Earlier today I unveiled the Marlins All-Decade team position players, according to WAR. Now, let’s take a look at the pitchers for the Marlins All-Decade team. In this decade, there were two distinct eras for Marlins pitching. The first lasted from 2000 to 2005, and encompassed the best young prospects the team acquired from the fire sale of 1997 and the results between 1998 and 2000. The second era was the 2006 to 2009 era, built off the draft picks of the early part of the decade and the trades made in the 2005 offseason.
Once again, the determination of the players on this team will come from Rally’s WAR database. There will be five starters and three relievers. Who made the All-Decade team? Which of the eras are better represented? Let’s take a look.
Starter: Dontrelle Willis (14.9 WAR)
Willis pitched the most innings this decade for the Marlins (1022 2/3 innings), which went a long way towards giving him the most pitching WAR this decade for the Fish. Willis was a starting pitcher for the Fish from early 2003 through the 2007 season, spending two seasons as designated “ace” pitcher. For much of his career with the Marlins, Willis did not disappoint. He began his career with a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2003, when he accumulated 3.7 WAR in 160 2/3 innings pitched. In 2004, Willis had a mediocre 197 innings of work, but he followed that up with three straight seasons over 200 innings of work, including a 2005 season in which he earned a Cy Young runner-up and one of the best seasons in the decade for the Marlins. It’s worth noting also that Willis racked up 375 PA as a hitter in the National League and, compared to other pitchers, was worth an additional 3.5 WAR in his time with the Fish.
Starter: A.J. Burnett (11.0 WAR)
Burnett was a Marlin for the better part of six seasons, though due to injuries he only pitched 812 2/3 innings. Burnett’s best season came in 2002, a year before the Marlins’ World Series season. In 204 1/3 innings, Burnett posted a 3.30 ERA (3.19 FIP) and struck out 203 hitters; according to Rally, the season was worth 3.8 WAR. The following year, Burnett missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery, missing out on the World Series squad. Among Marlins fans, he’ll always be remembered primarily as a good pitcher with a terrible attitude and a tendency to injuries. In 2005, prior to the end of the season, Burnett famously publicly criticized management and was sent home for the last few weeks of the year, leading to the debut of the next pitcher listed on our team.
Starter: Josh Johnson (9.9 WAR)
Johnson is the only member of the 2006-2009 Marlins era to make it to the All-Decade team as a pitcher. JJ got his debut in 2005, making one start in Burnett’s rotation spot after he was dismissed from the team. But Johnson’s rookie season in 2006 was his first significant time on the field, and it was in that season that he began to make a name for himself. As a rookie, Johnson posted a 3.10 ERA (3.99 FIP), striking 133 batters and walking 62 unintentionally in 153 innings of work. However, his final month was sunk with an elbow injury which later required Tommy John surgery. The surgery knocked out all of 2007 and half of 2008, but Johnson returned in the latter half of 2008 with a force. All of that led to the spectacular 2009 season, in which he posted a 5.3 WAR in 209 innings, rated as one of the best seasons of this decade for the Fish.
Starter: Josh Beckett (9.6 WAR)
Beckett should have been the best of all of these pitchers, but time spent consistently away from the field for injury purposes (such as the all-too-famous blister problems) kept him from being at his finest as a Marlin. Except when it came to the playoffs. Fans of this decade’s Marlins must surely remember Beckett’s amazing postseason performances during the 2003 season, escapades that I’ll be discussing further in Revisiting ’03. Beckett’s regular seasons were not bad; he posted 9+ WAR, including two seasons with over 3 WAR (2003 and 2005). While on the Marlins, Beckett never posted a FIP greater than 4.00 for the season, something none of the pitchers on this list can claim. Unfortunately, Beckett only mustered 609 innings as a Marlin, mostly between 2002 and 2005. Of course, his value has become even more important since his departure, as he was the primary player involved in the deal for Hanley Ramirez.
Starter: Brad Penny (8.2 WAR)
Penny came over to the Marlins in 1999 as part of the deal involving Matt Mantei. His first full season with the team came in 2000; since that rookie year, he’s had three seasons (2001, 2003, 2004) in which he posted WAR’s of 2.5 or above. Penny too came up huge with two excellent starts in the 2003 postseason as well, which should be mentioned. Squeezed between these good seasons was a replacement level campaign in 2002. In short, while Penny was never spectacular for the Marlins, he was always solidly above average, and given the length of time he spent with the team, he deserved his spot on the All-Decade squad.
Relievers: Braden Looper (3.3 WAR), Todd Jones (2.8 WAR), Armando Benitez (2.4 WAR)
The relievers chosen for the team were the best available. One of the three chosen, Looper, pitched 305 innings for the Fish from 2000 to 2003, so he was one of the rare relievers who stuck around long with the frugal Marlins. Of course, he was best remembered as the displaced closer for the 2003 Marlins team, replaced by late season acquisition Ugeth Urbina. The other two, Benitez and Jones, were short-term fixes for the closer position who posted excellent performances. Benitez posted the best relief season in Marlins history, being worth 3.6 WAR in 2004 closing for the team. Unfortunately, Benitez returned in 2007 and was worth -1.2 WAR in a meager 33 innings of work. Jones closed for the 2005 Marlins and was the team’s second scrap-heap revelation. Jones put up his 2.8 WAR in 73 innings of work, having not even begun the season as the primary closer.
So here’s your Marlins All-Decade pitching staff:
SP Dontrelle Willis
SP A.J. Burnett
SP Josh Johnson
SP Josh Beckett
SP Brad Penny
RP Braden Looper
RP Todd Jones
RP Armando Benitez
I hope you all enjoyed the series and liked the team. I would like to thank you all for an excellent 2009 season, and I hope that you readers stick around as we look forward to and go through the 2010 campaign. Let’s put an end on the ’00’s with our Marlins caps held high!