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MLB’s One-Season Wonders: Rich Aurilia and 2001

Rich
(David Zalubowski / AP)

MLB’s One-Season Wonders: Rich Aurilia and 2001

Here’s another season thrown under the radar due to the sheer audacity of the steroid era. Shortstop Rich Aurilia played for the Giants alongside Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. If you’re in that situation right there, it’s easy to not get the recognition you deserve, even if you exceed expectations.

Before 2001

Not much hype centered around Aurilia coming up through the ranks of the minor leagues. The Texas Rangers drafted him in the 24th round in 1992 and spent his time in their system for two years. The team then traded Aurilia to San Francisco where he made his Major League debut.

His offensive production was light, and for a few seasons, Aurilia was the replacement for shortstop Jose Vizcaino. Aurilia received the starting nod in 1998 and held that position for a number of years.

His stats were nothing to write home about during this era. Aurilia batted .270/.327/.420 with a combined 61 home runs and a below-average OPS+ of 96. He was solid enough to start, but not a star by any means.

2001

It’s honestly a shame how well Aurilia performed in 2001. Nobody cared simply due to the fact that his teammate Barry went and hit a measly 73 home runs, only the most ever in a single season. Dang ol’ Barry man.

You’d think that if you were to hit 37 home runs and have a slash line of .324/.369/.575, everyone would be all over you. The steroid era was like this with players missing out on credibility.

Not only this, Aurilia led the National League with 206 hits, which is a dazzling mark. He also scored 114 runs, drove in 97, and had an OPS+ of 146, an astonishing mark for the steroid era. Aurilia also had a WAR of 6.7 which ranked him seventh among position players in the NL.

Where did all this land him in terms of MVP voting? Twelfth. Such a brutal year to have a stand-out performance. Luckily, he did receive an All-Star nod and, in fact, started as the No. 9 hitter in the lineup. He also earned a Silver Slugger award.

After 2001

Following that magical season, Aurilia could not replicate what occurred. He still started for San Francisco, yet his offense dipped lower than before. Aurilia did help the team to win the NL pennant in 2002, hitting six home runs that postseason.

After two lackluster years for the Giants, Aurilia became a free agent, signing with the Mariners. Seattle traded him to San Diego after a continued poor offensive performance.

He seemed to find a home as a Cincinnati Red from 04-05. Aurilia put up numbers almost reminiscent of the 2001 campaign. He finally batted .300 with 23 home runs in 2006 but in limited playing time. Aurilia’s OPS+ of 115 was his best since 2001.

Afterward, the offensive production dipped again, even though San Francisco signed him for two years and $8 million. He wound up finishing out his career with the city by the bay.

His combined totals from 2002 through 2009 (his final season) weren’t pretty. He slashed .269/.321/.414 with an OPS+ of 91 and 88 homers – very similar to his years before 2001. This goes to show how much of an anomaly 2001 was for Rich Aurilia.

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