Baseball’s Greatest One Hit Wonders Part 2: The Pitchers

Wedesday August 22, 2012

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer) Pitching is the most unnatural motion I can think of.  The human arm is not meant to throw 90-100 MPH repeatedly over and over.  It is for this reason why I am never surprised when Pitchers go out for any injury.  When I was 15, I was the catcher for former Major League Pitcher Chris Reitsma on our ALL-Star Team.  I witnessed this kid throwing 90 MPH as a teenager.  Honestly, no one could hit the guy.  As a catcher for 10 years and having a a decent baseball IQ, I was mad that the coach never let me call his pitches for him.  Why he would even throw sliders, curves and breaking balls is beyond me and it cost us some games versus some California and Arizona teams.   There was no denying that he was a mega talented pitcher.  He did go onto a decent MLB career, even appeared in 84 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2004.  Yet he finished pitching by the age of 29 because he threw junk.  Now I will move on here, I am just pointing out that kids should not be throwing  junk until they are finished high school.  There will be time in future articles to talk about pitching discipline and attitude. 

Just like the hitters that I featured last week, the pitchers I am featuring here took the MLB by storm for a while.  The fan bases were certain that these players would have great careers, only to see them fade quickly.  If you ask me which position is tougher to stay up on top of, I would definitely say pitching!  Remember that if you fail 70% of the time as a hitter, you are still labeled a great hitter.  Pitchers have to have a success rate of 75% to be elite.  Plus when they are out there, it is a continual one after another moment, whereas a hitter has a chance to regroup after an AT BAT.

This set of 5 pitchers (Mark Fidrych, Mark Prior, Jeff Zimmerman, Tommy Greene and Derrick Turnbow) in this list are all pretty much of recent vintage.  I saw 4 of them play as I only started watching baseball in 1980 and Mark Fidrych was already done by that time.  This doesn’t mean that I have not seen countless highlights from the man in the last 30 years.  Here are a couple for your enjoyment before we start.

To see the article about Baseball’s Greatest One Hit Wonders Part 1: The Batters click here

Tommy Greene- Career Record 38-25 (.603) 4.14  ERA:

Tommy Greene threw a no-hitter on May.23/1991 when he was a relatively unknown pitcher. 2 years later he was part of a 5 man rotation for the Phils that all won at least 12 games en route to a World Series Appearance.

Tommy Greene came over to the Phillies with some guy named Dale Murphy just after the 1990 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline.  In just his second start of the season in 1991, he threw a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium on May.23/1991. 5 days later, this time back at Veterans Stadium, Greene threw a three hit shut out versus the team from Canada.  In that 1991 year, 4 out of the 13 wins Greene had were against the Expos, where he only gave up 1 earned run in 32 Innings Pitched against the NL East Opponent.  Greene rode that success to a 13-7 year with a 3.38 ERA.  Unfortunately he spent half of 1992 with arm problems.  In 1993, the Phillies hurler was 16-4 with a 3.42 ERA and finished in 6th for NL CY Young voting.  He was absolutely destroyed in 3 Playoff Appearances though versus the Atlanta Braves and the World Series Winning Toronto Blue Jays, where he carried a 13.11 ERA for the postseason.  Incredibly, he was 1-1 for that playoff run.  Tommy Greene had shoulder problems that persisted and he only ever won 2 more games in the Majors.  For the Phillies, his record was 36-22, although he headed into the 1994 player strike at 36-17. 

Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych- Career Record 29-19 (.604) 3.10 ERA:

Mark Fidrych was known for strange manicuring of the mound procedures every time he pitched. Only if he pitched in today’s era, the doctor would have fixed his arm better with Tommy John Surgery.

This guy is the best of example of a phenom pitcher capturing a city by storm.  At age 21, Mark Fidrych blitzed onto the scene with a 19-9 record, with leading the league in ERA (2.34) and CG (24), even though he did not make his first start until early May.  He won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award and his pitching galvanized the city of Detroit despite a 74-87 season.  Fidrych displayed some of the weirdest antics on the mound.  He would fix scuffs on his cleats, talk to the baseballs, manicure the pitching mound and throw back baseballs to the home umpire he thought ‘were going to make him give up hits.’  As a tall and lanky player, with constant body-jerk movements, he was given the nickname ‘The Bird’ with his likeness to Sesame Streets character ‘Big Bird.’  Fidrych had his own fans come out for games at Tiger Stadium.  These fans were often referred to as ‘Bird Watchers.’  He was a big draw for attendance for both home and road games.  His 16 starts drew half of the teams 81 home games attendance in 1976.  Fidrych was truly a national celebrity by the time he started his second year.  However, a torn rotator cuff plagued him for the remainder of his brief career, as it went improperly diagnosed until Dr. James Andrews saw him in the mid 80’s.  Fidrych was still a popular figure around MLB until he was killed while working on his truck in an accident in April of 2009.

Mark Prior 42-29 (.593) 3.51 ERA:

Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will be etched together forever by Cubs fans as great young phenom pitchers who never had long enough careers as superstars.  Prior was drafted by the Cubs in 2001, and made his professional debut on May.22/2002.  Despite only starting 19 games, the young right hander struck out 147 batters in just 116 IP to finish 7th in Rookie of the Year voting.  The following year of 2003, Prior and Wood combined to throw over 230 IP each for Dusty Baker and the Cubs.  Prior was an ALL-Star, finished 3rd in Cy Young voting and 9th on the MVP Ballot.  He was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and struck out 245 hitters in just 211 Innings in the regular season.  Mark Prior was the pitcher on the mound for the famous Steve Bartman/Moises Alou foul ball in the 2003 NLCS.  If you want to look at why there have been Innings Pitched limits and pitch counts nowadays, you have to look at Dusty Baker’s handling of Prior and Wood as the reason why the game of baseball has adopted such a hard stance on watching and protecting young arms (like Joba Chamberlain and Stephen Strasburg.) 

Mark Prior did battle injuries in 2004 to have a record of 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 27 starts.  He also led the league in strikeouts per 9 innings with a 10.2/per 9 IP clip.  In 2006, he was limited to a 1-6 record in just 9 starts.  During the 2006 season though today, Prior has incurred 7 different injuries.  He was part of the Boston Red Sox organization this year in yet another comeback bid, only to have been released on Aug.18.  Prior has not pitched in the Major Leagues since Aug.10/2006 when he was just 25 years old.  He is currently 31 years old.  Will he continue to try a comeback?  It was certainly not his pitching style that has led to these injuries as scouts often referred to Prior as having ‘perfect mechanics.’

Jeff Zimmerman 17-12 (.586) 3.21 ERA 32 SV:

Photo courtesy of ESPN. In his first 43 Appearances in 1999 for the Rangers, Zimmerman only gave up runs in 3 of his games and had an 0.75 ERA as a rookie heading into August that year. Unbelievable for a bullpen arm that pitches half of his games at The Ball Park In Arlington.

Jeff Zimmerman grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and played baseball in British Colombia for his University days before joining the independent league called the Northern Baseball League in Canada.  He was somewhat of a hometown hero for many people around my neck of the woods.  He was signed by the Texas Rangers in 1998.  After he was called up to the Majors in 1999, he tied a record for winning his first 9 decisions.  He parlayed his great first half into an ALL-Star Appearance.  This is a rare occurrence amongst MLB circles, plus you add that is from BC Canada, and you can see why it is such a great story.  Zimmerman finished the year going 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 65 Appearances.  This was good for 3rd place in Rookie of the Year Voting.  After a sub-par 2nd year in 200o, Zimmerman took over the closers role in 2001 and had another great campaign with 28 saves out of 31 opportunities and struck out 72 hitters in 71.1 Innings.  Zimmerman was rewarded with a 3 year/10  Million Dollar Contract, but never pitched another inning in the Major Leagues.  He has been though two Tommy John Surgeries and had continued to try a comeback as late as 2009 with the Mariners.  He was recently voted as the 46th best player ever to put on a Texas Rangers uniform.

Derrick Turnbow 17-16 (.515)  4.30 ERA 65 SV:

Derrick Turnbow was picked off waivers by the Brewers in 2004 despite only giving up 1 run in 21.2 IP for the Angels in 2003 and 2004 combined. Turnbow would appear in 210 games for the Brewers between 2005-2007.

Derrick Turnbow found out that is tough to duplicate life as a closer for multiple years.  He came storming out of the gate for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 39 Saves and 62 strikeouts in 69 games.   It was a remarkable year for a relatively unknown commodity.  Based on that first year in which he tied the club record for Saves, The Brewers gave him a 3 YR/6.5 MIllion Dollar Contract.  He started 2006 just like he had ended the 2005 year.  It was 11 appearances before he gave up his first run.  By July, he had saved 23 out of 28 contests and still had a respectable ERA of 3.28 to be named to the NL All-Star Game.  It was about that time when it all came undone for the big man from Tennessee.  He lost 4 games in July, was knocked out as the closer and ended the year 4-9 with a 6.87 ERA.  Turnbow improved a little bit as a bullpen guy in 2007, where he was 4-5 in 77 games with 84 strikeouts in just 68 innings pitched, yet he still had a 4.63 ERA because he also walked 46 batters in the same time frame.  In 2008, he gave up 11 runs in his first 6 Innings and was designated for assignment by the Brewers.  By the summer, he was out of the organization.  After a couple of years of injury, he tried to make the Florida Marlins out of spring training in 2010, before he was released in Mid-March.  He announced his retirement from baseball soon thereafter.

Honorable mentions go out to Todd Ritchie, Kevin Ritz, John Rocker

To see the article about Baseball’s Greatest One Hit Wonders Part 1: The Batters click here

(* The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

                                                        

 ***Thank you to our Lead Baseball Writer- Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker

Posted on August 22, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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