It is pretty rare nowadays for me to stumble across a quality major league player who I've never heard of, especially for players from recent decades. However, that is exactly what happened last night. In continuing to review Keith Hernandez's career, I took a look at the 1979 Cardinals, a team for whom he won the National League MVP. I noticed they had a young pitcher by the name of John Fulgham who had had a very solid season, going 10-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 146 innings. I then discovered he was a rookie that season, at age 23. Despite his numbers he did not receive a single vote for National League Rookie of the Year, an award won by Rick Sutcliffe.
Generally speaking, Fulgham is not a well-remembered major leaguer; a quick Google search did not turn up very much. Most of what has been written about him on the Internet regarded his supposed 39-pitch complete game on August 17, 1979, which if true would have been a major league record (it was not). Otherwise, these articles mostly just mention that Fulgham was a promising young starter whose career was cut short by a torn rotator cuff (an injury whose onset apparently produced a scuffle with Keith Hernandez).
In doing some more digging, however, I believe that no starting pitcher who was as good as Fulgham ever had so brief of a career. First, let's look at Wins Above Replacement. According to Baseball-Reference, Fulgham had 3.5 WAR in his rookie season, and 1.4 in 1980, for a total of about 5.0. As the table below shows, of all starting pitchers since 1901 with 5+ WAR in their first two seasons combined, only George Kaiserling, who pitched exclusively in the short-lived Federal League, also failed to pitch a third season: