Looking Back at the Florida Marlins: Appreciating Braden Looper

MIAMI - APRIL 3: Braden Looper #41 of the Florida Marlins throws a pitch during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Pro Player Stadium on April 3, 2003 in Miami Florida. The Marlins defeated the Phillies 8-3. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
MIAMI - APRIL 3: Braden Looper #41 of the Florida Marlins throws a pitch during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Pro Player Stadium on April 3, 2003 in Miami Florida. The Marlins defeated the Phillies 8-3. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /
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A lot of pitchers and fielders have come and gone throughout the Marlins now 27-season major league history.

Right-handed relief pitcher Braden Looper ranks second on the Marlins all-time leaderboard with 368 appearances. He appeared in over 70 contests in each of his five seasons with Florida.

Born on October 28th, 1974, Looper was the first round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft, third overall off the board. A six-foot-four product of the Wichita State Shockers, Looper is a native of Weatherford, OK.

After making his major league debut with the Cardinals in 1998, they traded him to the Marlins with Pablo Ozuna and Armando Almanza for Edgar Renteria. Renteria, who was a three-year veteran of Florida, went on to play 13 more major league seasons.

Marlins
MIAMI – OCTOBER 23: Pitcher Braden Looper #41 of the Florida Marlins. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) /

Looper played in 72 contests for the Marlins in 1999, with a 3.80 ERA, a 3-3 record, and a 114 ERA+. His best appearance of the season came in a Marlins 4-0 defeat to the San Francisco Giants on April 21st. Looper struck out four over three perfect innings of relief.

2000 would see Looper go 5-1 with a 4.41 ERA and his first two major league saves in 73 games. Despite a career-worst 1.589 WHIP, he still earned a “league average” ERA+ of 100.

In 2001, Looper dropped his WHIP to a more palatable mark of 1.310 with an ERA+ of 120. 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA over 71 appearances, Looper held opponents to a then-career-best (and ultimately career-second-best) .242 average. On April 19th, he entered a 2-2 tie with the Montreal Expos in the seventh inning, struck out three over two perfect frames, and got the eventual win when Mike Lowell crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the eighth.

Looper appeared in a career-best and NL-fifth 78 contests for the Marlins in 2002. He lowered his WHIP to a team- and career-best 1.174, while striking out 55 in 83 innings and collecting 13 saves. 2-5 for the season, Looper’s 3.14 ERA and 128 ERA+ were also the best marks on the team.

2003 would be Looper’s final season with Florida, but it was a good one. He went 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 74 appearances, earning a total of 28 saves in 34 opportunities while striking out 56 in 80 2/3 innings. On the Marlins run to their second World Series Championship, Looper would pitch in a total of eight games, going 2-0 and earning another save.

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Granted free agency following the season, Looper joined the New York Mets in 2005 and rejoined the Cardinals, the team he was originally drafted by for three seasons starting in 2006. Transitioned to a starter in 2007, Looper started 63 games for the Redbirds, going 24-26 with a 4.52 ERA.

In 2009, Looper led the National League with 34 starts and posted a 14-7 record for the Milwaukee Brewers. He didn’t play in 2010, and failed to make the Chicago Cubs out of 2011 camp, voluntarily retiring afterwards.

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