With a record of 19-32 entering play late in May, there’s likely not going to be an Astro voted onto the American League All Star roster by the fans. John Farrell might have to actually make a difficult decision when it comes time to adding to the star-studded roster. Jose Altuve, an NL All Star in 2012, is sure making his presence known around MLB. Another guy named Dallas Keuchel is forcing his way into consideration.
When the MLB slate ended yesterday, Jose Altuve still stands tall for all of Major League Baseball in hits record. Well, maybe not so high, being just 5’5″. Regardless, with 70 hits through 51 games, Altuve ranks 1st in MLB for hits and 8th for batting average with .326. He also ranks 1st among American League players in stolen bases with 17. Among players at his position, Brian Dozier of the Twins is closest with 12 stolen bases.
He is currently sandwiched, in 2nd place, between a pair of superstar second basemen in terms of batting average. Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers has a .330 clip while Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners is at .323. These numbers are obviously going to continue to fluctuate as the season goes along.
Some people could still dock him for not walking very often. A 6.6% BB rate is a little low; Dozier leads MLB with 13.6% among second basemen. I will take that with the success that he has had in failing to strikeout. Only Kinsler is betting in MLB, albeit just 0.6%, with a 7.3% strikeout rate that bests Altuve’s 7.9% mark.
Defensively Altuve has been phenomenal. Highlight reel plays are made almost every day. But the most important thing is that when a ball is hit to him, he fields and throws the ball properly. Perhaps this is a huge factor in the success of Dallas Keuchel, who I will talk about shortly. Altuve had played in each of the Astros 51 games this season without committing an error. Among second basemen, tops in the AL. Jose has also been apart of 34 double plays, once again, tops in MLB.
One more thing about Mr. Jose Altuve — among players with at least 150 plate appearances from the lead-off spot, Altuve ranks FIRST in all of MLB with a .346 batting average. Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, owns a .316 batting average, with 177 at-bats from the top-of-the-order against Altuve’s 153.
Jose Altuve. Get the opportunity to watch him play and take notes.
(Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
There is only one other player on the Astros roster who can come close to matching Altuve’s performance through the first 51 games of the season. In three consecutive games Keuchel has thrown at least 8 2/3 innings. Two of them have resulted in complete games, one being a shutout of the Texas Rangers. His record now stands at 6-2 with an ERA of 2.55 in 70 2/3 innings pitched. During this time, Keuchel’s personal winning streak is up to 4 games.
In a day in which Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter, which netted a game score of 90, Keuchel also threw a gem. Dallas was largely overshadowed by the fact that Beckett pitched a no-hitter as well as being a member of the Houston Astros. But in reality, Keuchel’s game was pretty close to being that good. Beckett 90, Keuchel 87.
Alright, time for some awesome statistics/rankings with regard to Keuchel and comparing him to the rest of the American League. His innings pitched, 70 2/3, ranks 7th with likely rookie of the year Masahiro Tanaka. An ERA of 2.55 ranks 5th, trailing Scott Kazmir by 0.01 earned runs (2.54) and bests reigning AL Cy Young Max Scherzer by 0.04 runs (2.59).
In terms of ground ball percentage, there simply has not been anyone better than Keuchel among AL pitchers. Actually, his mark of 67.7% (prior to Sunday’s game) was tops in all of MLB. Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants was closest with a 61.5% ground ball percentage.
Some people may say that this level of success is not sustainable. In a game where very few things can accurately be predicted, statistics have been created to help explain certain phenomena. A question might be if Dallas Keuchel can continue pitching at this level with “average stuff.” As surprising as it has been to see players and managers say that, his FIP suggests that he has actually been a little unlikely. With an ERA of 2.92 entering play Sunday, his 2.79 FIP indicates he might be a hair better than recorded. Regardless of whether or not reality matches with science, his four-game winning streak is definitely something an Astros fan wishes to see continue.
We are a little less than two months away from the 85th edition of MLB’s All Star Game. This year will be hosted by the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. At this point, I cannot choose between Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel. Both of them are enjoying impressive campaigns and I wish that both of them could represent the Astros. Please remember to vote early and vote often and perhaps both will be selected.