Pittsburgh Pirates: Building a Team of One-Season Wonders

9 of 10
Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Starting Pitcher – 1962 Earl Francis

Technically speaking, Earl Francis was a swingman, but he did start over half the games he appeared in. Going into the 1962 campaign, Francis had pitched just 120.2 innings in the two seasons prior. He pitched decently, but his 1962 season stands out like a sore thumb on his baseball card.

In 1962, Francis tossed 176 frames working to a 3.07 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. While Francis had an 11.2% walk rate, his 16.2% strikeout rate was well above the league average of 14%. He also had a .41 HR/9, which, again, was well above the league average of 0.9 HR/9. His +3.1 fWAR this season makes up over half of his career fWAR.

After 1962, Francis would only pitch 109 innings. Nearly all of those frames came in the following campaign in 1963 when he tossed 97.1. When he did pitch, he was not nearly as effective, with a 4.79 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and 3.51 FIP.

Relief Pitcher – 2001 Josias Mazanillo

Relief pitching can be highly volatile. They see the fewest innings on the field than any other position. The small sample size can significantly fluctuate season-to-season stats, which means there are plenty of one-hit wonders. There are plenty of players you could list here, but the best among them was Josias Manzanillo in 2001.

Manzanillo turned in an outstanding 2001 campaign, working to a 3.39 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. During his ’01 season, Manzanillo had a 24.3% strikeout rate and a 7.9% walk rate. But what was most impressive was his 0.45 HR/9. Remember, this was the late steroid era, and pitchers allowed 1.13 HR/9 on average.

Like with Mike Easler, this was a completely unprecedented turn. From 1991 to 2000 (he did not appear in the bigs in 1998), Manzanillo only pitched 206.1 innings and averaged just 29 innings a year. When he did pitch, he had a 4.41 ERA and 4.53 FIP. Manzanillo went out in ’01 and pitched a whopping 79.2 innings, which ranked top 25 in the league.

Manzanillo not only would not pitch 70 innings again in a single season, but he wouldn’t even reach 60 across the next three years. From 2002 through 2004, Manzanillo only tossed 56 frames. He had a lowly 15.9% strikeout rate, an 8.9% walk rate and allowed nearly three home runs every nine innings with a 2.89 HR/9. In total, he gave up 48 earned runs.