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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
One-hit wonders: AL Central

By David Schoenfield

Let's continue our look at some one-hit wonders. Here's the AL East.

Chicago White Sox
Esteban Loaiza doesn't quite qualify as a one-hit wonder since he did win 126 games in the big leagues. He had one amazing outlier season with the White Sox in 2003, however, when he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young vote. In terms of WAR, it's the sixth-best season by a White Sox pitcher since 1950. He never won more than 12 games in any other season, and had just one other season with an ERA under 4.00 (in 2005 with the Nationals).

What about Ron Kittle? He was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year for the 1983 AL West champs, hitting 35 home runs and driving in 100. He did hit 32 homers the next year, but his average shrunk to .215 and he was never again a full-time player.

Cleveland Indians
Well, this one's pretty easy: Joe Charboneau hit .289 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs to win AL Rookie honors in 1980. Charboneau was an eccentric, known for opening beer bottles with his eye socket, drinking beer through his nose, doing his own dental work and fixing a broken nose with a pair of pliers. How big was he that year? There was a song written about him, and Steve Wulf of Sports Illustrated wrote a profile of Charoneau that September. The headline? Super Joe: A Legend In His Own Time. Charboneau would play just 70 more games in the big leagues, with a back injury suffered in 1981 contributing to his demise. Was the rookie season a fluke? He was old for a rookie at 25 (he missed nearly one full season in the minors, quitting after 12 games but returning to baseball the following season), but he had hit in the minors: .350 at Class in 1978 and .352 at Double-A in 1979. Without the injury ... who knows.

Here's another thing: Charboneau wasn't the only one-hit wonder on that 1980 Indians club. Miguel Dilone was a speedy Dominican outfielder who had drifted from the Pirates to the A's to the Cubs. The Indians purchased him that year from the Cubs. Dilone hit .341, stole 61 bases and scored 82 runs in 132 games. It was his only full season as a regular.

Detroit Tigers
There's Mark Fidrych, his 1976 rookie season the stuff of his legends. He went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA, completing 24 of his 29 starts and leading the AL in ERA and WAR (with the highest total of any Tigers pitcher other than Hal Newhouser in 1945). Fidrych got hurt the following year. There's Willie Hernandez's 1984 Cy Young and MVP season, but he was a good pitcher just having a lights-out season.

How about this one: Jeff Robinson's 1988 season. He went 13-6 with a 2.98 ERA and led the AL with a .197 opponents' batting average. It was a fluke: His .209 average on balls in play is the second-lowest of any starting pitcher since 1950, behind only Dave McNally's .203 mark with the 1968 Orioles.

Kansas City Royals
Big Bob Hamelin, step on down. Hamelin hit .282/.388/.599 in the strike-shortened 1994 season, prodigious slugging numbers that won him AL Rookie of the Year honors ... ahead of a guy named Manny Ramirez. Hamelin would hit so poorly the next season -- .168 -- that he'd get shipped back to Triple-A.

Here's one more: Darrell May went 10-8 with a 3.77 ERA in 2003 (that was the last Royals team to finish over .500). The numbers might seem modest, but they were put up in the middle of the steroids era, and Kauffman Stadium was a crazy hitter's park that year. May's 5.7 WAR ranked sixth in the AL among pitchers.

Minnesota Twins
Zoilo Versalles is often cited as one of the worst MVP winners ever, which is true: His career WAR is just 10.4. But he was an outstanding player in 1965, leading the AL in runs scored, doubles and triples, and winning the Gold Glove. Baseball-Reference credits him with 7.1 WAR -- first among position players. He was a two-time All-Star, so hard to classify him as a one-hit wonder.

How about Joey Mays? He went 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA in 2001, earning 6.3 WAR, second among AL pitchers. He had some arm issues after that, but it was also a lucky season: He struck out just 123 batters in 233.2 innings. Or maybe Allan Anderson. You remember him, right? The 1988 AL ERA champ? No?