Throughout the 2020-21 offseason, Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown.
Today and every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I will be a “pinch-hitter” for the Fish Stripes staff that ordinarily handles this series.
This particular chapter encompasses a major transition between tiers 12 and 13 of the countdown. Bryan Harvey is the last of the featured players who performed above replacement level with 251-800 total plate appearances/batters faced in a Marlins uniform. Directly after him, we must immerse ourselves in the frustrating tenure of Andrew Miller. He leads off a group of former Fish who posted a negative WAR overall despite having 800-plus PA/BF to right the ship.
129. Bryan Harvey
MLB teams that are far from postseason contention and/or operating on a shoestring budget tend to employ some zany closers. It simply doesn’t make sense to invest in somebody who’s in their prime and possesses a sterling track record unless the supporting cast is talented enough to actually give the closer some ninth-inning leads to protect. You would never expect to find Bryan Harvey on the 1993 Marlins, but he sort of fell into their laps.
During his six prior seasons with the California Angels, Harvey was among the league’s best and most trustworthy men in his role. More than 85% of the time (214 of 250 appearances), when the imposing right-hander entered a game, he finished it. Then in mid-1992, he ran into an atypical rough patch: an ache in his elbow prevented him throwing his forkball with any consistency. Harvey had to spend the entire second half of the campaign on the disabled list. Despite his rich history with the franchise, the Halos left him unprotected for that winter’s expansion draft. The Marlins used the 20th overall pick on him.
In Harvey’s regular season debut with the Fish, he authored a scoreless inning to earn the save in their inaugural game. Next time out, however, he blew an opportunity by allowing a game-tying home run to future teammate Gary Sheffield. Over the next month or so, he was hampered by some simple bad luck—opposing batters combined for a .395 batting average on balls in play through his first 15 games in Florida. But when all was said and done, he enjoyed a special individual year.
Baseball-Reference estimates Harvey’s 1993 value at 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, easily the highest single-season mark for any reliever in Marlins history. FanGraphs has him at 2.6, trailing only 1996 Robb Nen. His age-30 summer garnered a down-ballot vote in the NL Cy Young award race, distinguishing him from every other Florida/Miami closer. The ‘93 club had MLB’s least-productive offense and couldn’t create much separation on the scoreboard, so an astounding 70.3% of their total wins relied on a Harvey save.
Unfortunately, Harvey would never be the same after that. He worked 13 total games over the final two years of his contract (7.84 ERA, 1.84 WHIP in 10.1 IP from 1994-1995). He spent the 1997 season with Marlins and Braves minor league affiliates, but didn’t resurface in The Show.
Harvey made his offseason home in Catawba, North Carolina. That’s where his son Hunter was born and raised. Listed at 6-foot-3 just like his pops, Hunter is now a reliever with the Orioles.
128. Andrew Miller
Coming out of the University of North Carolina as a first-round pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, Andrew Miller was considered a finished product. It took just three weeks—not months, not years, but weeks—after signing his professional contract with the Tigers for the wiry left-hander to debut in the majors.
Miller struggled with his control during that initial cup of coffee, but talent evaluators were undeterred. Heading into the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked him No. 10 overall on their top prospects list, ahead of all other left-handed pitchers. Baseball Prospectus was slightly more conservative, ranking Miller at No. 17, one spot behind fellow southpaw Clayton Kershaw.
No combination of returning assets would have justified the December 2007 trade shipping Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit. Fans understandably felt betrayed by cheap Marlins ownership. That being said, let’s avoid the revisionist history: Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin were impressive co-centerpieces at the time.
Is there an alternate universe where Miller has consistent success as a starter? Perhaps. The Tigers rushed him through the upper levels of the minor leagues. The Marlins could’ve taken a more patient approach with him, but instead installed him in the 2008 Opening Day rotation. The front office came to the conclusion that he didn’t need further development. Who knows how his changeup could have progressed if he had the time to focus on it instead of worrying about the results.
Miller was a disappointment in Florida, no doubt about it, but his teammates’ defensive limitations are to blame for a sizable chunk of his 5.89 earned run average with the Marlins. No other MLB pitcher had a larger disparity between ERA and FIP from 2008-2010 than Miller did (min. 200 IP).
In November 2010, the Marlins traded Miller to Boston for lefty Dustin Richardson. Soon after, the Red Sox reimagined Miller as a reliever—adopting a simplified fastball-slider approach did wonders for his strikeout ability. During his 10 post-Marlins seasons, Miller owns a 33.9 K%, the third-best mark for any MLB left-hander in that decade (min. 200 IP), trailing only Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman.
127. Greg Dobbs
Greg Dobbs is Exhibit A for why we shouldn’t make judgements on players based on batting average alone. Dobbs consistently hovered around the MLB norm in that department, batting .257 with the Mariners (2004-2006), .261 with the Phillies (2007-2010) and .264 with the Marlins (2011-2014). But was he actually contributing to winning baseball? Not really.
Dobbs was below replacement level in each of his four Florida/Miami seasons because he lacked in baserunning and fielding value and his BA was mostly empty calories (more than three-quarters of his Marlins hits were singles).
At first, Dobbs thrived as a pinch-hitter (.370/.400/.519 in 30 PA in 2011). However, when the Marlins increased his opportunities in that role, the production tailed off. Dobbs was a “versatile” defender by necessity—third base was his primary position, but he bounced around to first base, left field and right field whenever there were more capable options available at the hot corner.
One month into the 2014 campaign, the Marlins designated Dobbs for assignment and subsequently released him.