Remember When Shea Hillenbrand and Rich Aurilia Were Great Hitters?

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IJune 24, 2008

Baseball statistics have always been something I loved. As soon as I figured out how to divide, I was figuring out batting averages in my head after every at-bat during the games of my beloved Phillies. So every once in awhile I like to browse Baseball Reference looking at the stats of old ball-players from recent years.

The thing I love most about this is the occasional anomaly. Like when ex-Expo Brad Wilkerson hit 32 home runs and scored 112 runs despite a .255 in 2004 promptly him to be a hot commodity in my league's fantasy draft in 2005, only to disappoint significantly (he at least had a cycle).

Originally I was going to explain the ridiculous consistency of the Phillies' offense during the last half-decade, but then I kept coming across this statistical anomalies and thought I'd save the Phillies article for a later date when they are actually scoring runs.

So I'm going to run-down a few hitters. Not sure how many, but I thought I'd share a walk down memory lane. Now some of these hitters may not have been great, but they had solid years.

First up will be Shea Hillenbrand. Shea didn't have any great years, but from 2002-2005 he averaged 18 home runs and a .293 batting average. He departed Boston a year before their epic run in the 2004 playoffs for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Poor Shea landed in Toronto and had a feud with recently fired John Gibbons. It got so bad between the two that Gibbons challenged Hillenbrand to fight after Shea wrote on a bulletin board the ship was sinking. Gibbons said he'd quit if Shea wasn't cut. J.P Ricardi sided with Gibbons and Shea was outta there.

Hillenbrand surfaced with three California based teams during the next two years but could never find a secure spot on a roster. He hasn't stepped in a Major League batter's box in 2008, and may never get back to the Big Leagues again.

Preston Wilson really enjoyed his first season in Colorado in 2003. While Wilson had a solid 2000 campaign with Florida, tallying 31 homers, which seemed like the amount votes that separated Al Gore and George Bush in the Sunshine state.

Wilson topped his 2000 numbers in 2003 when he blasted 36 bombs, knocked in 141 runs and batted .283. Those 141 RBI were good for first in the National League. Somehow, the guy only finished 16th in the MVP voting. Colorado may have finished 14 games under .500, but Wilson certainly didn't get the respect he deserved.

Wilson only reached the 20 homer plateau once after his career season. St. Louis gave him one more chance in 2007, but Wilson squandered it batting .219 in 64 ABs.

Who remembers when Alex Sanchez had more stolen bases than his Tigers had wins in 2003? Yeah that's right. He stole 44 bases while the Tigers won 43 games. Sanchez even played the first 43 games of the year for the Brewers and still had more stolen bases than the Tigers had wins.

Better yet, who remembers Alex Sanchez's legacy? I wasn't positive who he was when I saw the stats, but my gut feeling was he was suspended for steroids. A simple Google search confirmed my suspicions.

In April of 2005, Sanchez was suspended for 10 games for supposedly juicing up. Turns out Sanchez would be the first player suspended under the new policy. Not a slugger, but a speedster would draw the first banning in Major League Baseball.

During the 2005 season, he surfaced in Tampa Bay for 43 games and later with San Francisco for 19 more. Sanchez was never the same and 2005 was his last year in the Bigs.

When I saw Paul Lo Duca's 2001 numbers my jaw dropped. He posted a .320-71-25-90 line in only 460 ABs, but what might be more impressive his mere 30 strikeouts. Ryan Howard did in about 15 games what Lo Duca did over a full season.

I knew Lo Duca had a few really good offensive seasons, but that line is one of the best for a National League catcher and it's not even close.

What's even better about the 2001 season is the player above in the NL batting race is Rich Aurilia. His season is even better than Lo Duca's. He went .324-114-37-97 and he led the league in hits with 206.

His monster season came the same year as Barry Bonds belting 73 bombs. I searched all over the web to see if Aurilia had done the clear and the cream with his good old pal Barry, but I couldn't come up with anything concrete.

Basically all I could find was a bunch of blogs accusing him of it because of his massive power increase and then sudden drop of production. His name didn't appear in the Mitchell Report once.

Any Giants fans out there if you could point me somewhere to either clear his name or call him guilty let me know. After seeing his numbers I'm interested in whether this guy was truly clean.

One of the things that makes baseball so great is how quickly guys enter the spotlight and how they disappear even faster.

Quick completely unrelated random baseball quote I love explaining why baseball is better than football comes from former pitcher Bob Lemon, "Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?