It feels like it’s been a really, really long time since the Houston Astros got national media attention for doing something positive on the field. The last couple years of rebuilding has been filled with criticism, doubt, and uncertainty from all over the baseball community.
However, this season, the Astros have started to earn back their respect from people around the MLB.
This morning, The New York Times wrote a feature article about Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve. In the story, columnist Tyler Kepner called Altuve the best hitter in baseball and shared his incredible story with the rest of the country.
“Altuve, who could become the first Astro to win a batting crown, brings a set of extremes.” Kepner wrote. “He could become the first player to lead his league in batting average, hits and steals since Ichiro Suzuki for Seattle in 2001. He is on pace for 224 hits and 59 steals. Only one player in the last 100 years has reached totals that high in both categories in a single season: Willie Wilson for Kansas City in 1980.”
Altuve, who is tied with San Diego’s Alexi Amarista as the shortest player in baseball, signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract last season, with two club options that could double the value of the deal and keep him in Houston through 2019.
“Altuve, 24, signed with the Astros from Venezuela before the 2007 season, when he was 16,” Kepner wrote. “He had been rejected from an earlier tryout camp, and signed for only $15,000. All he has done since then is hit: a .327 average in the minors, an All-Star selection in his first full major league season (2012), and now this.”
Kepner compliments the Astros organization for taking numerous chances on undersized second baseman recently, like Tony Kemp and Ronald Torreyes, but points out how rare it is for a player under 5-foot-6 to make the Hall of Fame. He goes on to talk to Astros hitting coach John Mallee, assistant general manager David Stearns, pitcher Collin McHugh and even Jose Altuve himself about the aggressive, but extremely effective style the second baseman has been using at the plate this season.
“That’s me,” Altuve told The New York Times. “I just try to make contact with the ball. It’s obvious that I like to swing the bat. I’m not thinking of taking a lot of pitches. I’m coming up there ready to look for one pitch. This is the big leagues; pitchers throw a lot of strikes. I feel like they attack me. That’s why I go up there and swing.”
I know slugger Chris Carter is getting a lot of attention lately for his incredible run since July 1st and he has earned it. (I mean, this is just ridiculous). However, it’s important to remember how much Altuve means to the Astros organization. He is the heart and soul of the team on and off the field. He has been nothing but a professional since arriving in Houston and Jeff Luhnow couldn’t ask for more from a franchise player.
Jose Altuve’s stats from this season (he could set a career-high in almost every category this year):
Batting Average: .339 (leads MLB; career-best is .290)
Home Runs: 6 (career-high is 7)
RBIs: 41 (career-high is 52)
Doubles: 33 (career-high is 34)
Triples: 2 (career-high is 4)
Walks: 29 (career-high is 40)
Hits: 174 (leads MLB; career-high is 177)
Stolen Bases: 46 (leads AL; new career-high)
Runs: 68 (career-high is 80)
On-Base Percentage: .376 (career-high is .340)
Slugging Percentage: .446 (career-high is .399)
WAR: 4.2 (career-high is 1.3)