Florida Marlins History: Appreciating Starting Pitcher Chris Hammond

6 Jun 1993: Pitcher Chris Hammond of the Florida Marlins throws the ball during a game against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport
6 Jun 1993: Pitcher Chris Hammond of the Florida Marlins throws the ball during a game against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport /

The Marlins have employed 590 players through their 27-season major league history.

One of the original 25 players for the Florida Marlins was left-handed starter Chris Hammond, who is celebrating his 54th birthday. A six-foot-one Atlanta, GA native, Hammond was originally selected in round six of the 1986 Amateur Entry Draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Over the following five baseball seasons, he made stops with the GCL Reds, in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Tampa Tarpons, in the High-A Florida State League, the Chattanooga Lookouts, in the Double-A Southern League, and the Nashville Sounds, in the Triple-A American Association.

Hammond, who was recently honored by us here at Marlin Maniac as the 44th best player in team history, made his major league debut with the parent club in 1990. In three seasons for the Reds, he totaled a 15-20 record and a 4.52 ERA in 80 appearances, including 47 starts. He struck out 156 batters in 287 innings, while putting down a 1.43 WHIP. Through his first three major league seasons, Hammond never had an ERA+ of “average” or better, peaking in 1991 with a mark of 95.

Hammond did not join the Marlins as so many else did through the Expansion Draft, instead coming over in a trade with the Reds just prior to 1993 Opening Day, for Gary Scott and Hector Carrasco. In starting the Marlins third ever game, Hammond was the 21st player to take the field for the nascent major league team.

12 Apr 1993: Pitcher Chris Hammond of the Florida Marlins winds up for the pitch during a game against the San Francisco Giants. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport /

Although he lost that first game, Hammond led the first version of the Marlins in victories, going a respectable 11-12 with a 4.66 ERA in 32 starts. Although never really a “strikeout” pitcher, he nevertheless collected a team-third 108 through 1993, in 191 innings of work. His 2.4 brWAR through the season was the best mark in the rotation, and third best on the team after Bryan Harvey‘s 4.0 and Luis Aquino‘s 2.6. He was also far-and-away the best hitting pitcher on the team, with a .190/.292/.317 slash line, going 12-for-63 with nine walks, a triple, and two home runs.

The lockout-shortened 1994 campaign would see Hammond go 4-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 13 starts. He also tossed his first career shutout on May 5th, in a 5-0 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. He walked one and surrendered seven hits, striking out five. Despite only pitching 73 1/3 innings, Hammond turned in a 142 ERA+, the best mark of his pre-retirement career.

1995 would mark the best season of the first phase of Hammond’s career. He was 9-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 24 starts (and one relief appearance), with 126 K’s in 161 innings for a then-career-best 7.0 K/9. His 1.267 WHIP also marked a career-low, and he led the team with 3.3 brWAR. He pitched two shutouts through the season, including a gem on July 13th in a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he limited them to three hits and a walk, striking out four in a 113 pitch performance. He again proved himself able to accomplish great and terrible things at the plate, going 13-for-48 with seven walks and another home run. His OBP of .364 was the fourth best on the team of players with 60 or more plate appearances.

In 1996, Hammond was moved to the bullpen for a big portion of the season, starting in just nine of his 38 appearances. He seemed to have lost something, turning in a 5-8 record and a deplorable 6.56 ERA. After the season, the Marlins lost him to the Boston Red Sox through free agency.

After going 3-4 with a 5.92 ERA for Boston, Hammond rejoined the Marlins once more in 1998, but only pitched in three games, surrendering a 2.049 WHIP and 11 runs in 13 2/3 innings. He then retired, to spend time with his family. But he wasn’t quite done.

After a couple of years at his 200 acre Randolph County, AL ranch, Hammond tried to make a comeback with the Cleveland Indians. It didn’t go as planned. According to Tommy Poe at walkoffwalk.net,

"Just a year-and-a-half later, with his shoulder healthy, Hammond caught on with the Cleveland Indians for a bid to return to the majors. It was a comfortable area for him as he had come up in the minors as a prospect for Ohio’s other team, the Reds. He spent half of the year in Buffalo for the Indians’ Triple-A team, but couldn’t get a callup. Hearing that the Indians had a bizarre rule that all major league pitchers had to throw at least 90 mph, he asked for his release if the rule was legit. The soft-tosser soon was released."

More from Marlins History

The 2002 season would see Hammond join the Atlanta Braves at the major league level. He pitched better than he ever had previously, going 7-2 with a 0.95 ERA in 76 innings, with 63 strikeouts and a career-best WHIP of 1.105. Through the season, he allowed only six-of-33 inherited runners to score. He then played four more seasons of major league ball, with a season each for the New York Yankees, the Oakland Athletics, the San Diego Padres, and the Reds.

After his 14-season major league career, Hammond retired with a 66-62 record and a. 4.14 ERA. Although he now spends a lot of time back on his ranch, he still participates in Atlanta Braves alumni events.

Thanks for reading, and happy birthday to Hammond. Keep checking back here for all the latest Marlins news.

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