Miami Marlins Season in Review: Brad Ziegler’s Last Hurrah
Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 63 of 286. Stay tuned.
Brad Gregory Ziegler, the one they also called “Unicorn,” was (is) a 6’4″, 220 lb. sidearmed right-hander from Pratt, Kansas. Born on October 10th, 1979, Ziegler was initially chosen in the 31st round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft by the Oakland Athletics. He’s the second native of Pratt to play in the majors, after William Marriott (IF, Chicago Cubs, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Robins, 1917-1927). Follow Ziegler on Twitter @bradziegler.
Instead of signing, Ziegler finished his college with Missouri State, going 12-2 with a 4.22 ERA in his senior season for the Bears. The performance moved him up 11 rounds, and the Philadelphia Phillies chose him in the 20th round in 2003, with the 595th overall selection.
Ziegler is by far the most accomplished of baseball personnel drafted 595th. Three others have made it as far as the majors, led by Bill Stoneman (2003, Philadelphia Phillies, 4.5 career WAR).
Ziegler lasted a year in the Phillies minor leagues, ironically with the Batavia Muckdogs, who were then the Phillies short-season-A New York-Penn League affiliate. They waived him prior to the 2004 season, and the Athletics got him after all.
Ziegler moved up through the A’s system for the next few seasons, getting to Oakland in 2008. In four seasons for the A’s, he was 11-13 with 19 saves, a 2.49 ERA, 154 K’s in 231 1/3 innings, and a 1.349 WHIP. 2011’s trade deadline would see the A’s trade Ziegler to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto.
Ziegler went 21-11 for the D-Backs over parts of the next six seasons, striking out 218 in 335 2/3 innings. He earned 62 saves for Arizona, along with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.159 WHIP. At the 2016 trade deadline, Arizona sent Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox for Jose Almonte and Luis Basabe.
Ziegler was lights out in Boston, going 2-4 with a 1.52 ERA a 1.25 WHIP, and 31 whiffs in 29 2/3 innings through the regular season. The Red Sox had no long-term plans for Ziegler, and after the season, the Miami Marlins came calling with a two-year, $16,000,000 deal.
Ziegler played in 53 games for the Miami Marlins in 2017, ranking fifth on the team and posting a team-second-best 10 saves. He got 26 batters to wave in 47 innings, walking 16 and allowing 57 hits for a concerning 1.553 WHIP. Ziegler went 1-4 with a 4.79 ERA and a FIP of 3.73, indicating that Ziegler was far better than reflected in traditional statistics. The club was competitive through most of the season, but ended the year with a 77-85 record.
Ziegler survived the mass-exodus of players during the offseason post-2017, and was anointed as the Miami Marlins closer entering 2018. He ended up ranking fourth on the team with 53 appearances, and leading the National League with 82 appearances overall including 29 after getting traded late in the season.
Pre-trade, Ziegler’s season was neatly divided into two distinctive periods. From the beginning of the season through May 30th, and from June 1st through July 29th. Pre-trade, Ziegler was 0-5 with nine saves in 24 games, with an opposing slashline of .340/.380/.540 over 108 plate appearance, an 0-5 record, a 7.83 ERA, and a 1.739 WHIP. In five of Ziegler’s appearances, he finished with a Wins Probability Added of -.300 or worse. He was “fired” from the closer role after a blown save at the end of May.
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After the move, Ziegler appeared in 29 games for the Marlins, with a 1-0 record and one save. He earned a 0.93 ERA, a .161/.257/.269 slashline, 22 K’s in 29 innings, and a 0.897 WHIP. According to the WPA metric, Ziegler’s best game of the season was on June 16th. Ziegler entered the game with a one-run lead, runners on the corners, and two outs against the Baltimore Orioles, then got Trey Mancini to ground out to end the threat. He also worked a scoreless eighth, allowing a walk but nothing else, then striking out Austin Wynns with a runner in scoring position. The Marlins won, 5-4, on their way to 63-98.
On July 31st, Ziegler was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed reliever Tommy Eveld. Ziegler played in 29 games for the D-Backs, striking out 13 in 21 2/3 innings, posting a 1.385 WHIP, and finishing with a 3.74 ERA. After the season, Ziegler announced his retirement.
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