One-season wonders: Turnbow, Ladd and other Brewers pitchers
Blue Swede, Dexys Midnight Runners and even Cali Swag District are among the many music groups known as one-hit wonders — artists who cashed in by putting together one smashing hit only to never be heard from again.
It occasionally happens on the diamond, too.
Of the hundreds of players to wear a Milwaukee Brewers uniform over the years, some had notably long careers, like Robin Yount and Ryan Braun, while others just made a pitstop and were soon forgotten.
Then there were those who had one year – just one year – which stood out among the rest in their career.
Here’s a few of the standout “one-season” wonders in Brewers history — pitchers edition (previously: hitters):
RICKY BONES, 1994
Bones made 11 starts as a rookie with San Diego in 1991 (4.83 ERA, 1.389 WHIP) before being traded to Milwaukee. His first two seasons with the Brewers were mediocre at best – he went 9-10 with a 4.57 ERA (85 ERA+) and 1.329 WHIP in 1992 and 11-11 with a 4.86 ERA (88 ERA+) and 1.399 WHIP in ’93. He found his groove in 1994, however, a season which ended with a lockout, cutting short the best season of Bones’ career. He was named an All-Star in midseason and finished with a 3.43 ERA – good for eighth in the American League and an ERA+ of 146 – and 1.236 WHIP. Bones slipped to a 4.63 ERA and 1.502 WHIP in 1995 and was traded late in 1996 to the New York Yankees after compiling a 5.43 ERA. Bones bounced around the majors until 2001, mainly as a reliever, finishing with a career 4.85 ERA and 1.475 WHIP.
JEFF D’AMICO, 2000
A first-round pick in 1993 by Milwaukee, D’Amico made it to the majors as a 20-year-old in 1996. He had a 5.44 ERA as a rookie and 4.71 ERA in 1997 but showed promised. A shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire 1998 season and all but one game – he pitched one inning in the penultimate game of the season – in 1999. In 2000, he made 23 starts and finished with a 2.66 ERA – third-best in the National League – and 1.164 WHIP. He’d pitch four more seasons with four different teams, including the Brewers in 2001, with his best ERA over that span a 4.77 for Pittsburgh in 2003.
JIM HENDERSON, 2013
Henderson made his major-league debut at age 29 in 2012 and pitched decently. In 2013, with John Axford struggling, Henderson took over the closer’s role and saved 28 games with a 2.70 ERA and 1.133 WHIP – both career highs – with 11.3 K/9. He’d never record a save again in the majors. Moved to a setup role after Francisco Rodriguez was acquired, Henderson had a 7.15 ERA in 11 1/3 innings before being shelved with an injury. He spent the 2015 season in the minors before making it back to the majors with the New York Mets for one final season in 2016.
PETE LADD, 1983
With Rollie Fingers injured, Ladd took over as Milwaukee’s closer in the 1982 postseason and all of 1983 before Fingers’ return in 1984. In his lone year as the Brewers’ stopper, he had a 2.55 ERA, 0.932 WHIP and 25 saves. Moved back to a setup role, Ladd threw to a 5.24 ERA and 1.451 ERA in 1984 and 4.53 ERA and 1.489 WHIP in ’85. He was released by Milwaukee that offseason and spent one final year with Seattle.
PAUL MIRABELLA, 1988
Mirabella pitched 13 years in the majors – 298 games with 33 starts – and had a career 19-29 record, 4.45 ERA, 92 ERA+ and 1.531 WHIP. Before arriving in Milwaukee, Mirabella’s best full season came in 1980 with Toronto when he went 5-12 with a 4.34 ERA (100 ERA+) and 1.661 WHIP. Pitching out of the bullpen for the Brewers, the left-handed Mirabella allowed only 44 this in 60 innings in 1988, posting a 1.65 ERA and 1.083 WHIP – he previously had only one season with a below 1.400 WHIP in a full season. In case you’re wondering, Mirabella faced more right-handers (142 plate appearances) than left-handers (99 PA). Alas, in 1989 he pitched in just 15 1/3 innings with a 7.63 ERA and in his final season recorded a 3.97 ERA (98 ERA+) and 1.576 WHIP in 59 innings.
TOM MURPHY, 1974
On paper, Murphy had a decent career with a 3.78 ERA but that equates to a 94 ERA+, slightly below average. After posting a 2.17 ERA in 15 starts in 1968, a noted year of the pitcher, Murphy didn’t have reach at least a 100 ERA+ again until 1974, his first year with the Brewers. Pitching in 70 games and 123 innings, Murphy had a 1.90 ERA (189 ERA+) and 1.203 WHIP, the second-best of his career, and 20 saves. Murphy also had 20 decisions (10-10) as he finished an American League-high 66 contest. In AL MVP balloting, Murphy received three votes. He posted a 4.60 ERA and 1.548 WHIP in 1975 and was traded to Boston in ’76 after recording a 7.36 ERA in 15 games. He’d pitch through 1979 for the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
WILY PERALTA, 2014
It looked as though the Brewers might have a staple of the rotation for years to come after Peralta had a breakout season in 2014. Just 25 years old, he nearly pitched 200 innings (198 2/3) while going 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. However, he could never match that season, before or after. Peralta made 20 starts in 2015, with a 5-10 record, 4.72 ERA and 1.537 WHIP, and 23 more in ’16, going 7-11 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.527 WHIP. In his final season in Milwaukee, Peralta had a 7.85 ERA in 19 appearances (with eight starts). Signed by Kansas City in 2018 he did have 14 saves and a 3.67 ERA (but 1.485 WHIP) in 34 1/3 innings, but was released in July the following year after posting a 5.80 ERA in 42 games.
ED SPRAGUE, 1974
If you remember third baseman Ed Sprague, who played 11 years in the majors mainly with Toronto, this is his father. The senior Sprague pitched for four teams over eight years in the majors and only once had an ERA+ of over 85 (100 being league average) and that came in Milwaukee. Pitching in 20 games, with 10 starts in 1974, Sprague set career highs in innings (94), ERA (2.39, an ERA+ of 151), wins (7) and K/9 (5.5). The following season he dipped to 1-7 with a 4.68 ERA and 1.797 WHIP in 18 games (11 starts) then just pitched in 7 2/3 innings (7.04 ERA) in ’76, his final year in an MLB uniform.
DERRICK TURNBOW, 2005
Claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Angels in October 2004, Turnbow emerged as Milwaukee’s closer in late April 2005. Being able to throw 100 mph will do that. He finished the season with a 7-1 record, 49 saves (which at the time tied for the franchise high), 1.74 ERA, 1.084 WHIP and 8.6 K/9. But hitters learned to lay off his offspeed pitches, which Turnbow struggled to throw for a strike, and his walk rate went from 3.2/9 to 6.2/9 in 2006. He would save 24 games in ’06, but his ERA and WHIP ballooned to 6.87 and 1.686. Moved to a setup role in 2007, Turnbow had 4.63 ERA but still walked 6.1 batter per 9. After a 15.63 ERA in 6 1/3 innings in 2008, his major-league career was over.