Our countdown still has hundreds of more players to cover, but here’s the final chapter before the calendar flips to 2021.
In the 75th chapter of our offseason-long series on every Marlin, we’re exploring the middle rung of players who totaled between 250 and 799 PA/BF.
Today’s group of four features four pitchers, three right-handers and one lefty. This group starts out at replacement level, then graduates into a pair who finished just above brWAR level.
214. Richie Lewis
Richie Lewis is a five-foot-six right-handed pitcher from Muncie, Indiana. In 1987, the Montreal Expos took him in the second round of the draft out of Florida State University.
It was a five-year path which Lewis took to finally graduate to the major leagues, but he didn’t get there for Montreal. In August, 1991, the Expos traded Lewis to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league left-handed starter Chris Myers. He started a pair of games for them in 1992, but allowed eight runs on 13 hits and seven walks in only 6 2⁄3 innings for a fright-inducing 3.000 WHIP.
Despite the high WHIP mark from the short sample size at the end of 1992, the Marlins took Lewis with the 51st pick of the expansion draft. It paid off for both parties involved. Lewis trailed only Robb Nen (1-0) with a .667 winning percentage for the year, going 6-3. He ranked two behind the team lead with 57 trips out of the bullpen, racking up a 3.26 ERA in 77 1⁄3 innings. He struck out 65 while walking 43, and allowed seven home runs.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lewis turned in one of only two winning records on the inaugural squad, in that he was used primarily in mop up duty when a Marlins win was unexpected. This stat is held up by the Marlins turning in an 11-46 record in his appearances. Opponents slashed .239/.336/.386, as Lewis stranded 65 percent of his inherited runners.
On August 26 that year, Lewis earned a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros when he pitched the final 1 2⁄3 innings of a 13-inning home victory. He came into the game with one out in the bottom of the 12th and two runners on, then got Craig Biggio to ground into an inning ending double play, but it gets better. After pitching a scoreless 13th, Marlins manager Rene Lachemann kept Lewis in to hit.
Lachemann was rewarded with the first of two career hits off the bat of Lewis, who drove home Rick Renteria with the walkoff game-winner. (You can read more about the first Renteria in our countdown in Chapter 80, five days from now.)
Lewis led the 1994 Marlins with 45 trips out of the bullpen, but also bore the ignoble honor of leading the National League with 10 wild pitches. He went 1-4 with a 5.67 ERA in 54 innings, striking out 45 and walking 38 for a 1.85 WHIP. He held opponents to a not-so-bad .284 average, but gave up so many walks that they racked up a .391 OBP. As in the season previous, he put 57 percent of his pitches over the plate, and he stranded 20-of-30 inherited runners.
Lewis played in another 21 contests for the Marlins in 1995, and struck out 32 in 36 innings while walking only 15. He got his ERA down to a more respectable 3.75 ERA, and his slashline down to .224/.307/.507. The plus-sized SLG was due in large part to him having given up nine homers, or one every four innings. He plated 58 percent of his pitches, but allowed half of his 18 inherited baserunners to score.
Lewis also made his third career start for the Marlins in 1995, of four total when it was all said-and-done. On August 10, he struck out five over 6 2⁄3 innings in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies for a 57 GameScore. Which is not a bad GS for a career reliever.
After the 1995 campaign came to a close, Lewis was granted free agency. He would later appear in a major league capacity with the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland Athletics, and the Cincinnati Reds before rejoining the Orioles in 1998 for two games. In 2006, he joined the Columbus Catfish in the South Atlantic League as the pitching coach.
213. Kirt Ojala
Kalamazoo, Michigan native Kirt Ojala is a six-foot-two left-handed knuckleball pitcher. He went in the fourth round of the draft to the New York Yankees in 1990, out of the University of Michigan.
In his final collegiate season, Ojala went 6-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 starts and three relief appearances for the Wolverines. Prior to getting to the majors, he changed hands a few times. In 1992, the Oakland Athletics took him in the rule 5 draft, but returned him before the start of the 1993 season. After getting granted free agency prior to the 1996 campaign, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Marlins selected Ojala off waivers from Cincinnati just prior to the 1997 season getting underway. It was with the Marlins for whom Ojala made his major league debut on August 18. In that game, Ojala started and lasted only 3 2⁄3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks in a 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A week later, he made up for it by striking out eight in a six inning start, holding the Cardinals to one run in a 7-1 Marlins victory.
Ojala ended up playing in seven games for the Marlins down the stretch run that year, making five starts and two trips out of the pen. He walked 18 and struck out 19, allowing four home runs in 28 2⁄3 innings. He put up a 3.14 ERA while allowing opponents to slash .252/.354/.378. Although Ojala was not part of the Marlins postseason roster that year, he nevertheless was a part of the World Championship effort.
In 1998, Ojala pitched in another 41 games for Florida, starting in 13 of them. He struck out 75 in 125 innings, walking 59 and surrendering 14 home runs. Ojala racked up a 4.25 ERA and allowed 36 percent of inherited baserunners to score, surrendering a .267/.351/.436 line. On September 16, he put together one of the rarest combination of stats in the post-expansion era, with both a complete game loss and four strikeouts in one inning. He pitched 8 2⁄3 innings and struck out six in total, as the Montreal Expos handed the Marlins a 3-2 walkoff loss.
Ojala pitched in eight more games for the Marlins in 1999, but put up an unsavory 14.34 ERA in 10 2⁄3 innings, striking out five while allowing 2.53 WHIP. Released to free agency following the season, Ojala never returned to the majors. He played seven games for the Trenton Thunder in 2000—which was a Red Sox affiliate back then—and did not make an appearance afterward.
212. Logan Kensing
Right-handed pitcher Logan Kensing was a second round pick of the Marlins in 2003. A six-foot-one product of San Antonio, Texas, Kensing attended college at Texas A&M University.
In two seasons of collegiate play at the division 1 level for the Aggies, Kensing put up a 10-7 record with a 3.45 ERA. After getting drafted, it was just over a year before he was pitching in the majors. Kensing actually appeared for the Marlins in every season from 2004 through 2009, going 7-8 with a 5.21 ERA and 131 K’s in 133 frames. His 5.15 FIP shows that his ERA was pretty in-line with his actual performance.
On June 2, 2006, Kensing whiffed four Rockies in two perfect innings of relief, earning his first career save in a 4-2 victory over Colorado. On May 8, 2008, he whiffed four in 2 2⁄3 perfect innings, earning a win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Although largely forgettable in the long-run, Kensing was, on balance, better than replacement level for the Marlins. Of particular value was his performance in 2007. Despite his only appearing for a Marlins-career-low 13 1⁄3 innings, he rocked a 0.6 brWAR by whiffing 13 and allowing only two runs during that time.
A month into the 2009 season, the Marlins traded Kensing to the Washington Nationals for right-handed relief prospect Kyle Gunderson. After putting up an 8.68 ERA for the Nats through that season, he later played at the major league level for the Rockies, the Seattle Mariners, and the Detroit Tigers.
211. Tim Wood
Tim Wood is a six-foot right-handed pitcher from Tucson, AZ. He was first drafted in the 21st round in 2001 by the Expos, but deigned to sign. The Marlins took him the following year in the 44th round out of Pima Community College.
Wood took his time getting through the Marlins minor league feeder system, and didn’t make his major league debut until 2009. For the parent club, he came out of the bullpen 18 times, posting a 2.82 ERA and winning in his only decision of the year. He struck out 16 in 22 1⁄3 innings, allowing 22 hits and walking 10 for a 1.43 WHIP.
Wood threw strikes 62 percent of the time, and held the opponent to a .272/.347/.395 slashline. His Achilles heel, by all indications, was his tendency to allow inherited runners to score. He only stranded 45 percent of such baserunners. On September 12, Wood earned the aforementioned victory by pitching 1 1⁄3 perfect innings of relief, striking out two in an 11-3 win over the Washington Nationals.
In 2010, Wood came out of the bullpen another 26 times for the Marlins, but only whiffed 10 batters in 27 2⁄3 innings. He put up a 5.53 ERA and an 0-1 record, allowing 1.74 WHIP by walking 15 and giving up 33 hits.
Wood’s opponents slashed .306/.384/.435 against him in his more recent Marlins effort, as his strike-rate dipped to 59 percent. His inherited runners strand-rate improved to 56 percent, but his negative impact nearly matched up exactly with his positive impact from the season prior. For context, he finished 2009 with a 0.6 brWAR, and in 2010, posted -0.5 brWAR in a similar timeframe.
Granted free agency following the 2010 regular season, Wood signed with the Nationals, but didn’t make it out of Spring Training with them. No matter, he inked a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates the very next day, and played in 13 major league games for them in 2011. Unfortunately, that would be the last exposure to big-league baseball for Wood.