Now that the roster is beginning to take shape, it is time to really look ahead to the regular season. The Astros only have a few more games left in Florida, and Sunday night’s opener against the Rangers will be here before you know it.
Jose Altuve (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
With that being said, I am going to use this week to generate some audience participation and to look ahead at what we can expect from this season. This is not done from a team perspective, but from a statistical perspective. Also, I am using this just to look at one particular statistical category.
If the over is reached in these arguments, then the Astros could end up surprising some people this year.
Jose Altuve – Over or Under 40 Stolen Bases
Altuve is not your typical leadoff hitter or stolen base threat. Last season Altuve batted leadoff essentially by default, and the same thing is going to happen this year. Bo Porter wanted to move Altuve to the 2nd spot in the lineup to begin this season, but he quickly realized it was not a feasible option.
Altuve’s skill set is a much better fit for batting second, but he is far and away the best option the Astros currently have to leadoff. Now it is a little different in the American League since the pitcher does not bat, but Altuve will be setting the table for the Astros power hitters once again in 2013.
At this point it seems that when Brett Wallace is in the lineup, at least against right handed pitching, he will be batting second. That means you can expect to see a lot of hit and runs out of Wallace. It also has been apparent throughout Spring Training that Houston will be aggressive under Porter and they will be looking to run.
What makes Altuve not a typical leadoff hitter, is that he really does not walk. Historically he has a walk rate of about 6%, and it does not appear to be rising anytime soon. He does have speed, but is not a burner. Last year he hit .290 on the season, and I would expect to see a similar average this year. However that walk rate will limit his stolen base opportunities.
I think we can be confident in Altuve’s skill set for this season, and he has proven himself. Throughout his minor league career he has had success on the basepaths, and he had 33 steals last season. Granted the Astros will be a little more aggressive this season, but the fact that Altuve does not walk does hurt his chances at 40 stolen bases. Also, it is possible Marwin Gonzalez or Brandon Barnes steps up to become the leadoff hitter at some point in the season, in which case Altuve moves back to the 2nd spot which would decrease his stolen bases.
40 stolen bases might be a little optimistic for Altuve, but there is no reason why he should not come close.
Verdict – Under
What does everyone else think?