conine was able to put together one of the most productive seasons of his career in 1995. With 25 bombs and an OBP of .379, the outfielder accumulated a FanGraphs WAR of 3.3 that season.

Mr. Marlin posted a .386 wOBA and an .899 OPS in 1995, both career highs. A great first half of the season also earned Conine a selection to the Midsummer Classic, where Marlins magic would occur.

The right-handed slugger came into the All-Star Game as a pinch hitter in the eight inning of a tied ball game. After taking a high fastball for a ball on the first pitch, Niner put the next one into orbit to give the NL the lead with a solo home run. After the heroics, the National League won the game and their eighth-inning hero, Jeff Conine, was named the ASG MVP.

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NL All-Star
  • All-Star Game MVP
  • NL Player of the Month (June)

Gary Sheffield, 1996

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Sheffield put his name was atop every single offensive leaderboard in 1996, in what might have been the best offensive season for a position player in the history of the organization. Here are some of those stats and where he ranked among other qualified major leaguers:

  • WRC+ (185) → 2nd MLB, 1st NL
  • OBP (.465) → 2nd MLB, 1st NL
  • SLG (.624)→ 8th MLB, 2nd NL
  • wOBA (.454) → 2nd MLB, 1st NL
  • HR (42) → 9th MLB, 2nd NL
  • fWAR (6.5) → 14th MLB, 8th NL

Sheffield posted outstanding power numbers that season, but to be honest, that was not even the most impressive part. His massive on-base percentage was made possible by walking in 21% of his plate appearances, which ranked third that year, behind some guys named Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. He also was not striking out much—9.7% of the time—which is classified as “excellent” by FanGraphs. Combine both stats and Sheffield walked more than twice as often as he struck out. Yes, let that sink in.

Besides that, Gary contributed on the base paths as he stole 16 bases.

With everything put together, Sheffield was making a great case to be the NL MVP, but the voters weren’t swayed. That year, Ken Caminiti won the NL MVP, with only two stats being better than those of Sheffield’s: RBIs and AVG. Ouch—I am glad baseball has changed.

The only downside to Sheffield’s 1996 season was his defense (-16 UZR in right field).

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NL Silver Slugger
  • NL All-Star
  • Finished 6th in NL MVP voting
  • 2nd-highest OPS in MLB (1.090)

Moises Alou, 1997

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On December 12, 1996, the Marlins inked Moises Alou to a 5-year, $25 million contract. Sadly, he was in Miami only for one year as he got traded to the Astros after the 1997 season. However, 1997 was special for Alou and for South Florida.

The outfielder had a batting average a couple of ticks below .300, hit 23 HRs, and set a new career high with 70 walks. With that type of threat at the middle of the Fish lineup, along with Bobby Bonilla and Gary Sheffield, the Marlins were bound for a postseason run, and they got it.

In Game 2 of the NLDS against the favored San Francisco Giants, Alou came through. After a Bobby Bonilla walk, Florida had men on first and second. Alou gave the Marlins the lead in the 8th inning by driving Gary Sheffield in with a single down the middle. The throw home had a chance, but the mound got in the way.

Here’s what we mean:

Besides that game-winning single, Moises Alou bat had been quiet through the NLDS and the NLCS. Fortunately for South Florida, Alou’s bat caught fire in the World Series, where he hit 3 dingers and had an OPS of 1.101.

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NL All-Star
  • Finished 10th in NL MVP voting
  • World Series Champion

Cliff Floyd, 1998

Outfielder Cliff Floyd came from the Montreal Expos when the Marlins traded for him in 1997. In his first year in South Florida, Floyd was limited to 61 regular season games due to an injury and limited playing time. In 1998, he was able to win the starting spot in left field, and the rest is history.

That season, Cliff had a .337 OBP with a .481 SLG to produce a wRC+ of 115. What made Floyd’s 1998 season special were his 22 bombs and 27 stolen bags. Floyd became the first player in the franchise’s brief history to go 20/20. He was able to repeat this accomplishment with the Fish in the 2000 season.

Charles Johnson, 1997

Charles Johnson has a special place in all of our hearts. The backstop came up with the Marlins in 1994, won the World Series in 1997, and stayed with the Fish until he got traded to the Orioles in 1998.

In 1997, Johnson had a UZR of +19 to go with an OBP of .347 and a SLG of .454. The catcher was a key part of that 1997 World Series run, as he produced a 1.250 OPS in the NLDS and a .357 batting average in the World Series.

Awards and Accomplishments

  • NL Gold Glove
  • NL All-Star
  • Finished 11th in NL MVP voting
  • World Series Champion

Honorable Mentions: Preston Wilson, 1999; Gary Sheffield, 1997; Bobby Bonilla, 1997; Jeff Conine, 1994.

Poll

Which Marlins position player had the best individual season of the 1990s?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Jeff Conine, 1995
    (4 votes)
  • 57%
    Gary Sheffield, 1996
    (11 votes)
  • 10%
    Moises Alou, 1997
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    Cliff Floyd, 1998
    (1 vote)
  • 5%
    Charles Johnson, 1997
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Other
    (0 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now