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Jay Powell was a 6’4″, 220 lb. reliever from Meridian, Mississippi. Born on January 9th, 1972, Powell made his major league debut at the age of 23 with the Florida Marlins in 1995.
Powell would go on to enjoy an 11-season major league career, pitching in 512 games and starting zero of them. According to FiP and WHIP, his best season was his 1997 with the Florida Marlins, when he ranked ninth in the National League with 74 appearances.
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Powell was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round back in 1990, but elected to play collegiate baseball instead. He joined the Mississippi State Bulldogs for two seasons prior to getting drafted. In 29 games, including six starts, he was 7-8 with a 2.64 ERA, and 119 K’s in 122 2/3 innings.
It was a solid decision, and increased Powell’s draft stock significantly. The Baltimore Orioles took him in the first round in 1993, 19th overall off the board. He reported to the Albany Polecats in the middle-A South Atlantic League, and went 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA and 29 K’s in 27 2/3 innings over six starts.
In 1994, Powell spent the entire season with the high-A Carolina League outfit, the Frederick Keys. He played in 26 games, including 20 starts, and posted a 7-7 record with a 4.96 ERA. He also threw 12 wild pitches and had a 1.51 WHIP – hardly promotion ready, and the Orioles decided to cut bait.
Jay Powell with the Florida Marlins
During the after the 1994 postseason, the Florida Marlins traded Bret Barberie to Baltimore for Powell’s services. As part of the double-A Portland Sea Dogs, in the Eastern League, Powell played in 50 games and went 5-4 with a 1.87 ERA, 53 K’s in 53 innings, and a very solid 1.08 WHIP. Encouraged, the Marlins decided to take a flyer on Powell for the month of September. In his first nine games, he allowed seven hits and one earned run over 8 1/3 innings, with six walks and four strikeouts. The resultant 1.56 WHIP was nothing to write home about, but the Marlins had seen enough to give Powell another go.
1996 would see the Florida Marlins employ Powell for a full season, less one game with the high-A Brevard County Manatees, in the Florida State League. He ranked second on the team with 67 appearances, trailing only closer Robb Nen‘s 75. Powell was 4-3 with a 4.54 ERA, 52 K’s in 71 1/3 innings, and a 1.50 WHIP. As pedestrian as his WHIP was, it still ranked sixth out of 10 qualified players on the Marlins roster.
As previously stated, 1997 was a banner year for Powell, and not just because the Florida Marlins ended up winning their first World Series. Powell ranked second on the team with a solid 3.25 FiP, trailing only staff-ace Kevin Brown‘s 2.94. Powell was 7-2 with a 3.28 ERA, and 65 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings of work. His 1.27 WHIP was the best mark of his career. Powell would go on to appear in four games against the Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic, and despite finishing with a 2.455 WHIP to his credit, he was also the winning pitcher of record in the seventh and deciding game in the series.
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Powell played in 33 games for the Marlins in 1998, but put up a 1.60 WHIP over 36 1/3 innings. On Independence Day, the Marlins traded him with Scott Makarewicz to the Houston Astros for Ramon Castro.
Powell went on to have a great half-season for the Astros before reverting to the mean. After finishing the 1997 campaign with 0.8 WAR, he got a figure of 1.2 in his three months with Houston. That 2.0 total was most of his 11-season value of 2.9.
Powell pitched for the Astros until 2001, played part of a season with the Colorado Rockies, pitched for the Texas Rangers for three seasons, and finished up with the Atlanta Braves in 2005 after fracturing his humerus. Powell retired after that without a losing record in any of his 11 MLB seasons. He remains one of only seven pitchers to accomplish the feat. (Andy Pettite had 17 seasons without a losing record). Deacon Phillipe, Urban Shocker, Dizzy Dean, Dave Foutz, and Spud Chandler round out the list.