A terrific workhorse pitcher who had two Top Three finishes in Cy Young Award voting but never netted the elusive hardware, Kevin Brown always had a terrific WHIP thanks to his great accuracy and good strikeout numbers. Once the highest paid player in baseball, Brown was a former 20-game-winner, six-time All-Star and ended his career with a winning percentage just under .600.
The fourth overall pick in the 1986 draft by the Texas Rangers, Brown joined the Texas staff that year with one spot start. Texas didn’t call him back up to the Majors again until 1988 and he didn’t stick at the highest level until 1989. In that year, Kevin posted a tidy 3.35 ERA in a rotation that featured two ageless hurlers: Nolan Ryan and Charlie Hough, and another young fireballer named Bobby Witt. The jury was out on who would be the best pitcher of Texas’ two young studs: Brown or Witt.
After a decent 1990 season, Brown took a step backward in 1991 but he was the least of the Rangers’ problems. His fellow top prospect Bobby Witt forgot how to throw strikes and his ERA ballooned above 6.00, which enabled Brown to secure himself, albeit by default, as the successor to the Ryan Express. His breakout year came that following season when he posted his only 20-win season. Named to his first All-Star team in 1992, Kevin led the AL in innings pitched and wins.
Brown won 15 games and tied for second in shutouts in 1993. The strike shortened 1994 season was an abysmal campaign for Brown who coughed up 218 hits in just 170 innings. After that less-than-stellar display, Texas gave up on Kevin. He would not have another season with more hits allowed than innings worked until 2002. He spent one ho-hum year with the Orioles before establishing himself as an elite starter with the 1996 Florida Marlins.
The 1996 season was Brown at the top of his game. Named to his second All-Star team, the star right-hander led the NL in ERA (1.89) shutouts and WHIP (0.944). Kevin won 17 games for the Fish, fanned 159 batters opposed to just 33 walks and was the most difficult pitcher in the NL to hit a homerun off of. Although Brown was at the top of his game in 1996, the Marlins were at the top of theirs in 1997 when they were crowned World Series champions. Kevin went 16-7 during the ’97 season and fanned 205 batters. The highpoint of the season for him came in the deciding game of the NLCS when he outdueled Atlanta’s southpaw Tom Glavine to send Florida to the World Series.
The Marlins began their fire sale shortly after measuring their fingers for their World Series rings. Before Christmas in 1997, Brown was traded to the Padres for first base prospect Derrek Lee. All he did in southern California was pitch San Diego to their first World Series since 1984. An All-Star for the 1998 Padres, Kevin finished third in Cy Young voting while going 18-7 for the Friars. Terrific all year, he fanned a career high 257 batters while issuing just 49 walks. The Astros of Bagwell and Biggio couldn’t touch him in the Division Series as he posted a 0.61 ERA while carrying the Padres to the World Series, where they were run over by the Yankees.
But the Dodgers saw enough in Brown to make him the game’s highest paid player when he hit free agency after the 1998 season. The Dodgers loosed the purse strings and brought Brown to LA for the 1999 season. The right-hander didn’t disappoint. His first year in Los Angeles, Kevin won 18 games and averaged 0.833 hits per inning–superior to stars Curt Schilling (0.883) and Tom Glavine (1.107). In 2000 he led the NL in ERA as well as strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.60) and WHIP (0.991). But almost half of his starts were no decisions.
Brown spent some time on the shelf in both 2001 and 2002 before rebounding with a strong, healthy season in 2003. Brown made his last All-Star team that year with a stellar 2.39 ERA. The Yankees disregarded his recent injury history and traded Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban to get him for the 2004 season. He made 22 starts for the Yankees during the regular season but wasn’t healthy enough to take his turn during the postseason. He ended his career after a forgettable 2005 season.
W 211/L 144/PCT .594/ERA 3.28/G 486/CG 72/SHO 17/IP 3,256/H 3,079/BB 901/SO 2,397