Each MLB Team's Best 1-Hit Wonder Since 2000December 24, 2021
Each MLB Team's Best 1-Hit Wonder Since 2000
In lieu of better things to do while Major League Baseball's lockout is ongoing, why don't we remember some guys who probably haven't been remembered in a while?
Specifically, each team's most notable one-hit wonder...since 2000.
We're limiting our scope to the 21st century because, frankly, nobody cares about that one time that Rufus T. Firefly had a good couple of months for the Boston Beaneaters a century or so ago.
Apart from that, we allowed ourselves a loose definition of the term "one-hit wonder." We were mainly looking for guys who had early-career breakouts that quickly fizzled, yet we didn't ignore cases of veteran players briefly reaching a whole 'nother level before plummeting back to earth.
In any case, one stipulation we had was that the player in question must have gotten another shot with the same team after the season in question. That means you're out, Gary Matthews Jr.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Chris Ray in 2006
After Ray's promising rookie season in 2005, the Orioles tabbed the hard-throwing righty to be their closer in 2006 after B.J. Ryan departed as a free agent. What followed was a 33-save campaign backed by a shiny 2.73 ERA and only 45 hits in 66 innings, all of which seemingly cemented Ray as a star fireman.
The next season, though, began as a struggle and ended with him undergoing Tommy John surgery. Ray wasn't the same after returning in 2009, and his final major league appearance came just two years later on July 29, 2011.
Boston Red Sox: 1B Steve Pearce in 2018
It was with little fanfare that the Red Sox acquired Pearce in late June 2018, yet he promptly became a key part of that year's historic run. Not just with a .901 OPS in 50 regular-season games, but especially with a three-homer, eight-RBI performance in the World Series that won him MVP honors.
Rather than let Pearce get away, the Red Sox re-signed him for 2019. Yet he appeared in only 29 games that year and couldn't get another major league deal in the ensuing offseason. So at 37 years old, he unceremoniously retired.
New York Yankees: RHP Joba Chamberlain in 2007
Even though Baseball America had labeled him as one of baseball's top prospects going into 2007, it still felt like Chamberlain came out of nowhere when he debuted for the Yankees in August and stifled batter after batter with high-octane heat. He allowed just one earned in 24 innings down the stretch.
These days, however, any word-association game with Chamberlain is more likely to include "midges" and "rules" than, say, "dominance." The Yankees' efforts to turn him into a starter failed, and Tommy John surgery in 2011 effectively derailed his career. He was not yet 31 when he pitched his last game in 2016.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Fernando Rodney in 2012
The Rays somehow got Rodney, then a 35-year-old journeyman reliever, to throw strikes in 2012. The rest took care of itself in historic fashion, as he set a new relief record with a 0.60 ERA and even finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
In 2013, Rodney's walk rate reverted from 1.8 to 4.9 per nine innings. His ERA also shot up to 3.38, resulting in a respectable but far from record-breaking effort. When he threw his last major league pitch in September 2019, his 2012 campaign loomed as a clear outlier in his 17-year career.
Toronto Blue Jays: INF/OF Chris Colabello in 2015
Even if the Blue Jays offense was primarily driven by Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in 2015, Colabello emerged as an unlikely contributor to the tune of an .886 OPS and 15 home runs over 360 plate appearances. He even tacked on a couple of home runs in the postseason.
As for how Colabello finally managed to break out at age 31 that year, well, his 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs the following season pointed to one explanation. It also marked the end of his major league career.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: RHP Esteban Loaiza in 2003
Loaiza was well established by the time he joined the White Sox ahead of the 2003 season but not exactly trending upward after pitching to 5.00-plus ERAs in each of the previous two seasons. Then he added a new cutter and made a Cy Young case, finishing second for the award, on the strength of a 2.90 ERA and an AL-high 207 strikeouts.
So drastically did Loaiza regress in 2004, however, that the White Sox dealt him to the Yankees for Jose Contreras in a sort of reclamation project swap. He was last in the news for his involvement in a cocaine bust that earned him a three-year prison sentence in 2019.
Cleveland Guardians: RHP Roberto Hernandez in 2007
If the name "Roberto Hernandez" doesn't ring a bell, "Fausto Carmona" might. That was the name under which Hernandez arose as a sinker-balling ace for Cleveland in 2007, posting a 3.06 ERA and finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
But that was pretty much that for Hernandez's days as a No. 1. Though he did earn an All-Star nod in 2010, it was amid the kind of wildly mediocre season that defined the remainder of his career. He was last seen getting lit up in a pair of appearances for Atlanta in 2016.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Joel Zumaya in 2006
It's become common for relief pitchers to operate above the 100 mph threshold with their fastballs, but Zumaya was one of few who could do it when he broke in with the Tigers in 2006. And how, as he even got as high as 104.8 mph in the playoffs after an electrifying regular season.
You probably know where Zumaya's story goes from here. If not, just know that it involves a Guitar Hero-related arm injury and Tommy John surgery, the latter of which killed a career that was already on ice. He was only 25 when he pitched his last game on June 28, 2010.
Kansas City Royals: SS Angel Berroa in 2003
Should Berroa have won the AL Rookie of the Year over Hideki Matsui in 2003? Probably not. Nonetheless, a .287 average, 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases did seem to tag Berroa as a rising star at shortstop, not to mention a much-needed cornerstone for the Royals to build around.
Not so much, as it turned out. Even in spite of the 2.5 rWAR that he posted in '03, Berroa somehow ended his nine-year major league career with a total of 1.0 rWAR. He was last seen coaching in the Appalachian League in 2021.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Joe Mays in 2001
Though Roger Clemens won the AL Cy Young Award in 2001, a more modern appraisal of that year's best pitchers suggests that Mays should have been in the running for the award. His 143 ERA+ for the Twins tied Mike Mussina for the best in the AL, and he ranked third with 233.2 innings.
As such, it's odd to look back and see this season sandwiched in between the 5.00-plus ERAs that Mays posted in 2000 and 2002. He then had Tommy John surgery in 2004, with his final major league appearance following just two years later on July 22, 2006.
American League West
Houston Astros: RHP Ken Giles in 2017
There were a lot of reasons—not all of them good—that the Astros won 101 games in 2017, but one that's easy to forget is that they had one of baseball's best closers. That was Giles, who rode his electric fastball-slider combination to a 2.30 ERA and 83 strikeouts over 62.2 innings.
Come the playoffs, however, Giles gave up runs in six of his seven appearances. The struggles continued into 2018, wherein he notably punched himself in the face and got demoted after cursing out manager A.J. Hinch. A trade followed soon after, and his career is on hold as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Los Angeles Angels: LHP Joe Saunders in 2008
The Angels had two aces when they won 100 games in 2008. Ervin Santana was the expected one, while Saunders was much more of a surprise after forgettable years in 2006 and 2007. Even though he struck out only 103 batters, he pitched to a 3.41 ERA over 198 innings.
In 2009, however, Saunders went right back to trafficking in the forgettable by pitching to a 4.60 ERA. The Angels traded him in 2010 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, though that did little to level out a roller coaster that finally stopped with his last major league appearance on September 26, 2014.
Oakland Athletics: 1B Daric Barton in 2010
Dan Haren alone did plenty to justify the Athletics' trade of Mark Mulder in 2004, but the deal never looked better than when Barton achieved his own breakthrough in 2010. Albeit with little power, that year saw him lead the AL with 110 walks and play tight defense as he racked up 5.5 rWAR.
Then Barton played in just 180 more games for the A's through 2014. He just couldn't hit enough to stave off multiple demotions, not to mention being designated for assignment twice.
Seattle Mariners: CF Franklin Gutierrez in 2009
At a time when the Mariners desperately needed positive storylines, Gutierrez became one in a big way in 2009. He was good at the plate, where he had a .764 OPS and 18 home runs, and downright elite in the field. Indeed, his '09 season is still one of the best ever tracked by defensive runs saved.
But even if he did have his moments in subsequent seasons, Gutierrez never again came close to 6.6 rWAR that he posted in 2009. Poor health is unfortunately one of the reasons, as irritable bowel syndrome and other gut issues constantly dogged him through the end of his MLB career in 2017.
Texas Rangers: RHP Ryan Drese in 2004
At least for one year, it looked like the Rangers had gotten the better end of a 2002 deal that had sent slugging prospect Travis Hafner to Cleveland. That was in 2004, when Drese pitched to what was then an above-average 4.20 ERA over 207.2 innings.
Come the following May, however, Drese was literally battling his own teammates in the dugout. By June, he was on his way out of town via waivers. And on April 14, 2006, he was pitching in his last major league game mere days after celebrating his 30th birthday.
National League East
Atlanta: RHP Kris Medlen in 2012
In 2012, Medlen didn't even make his first start for Atlanta until July 31. Yet he was so good in the 12 starts that he did make—posting a 0.97 ERA over 83.2 innings—that he crept his way into the "best pitcher in baseball" discussion and even got MVP votes.
Talk about a flash in the pan. Because while Medlen was still plenty good in 2013, he was hardly an ace. He then needed what was his second Tommy John surgery in 2014, and this one proved much harder to come back from as he made only occasional major league appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Miami Marlins: RHP Henderson Alvarez III in 2014
Alvarez's first big break with the Marlins was on the final day of their 2013 season, on which he tossed a no-hitter that was sealed on a walk-off hit. That ended up being a fitting appetizer for a 2014 season that saw him break all the way out via a 2.65 ERA and three complete-game shutouts over 30 starts.
Alas, 2014 might as well have marked the end of Alvarez's major league career. Due to shoulder problems that necessitated not one but two operations, he made just seven appearances after 2014. The last of those was with the Philadelphia Phillies on the last day of September in 2017.
New York Mets: CF Juan Lagares in 2014
If there was a second coming of peak Franklin Gutierrez, it was Lagares with the Mets in 2014. His bat was sturdy enough as he produced a .703 OPS, yet it was his defense that rightfully earned him Gold Glove acclaim and, eventually, a $23 million contract extension.
Yet even though he was only 25 years old in 2014, that year proved to be an unsustainable pinnacle. He struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness for the Mets from 2015 to 2020. He then joined the Angels for 2021, playing in 112 games as a replacement-level reserve.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Vance Worley in 2011
The 2011 season was the one in which the Phillies had that absolutely nutso rotation trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. And yet, Worley was not overlooked at the back end of the team's rotation. He earned Rookie of the Year votes courtesy of a 3.01 ERA over 131.2 innings.
Yet the bespectacled righty couldn't quite keep it up in 2012, and the Phillies decided they could do better when they shipped him to the Twins that winter. Because Worley's availability and productivity varied wildly over the next five seasons, it's fair to say that time proved them wise.
Washington Nationals: RHP John Patterson in 2005
Though the Nationals (who were then the Montreal Expos) took Patterson with the No. 5 pick in the 1996 draft, a loophole led to his signing with the Diamondbacks and not actually ending up with the Nats until they traded for him in 2004. Consider this today's entry in "Weird Baseball Stories."
In any case, Patterson appeared to be well worth the wait when he starred with a 3.13 ERA over 198.1 innings for the Nationals in 2005. But then came arm surgery in 2006, from which Patterson never really recovered. He was only 29 when he last appeared in the majors on May 5, 2007.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: 2B/3B Mike Fontenot in 2008
It's not often that part-time players make a big impression, but that's what Fontenot did while playing for a 97-win Cubs team in 2008. Though he only collected 284 plate appearances over 119 games, he more than made the most of them by hitting .305 with nine home runs.
That effort earned Fontenot more playing time in 2009, but to no avail. He hit just .236 over 135 games, and he barely improved in 2010 before the Cubs dealt him to the San Francisco Giants. On the bright side, it was with them that he won a World Series ring before he flamed out of the majors in 2012.
Cincinnati Reds: C Devin Mesoraco in 2014
Mesoraco was a regular on top prospect lists in the early 2010s, yet it wasn't until 2014 that he made good on the hype as the Reds' everyday catcher. By way of an .893 OPS and 25 home runs—not to mention one of the league's better hard-hit rates—he was an All-Star and down-ballot MVP contender.
As any right-minded team would, the Reds moved quickly to sign Mesoraco to an extension the following winter. But then the injuries came, and they never fully abated as he played in just 113 more games for the Reds until they gave up and traded him for Matt Harvey in a project swap with the Mets in 2018.
Milwaukee Brewers: SS Bill Hall in 2006
Even though he shared a lineup with gargantuan sluggers Prince Fielder and Carlos Lee, Hall had little trouble leading the Brewers with 35 home runs in 2006. He also hit a respectable .270, all while holding it down at shortstop and even moonlighting at other positions.
As he was only 26 in '06, that should have been merely the start of Hall's reign. Instead, it proved to be an inexplicable outlier. He lasted just six more seasons in the majors, none of which saw him hit more than 18 home runs.
Pittsburgh Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke in 2013
Nobody did more to lift the Pirates out of Davy Jones' locker the NL Central's lower regions in 2013 than NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, but they got quite the boost in the first half from Locke. On account of his 2.15 ERA through his first 18 starts, he was a surprise All-Star that year.
In the second half, however, Locke's ERA ballooned to 6.12. He was even demoted in August and then left off the team's roster for the National League Division Series. He managed to save some face in 2014, but he never again sniffed stardom on the road to his final major league appearance on July 3, 2017.
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Bud Smith in 2001
It wasn't until June 10 that Smith joined the Cardinals in 2001, yet he quickly became a core member of their rotation and even tossed a no-hitter on Sept. 3. The lefty ultimately ended his rookie campaign with a solid 3.83 ERA, and even earned a win in his only playoff appearance.
After that, Smith crumbled to the tune of a 6.94 ERA through his first 11 appearances of 2002 and...well, that's it. He was just 22 when he last suited up in the majors on July 19, 2002. On the bright side for the Cardinals, they got Scott Rolen in the trade that sent Smith to the Phillies later that month.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: 2B Tony Womack in 2001
You might say that Womack was a literal one-hit wonder in 2001, though it would be more accurate to call him a two-hit wonder. Before he legendarily came through with a game-tying double off Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the World Series, he had also walked off the National League Division Series.
Both hits amount to a monumental October impact for a hitter who was otherwise offensively inept throughout his 13-year career. Womack hit just .269 in five seasons with Arizona, specifically, and his average in the 2001 playoffs (.246) was actually even lower than in the regular season (.266).
Colorado Rockies: RHP Manny Corpas in 2007
Speaking of players who came out of nowhere to star for World Series teams, Corpas was an unlikely savior for the 2007 Rockies bullpen after Brian Fuentes fumbled away the closer's role. Corpas ended the year by posting a 1.50 ERA in his last 35 regular-season appearances, plus a 0.87 ERA in the playoffs.
Yet in the subsequent 2008 season, Corpas went back to being just another guy as he posted a 4.52 ERA over 76 appearances. And that was actually the high point of his career after 2007, which consisted of just five more seasons in the majors.
Los Angeles Dodgers: SS Cesar Izturis in 2005
To be candid, no team presented a more puzzling challenge in this context than the Dodgers. But if ever there was a moment to ask "Does anyone remember when Cesar Izturis was an All-Star?" it's certainly now.
That was in 2005, when the normally defensive-minded infielder briefly caught fire and was hitting .345 through June 1. That had a hand in earning him All-Star honors, though it was no great surprise when he ended up hitting .257 that year. Or, just three points off his eventual career mark of .254.
San Diego Padres: 3B Chase Headley in 2012
To be fair to Headley, he had good years after 2012. Most importantly, he had a good half season with the Yankees in 2014, resulting in them re-signing him to a four-year deal that paid out $52 million.
Still, that's nothing compared to the second half that Headley had in 2012. That was when he went from respectable regular to something more like an MVP, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs. That effort indeed propelled him to the only MVP votes, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove that he would ever get.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Noah Lowry in 2005
Sans Barry Bonds for all but 14 games, the 2005 season ended up being a slog for the Giants. But it wasn't without its bright spots, including a 24-year-old Lowry finding his footing atop the club's rotation. The soft-tossing southpaw had a 3.78 ERA over 204.2 innings.
Then the injury bug cut Lowry's legs out from under him, specifically targeting his arm and shoulder to such an extent that he wasn't yet 27 when he threw his last major league pitch on Aug. 29, 2007. Things got ugly after that, with Lowry's agent accusing the Giants in 2009 of having mismanaged the pitcher.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.