Top 20 Miami Marlins No. 12: Kevin Brown
The tale of a shooting star is what we can call the Kevin Brown stint in a Marlins uniform. Circa 1996, the Marlins signed the team’s first impact free agent and he delivered as the ace of a World Series Champion. Kevin Brown was virtually unhittable during a time where pitch counts and innings pitched were not up for debate and scrutiny, more than earning him a place amongst the all-time Top 20 Marlins.
And if you want a still active in South Florida baseball source to back this up, just ask University of Miami head baseball coach Jim Morris, who coached Brown at Georgia Tech.
These days we marvel at the spectacle that is Jose Fernandez. However, the 1996 and 1997 seasons that Kevin Brown had still remain the standard of excellence for the Marlins franchise. The comparison of the two pitchers is remarkable. Brown made 65 starts to Fernandez’s 53 starts; however, Brown recorded 11 complete games while Fernandez is still searching for his first. Brown threw 470 innings over a two year period, which these days would be the three year total of most pitchers.
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To this day Brown is still the Marlins career ERA leader at 2.30, while also holding the single season record at 1.89. That single season ERA is so impressive that over the last two decades only five other pitchers have topped it. To put this in perspective from a Marlins standpoint, Jose’s best marks respectively come in at 2.59 career and 2.19 for his NL ROY campaign in 2013.
Kevin Brown’s constant frown made him one of the most intimidating pitchers in the league. Given his fearlessness on the mound, he was in the teens both of his Marlins seasons in terms of HBP. He was a tough SOB who dared you to say something. And that withering gaze was not reserved for opposing batters, as teammates and pitching coaches can attest.
Brown possessed a sinking fastball that ranged into the mid-90’s, as well as a slider that topped the high 80’s. Between those two pitches, hitters found themselves grounding out more often than not.
One of my favorite memories is the near perfect game he had in San Francisco on June 10th 1997. Brown was over powering and dominant and the only thing that kept him from a perfect game was, poetically the 8th inning HBP. Late into a perfect game bid, Brown would not back down and limit himself to the outside half of the plate. Despite that hit batsman, he kept his composure and locked down the second no-hitter in Marlins history. Later that season Brown also was the winning pitcher in Atlanta when the Marlins closed out the Braves in the sixth game of the NLCS; all he did in the deciding game was throw a complete game while his body was being ravaged by the flu.
Jose Fernandez may be the most electric Marlins pitcher since Dontrelle Willis and he may also be the best strikeout pitcher in Marlins history, but to this day, the best run as a Marlins pitcher still belongs to Kevin Brown. If it were not for his short stint with the Marlins, Brown would be much higher on the list of all-time Marlins.
For those of us who did get a chance to see him pitch, we will always remember the shooting star that was Kevin Brown.