He played well his first two years as a professional, but struggled in AA-Tulsa and ended up being dealt with Desi Wilson for John Burkett prior to the 1995 season. He quickly rediscovered his stroke and soared through AA and AAA to make his major league debut with the Giants that season at age 23. Three years later, he began a six-year run as the Giants' starting shortstop, which included one of the best offensive seasons by any shortstop not named Alex Rodriguez, hitting 0.324/0.369/0.572 w/ 37 home runs and 97 RBI's in 2001. His production dropped off quickly after that season, however, and he was allowed to leave as a free agent following the 2003 season. His 2004 season with the Mariners and Padres showed even poorer offensive production, and he ended up signing for only $600,000 with the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 2005 season -- a far cry from the 6+ million salary he was sporting with the Giants.
Much to the outrage of many in the blogosphere, Aurilia won the starting shortstop job out of spring training in '05, but then got hurt a month into the season and lost the job thanks to a brilliant month at the plate by Felipe Lopez in his stead. From that point on, Aurilia served as a spot-starter around the infield, getting most of his starts at second base. Even so, Rich ended up having one of the best four seasons of his career. He re-signed with the Reds in the offseason and currently plays a valuable role as a solid offensive and defensive infielder who can play at all four infield positions.
For additional biographical information, please see Rich Aurilia's profile in Red Hot Mama's human league.
Historical Statistics (for explanations of the statistics used in this profile, please see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet):
Today I'm debuting the use of a new stat with Aurilia's entry, PrOPS, which is the brainchild of J.C. Bradbury at The Hardball Times (see his article in this year's Hardball Times Annual, as well as this article online). PrOPS is simply the regression-predicted OPS of a hitter based on the batted-ball types (ground balls, fly balls, line drives, strikeouts, walks, etc) of the hitter. One can think of it as analogous to defense-independent pitching stats, in that it removes the effects of bad luck and variation in fielding success against a hitter. This is particularly important when examining hitters who have had unusually bad or good seasons. For example, Rich Aurilia's miserable 2004 season appears to be at least in part due to some bad luck, as his Seattle 0.641 OPS was much lower than his (still rather bad) 0.701 PrOPS. Furthermore, his improvement in 2005 seems to be based on honestly getting better, as his OPS and PrOPS were very close. As we'll see, however, Great American Ballpark may have played a role in his resurgence last year.
'03 to '05 Splits:
More surprising is Aurilia's home/away splits over the last three years, especially because he has called four different ballparks "home" during that time. Looking at the individual years, this was driven primarily in 2003 and 2005, when he dominated at home and struggled on the road. Last year, in particular, Aurilia had an 0.380 OBP and 0.561 SLG (0.941 OPS) at home, but only a 0.296 OBP and 0.325 SLG (0.621 OPS) on the road. Therefore, a big part of his apparent resurgence last year appears to be strongly related to hitting in GABP. Aurilia isn't a severe flyball hitter (25% fly ball : 31% ground ball ratio), so it's a bit surprising that GABP had this big of an effect on him. I'm guessing some of this is due to small-sample size issues, but it could also explain why Aurilia had so much trouble finding alternative employment last offseason.
|Pos.||Year||Level||DI's||Dewan+- (plays/yr)||Dial ZR (runs/yr)||Pinto (runs/27ot)||Davenport (runs/yr)||DP% (+/-)|
|Pos.||Year||Level||DI's||Dewan+- (plays/yr)||Dial ZR (runs/yr)||Pinto (runs/27ot)||Davenport (runs/yr)||Bunt (+/-score)|
On the other hand, in his somewhat limited playing time at third base over the past two years, Aurilia has been well below average. We often hear about Edwin Encarnacion's defensive struggles at the hot corner, but we always hear how great Aurilia is there by comparison. These data indicate that Aurilia is a very poor alternative defensively. Just today while I was typing this (6/17/06), I saw Aurilia miss a fairly easy ground ball down the line off Paul Konerko's bat. While Encarnacion makes errors at an alarming rate at this early date in his career, he has excellent range that makes up for this. In contrast, I can't begin to justify putting Aurilia there on a regular basis. Granted, he could and should improve, but at this point the numbers indicate that Freel is a much better option at the hot corner when EdE needs a rest.
2006 Season Projections:
So far this season, Aurilia has shown very impressive power for an infielder, hitting 0.258/0.313/0.497 (0.810 OPS) in semiregular appearances. Aurilia's playing time has surprisingly been mostly at first base, a position he played for only three innings prior to season's start. The emergence of Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion as solid offensive players, as well as Lopez's continued excellence at shortstop, has shut down the rest of the infield to him. Nevertheless, Jerry Narron has managed to find starts for Aurilia at least 3-4 times per week, and he's generally been a solid if unspectacular performer.