One-season wonders: Listach, Villar and other Brewers hitters
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 — hitters edition:
BILL HALL, 2006
Maybe Hall shouldn’t be on this list as he had a couple of other decent seasons with the Brewers, but 2006 really stands out. Hall had a career-high .899 OPS (he only had one other season with an OPS over .800), 35 home runs (next best: 17), 101 runs (next best: 69) and 85 RBI (next best: 63). He went from a .270/.345/.553 slash line in ‘06 to a .254/.315/.425 in 2007 to .225/.293/.396 in 2007 before bouncing around the majors, finally ending his MLB career in 2012. Hall played 11 seasons and 28% of his 125 career homers came in 2006.
PAT LISTACH, 1992
Listach splashed on the scene winning the American Rookie of the Year Award in 1992 after slashing .290/.352/.349 with 93 runs and 54 steals – the first Milwaukee player to top 50 stolen bases in a season. Listach’s .290 batting average was higher than any minor-league season (.272 at Class-A Stockton). Injuries had their effect on Listach’s career, but from 1993-96 with the Brewers he hit just .238/.306/.298 with 58 steals.
DAVE MAY, 1973
Like Hall, this wasn’t May’s only good season but it was so far ahead of anything else he ever did. Besides 1973, May had an OPS+ of better than 100 just two other times – in 1971, when he hit .277/.343/.425 with 16 homers, and 1975 for Atlanta, playing in just 82 games. In 1973, May played nearly every day for the Brewers and hit .303/.352/.473 with career highs of 23 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs, 96 runs and 93 RBI. He led the American League in total bases with 295 and was named an All-Star for the only time in his career. The next year he batted just .226/.273/.325 with 10 homers and in the offseason was traded to the Braves for Hank Aaron.
MARC NEWFIELD, 1996
Acquired as part of a deadline-day trade with San Diego for Greg Vaughn, general manager Sal Bando said he hoped Newfield would help “bridge the gap” in the offense with the loss of Vaughn’s power. A former No. 1 pick of Seattle, Newfield put up career numbers in his 49 games with the Brewers in 1996 — .307/.354/.508 slash line with seven homers and 31 RBI. But it was just a mirage, and in his final two MLB seasons with the Brewers, he hit .233/.301/.312 with just four homers in 385 plate appearances.
JASON ROGERS, 2015
After getting a few at-bats in 2014, Rogers saw extended playing time the next year although he started only 25 games – 22 at first and three in the outfield. He still got 169 plate appearances, 62 as a pinch hitter, batting .283 with nine walks, two home runs and eight RBI. Overall that season he hit .296/.367/.441 with four homers. Rogers was dealt to Pittsburgh (in part for Keon Broxton) in the offseason, went 2-for-25 in 2016 and never played in the majors again.
TED SAVAGE, 1970
Savage played just 128 games for the Brewers and 114 of those came in 1970. But he played nine years in the major leagues and never had a season like he had in Milwaukee. In 343 plate appearances – which was his most since his rookie year in 1962 – Savage hit .279/.402/.482. Those not only were career highs, but Savage’s previous best on-base percentage was .345 and his highest slugging percentage was .373 (in 1962). Needless to say, his OPS of .884 was easily a career high – he topped .700 just one other time (.718) and it was the only season in which he had an OPS+ of over 100, and it was an impressive 144. Savage was traded to Kansas City in May 1971.
JONATHAN VILLAR, 2016
Acquired from Houston in an offseason trade, Villar had an electric first year with Milwaukee. Mainly playing shortstop, with some time at third base and second, Villar set several career highs, including a .284 batting average, .369 on-base percentage, .457 slugging percentage, 38 doubles and 19 home runs – all of which are still his personal best in a single season. He also had 92 runs and 63 RBI. Villar also became just the second Brewers player to lead the league in stolen bases, pilfering 62. But the Brewers brought up Orlando Arcia late in the season, forcing a position shift for Villar. He slumped to a .241/.293/.372 slash line in 2017, hitting 11 homers and stealing 23 bases. Villar was dealt to Baltimore in a trade deadline deal in 2018; he was hitting .261/.315/.377 at the time.
DANNY WALTON, 1970
Walton appeared in nine major-league seasons but had more than 113 plate appearances in just one, 1970, when he played in 117 games for the Brewers. Walton hit a decent .257/.349/.441 – an OPS+ of 117 – with 17 homers and 66 RBI. He played in 30 games in 1971, batting .193, before being traded to the New York Yankees. Walton played in 297 games in his career with 880 plate appearances and 28 home runs.