Time for another entry into the all-time single-season series, which will soon draw to a close. If you're new to the series, here is what we're trying to do:
Obviously, the term "single-season" implies that we're focused on brilliance within the confines of one campaign and not, say, career value or even value across a handful of seasons in the same uniform. While this is no doubt a largely subjective undertaking, please bear that in mind before airing objections. Or not. Whatever.
Also, we're largely limiting the selections to those of modern era (i.e., from 1900 onward) in large part because the "primordial soup" days of the sport bear only the most basic resemblances to the game played today. That's more a general principle than hard-and-fast rule, though. As well, a player can appear only once on the team in question. So even those who excelled at multiple positions over the years will be assigned one spot and one spot only.
CATCHER -- 2003 Ivan Rodriguez
Only seven catchers have caught at least 90 games in a season for the Marlins, so our pool of players wasn't very big. Pudge is clearly the best of the bunch, hitting .297/.369/.474 (120 OPS+) with 36 doubles, 16 home runs and 85 RBI en route to the team's second World Series title. He also threw out 33 percent of attempted base-stealers. Charles Johnson had a few strong years but Rodriguez is the clear winner here.
FIRST BASE -- 2005 Carlos Delgado
Delgado fell victim to the "sign a big contract with the Marlins, get traded a year later" scheme. His one year with the Fish was huge though, a .301/.399/.582 (160 OPS+) batting line with 41 doubles, 33 home runs and 115 RBI. He was such an underrated hitter. So, so good. Derrek Lee had several strong seasons in Florida but none like Delgado's.
SECOND BASE -- 2000 Luis Castillo
I came into this post assuming Dan Uggla would be the man at second, but Castillo has him beat thanks to a .334/.418/.388 (111 OPS+) batting line with a league-leading 62 stolen bases. Uggla offered way more power, no doubt about it, but Castillo did literally everything better during his peak years, including get on base and play defense. Castillo and Uggla were the only two players worth considering here.
SHORTSTOP -- 2009 Hanley Ramirez
2008: .301/.400/.540 (143 OPS+), 34 2B, 33 HR, 67 RBI, 35 SB, 6.8 WAR
2009: .342/.410/.543 (148 OPS+), 42 2B, 24 HR, 106 RBI, 27 SB, 7.3 WAR
That's really close. I'll trade some homers for doubles and more base hits in general and go with that 2009 effort. There's no wrong answer though. Both seasons were excellent.
THIRD BASE -- 2006 Miguel Cabrera
Miggy spent a bunch of time in left field with the Marlins (248 games), but he played more at third base (373) and is our man at the hot corner. The two-time reigning AL MVP hit .339/.430/.568 (159 OPS+) with 50 doubles, 26 homers and 114 RBI in his penultimate season with Florida, a performance that is pretty underwhelming compared to what Cabrera has done with the Tigers in recent years.
Mike Lowell had some dynamite seasons with the Fish, but he was no Miggy.
LEFT FIELD -- 2001 Cliff Floyd
With Cabrera at third base, Floyd is the clear choice in left. His best season with the Marlins included a .317/.390/.578 (150 OPS+) line with 44 doubles, 31 home runs and 103 RBI. He also stole 18 bases. Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine also received consideration in left field, ditto Josh Willingham.
CENTER FIELD -- 2004 Juan Pierre
Easy call in center. John Pete played in all 162 games in 2004, leading the league in hits (221), plate appearances (748), at-bats (678) and triples (12) while posting a .326/.374/.407 (107 OPS+) batting line. He also stole 45 bases and played strong defense. Cody Ross and Devon White had some strong power seasons with the Marlins, but Pierre bests them all with his speed.
RIGHT FIELD -- 1996 Gary Sheffield
Sheffield spent more time with the Marlins than I remembered -- four full seasons and two partial seasons. I must have confused him with Moises Alou, a hired gun who helped the team to the 1997 World Series before being traded away the following offseason. Sheffield earned a sixth place finish in the MVP voting by hitting .314/.465/.624 (189 OPS+) with 33 doubles, 44 home runs, 120 RBI, 16 steals and a ridiculous 142 walks against only 66 strikeouts. What a monster season.
Maybe Giancarlo Stanton will take over in right field if we revisit this series in a few years, but right now this spot belongs to Sheff. No questions asked.
Leiter had a very good season in 1996, but other four guys are the stars of the show here. Check this out:
Brown: 17-11, 1.89 ERA, 215 ERA+, 233 IP, 0.94 WHIP, 159 K, 33 BB
Leiter: 16-12, 2.93 ERA, 139 ERA+, 215 1/3 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 200 K, 119 BB
Willis: 22-10, 2.63 ERA, 152 ERA+, 236 1/3 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 170 K, 55 BB
Johnson: 11-6, 2.30 ERA, 180 ERA+, 183 2/3 IP, 1.11 WHIP, 186 K, 48 BB
Fernandez: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 176 ERA+, 172 2/3 IP, 0.98 WHIP, 187 K, 58 BB
The four non-Leiter guys combined for a 2.26 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 825 2/3 innings. Ridiculous.
RELIEF PITCHERS -- 1993 Bryan Harvey, 1996 Robb Nen, 2004 Armando Benitez
Because the franchise is relatively young, we don't have to sort through any of those 100+ inning relief seasons that were so popular 40-50 years ago. Harvey, Nen and Benitez were closers who were used like closers are used today, for one inning at a time and almost only when their team is leading by three or fewer runs. Here are their seasons side-by-side.
Harvey: 69 IP, 1.70 ERA, 252 ERA+, 0.84 WHIP, 73 K, 13 BB, 45 saves
Nen: 83 IP, 1.95 ERA, 209 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, 92 K, 21 BB, 35 saves
Benitez: 69 2/3 IP, 1.29 ERA, 319 ERA+, 0.82 WHIP, 62 K, 21 BB, 47 saves
- 2000 Luis Castillo
- 2009 Hanley Ramirez
- 1996 Gary Sheffield
- 2005 Carlos Delgado
- 2006 Miguel Cabrera
- 2001 Cliff Floyd
- 2003 Ivan Rodriguez
- 2004 Juan Pierre
The Tigers' version of Cabrera would hit third, but the Marlins' version only hits fifth behind Sheff and Delgado. Throw in those four dominant starters and three lights out relievers and you've got a sneaky great all-time single-season team. I'm sure owner Jeff Loria would dismantle it in a heartbeat though.
Friday: New York Mets