Choosing the winner of the 2012 Star Performer of the Year Award was a tough decision. In another disastrous season on the field for our Astros there were two players who stood out from a crowd of rookies and retreads. One pitcher and one position player managed to establish themselves as key components to the future of the franchise.
Both Jose Altuve and Lucas Harrell performed well enough throughout the season to be considered for the hardware, but only one could win. Not much was expected from either player, and if fans were asked before the season to predict the team’s MVP the names Altuve and Harrell probably wouldn’t have come up. Instead, we probably would have heard names like Bud Norris, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, and maybe even J.D. Martinez. But Altuve and Harrell outplayed or outlasted all of those guys, and everyone else.
But who had the best season? Altuve or Harrell? That could depend on what you value more … pitching or offense/defense. Altuve played almost every day (147 games) whereas Harrell took the mound every fifth day (32 starts). Some might say that gives Altuve a bit of an edge.
Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference rate Harrell at a 2.8 WAR for the season. That’s not bad when you consider Matt Cain was rated at a 3.8 WAR in the same number of starts. Fangraphs gives Altuve a WAR of 1.6 and Baseball-Reference rates him at a 3.1 offensive WAR and a -1.5 defensive WAR. That’s a negative number on defense and a cumulative rating of 1.6. But they rate his overall WAR at 1.3. So, until there is a standard formula that everyone uses and actually makes sense I’m going to have to throw those numbers out the window.
For me it comes down to this: Who did more to help the team? I feel like both players made similar contributions so that doesn’t make the choice any easier. Altuve won the starting job at second base, forced his way to the top of the batting order, and made the All-Star team. Harrell won a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, faced other team’s number two starter most of the time, led the team in innings pitched, and finished with a .500 record despite the Astros being shut out in seven of his starts.
Altuve hit .290/.340/.399 and stole 33 bases. His average and OBP were the best on the team. Several players slugged higher but the stolen bases help to even those numbers out a bit, in my opinion. In other words, I can’t see where anyone could argue against Altuve being the most productive position player on the team.
Harrell was 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA. No one else on the team won more than seven games and the only Astros pitchers to finish with a winning record were Wilton Lopez and Edgar Gonzalez. Lopez had a 2.17 ERA and ten saves and was named the Astros Pitcher of the Year by Houston area sportswriters. (Altuve and Harrell were named Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year respectively by the same group)
Again, it all comes down to what you value most. They say pitching and defense wins championships. Certainly this team was never a threat to capture a pennant and just winning a few games was a priority. Harrell won his share of games and is my personal favorite player on the team. But Altuve contributed more on an everyday basis and for that reason I have to hand the award over to him. Congratulations to Jose Altuve for being named the 2012 Star Performer of the Year.
Who would you pick?