Jose Altuve (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Once again, Jose Altuve is on the verge of making Houston Astros history. This weekend in New York, the All-Star second baseman is looking to close out the first ever batting title in the team’s 52 years of existence and continues to raise the Astros’ single-season hit record every time he collects a base knock.
Altuve is currently hitting .343 and leads the Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez (.337) by six points for the AL (and MLB) batting crown. With such a big lead, there is a chance interim manager Tom Lawless decides to give Altuve a couple days off this weekend, but the All-Star second baseman is in the lineup tonight and batting second.
Currently, Altuve, who made his debut with the Astros on July 20th, 2011, leads the American League in batting average (.343), hits (222), and stolen bases (56). His 222 hits are the most by a player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2009. Also, Altuve is hitting .404 with 14 extra base hits in his last 24 games. If he finishes the season still leading the AL in batting average, hits, and stolen bases, Altuve would become just the second player since 1945 to lead his league in those three categories in the same season.
Altuve also has a 6.0 WAR (wins against replacement), which is good for seventh in the American League, and his Offensive WAR is an incredible 6.6. Defensively, Altuve leads the league in double plays turned from 2nd base with 105 this year and he has a .986 fielding percentage. If Altuve collects 226 hits, he would have the second most hits by a right-handed hitter in the last 40 seasons (Kirby Puckett had 234 in 1988). The record for most hits by a second baseman (227 in 1936 by Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer) is also in play for Altuve.
For a guy who was already pretty damn good in 2013, that’s an incredible jump from one season to another. Altuve, who should be on some AL MVP ballots, has done better in every single category, including cutting down his number of strikeouts by over 30, this year. He is also much more consistent month-by-month this season and has carried the Astros offense for large portions of the year.
Altuve has already had the best batting season in Astros history. He is the first MLB player with 220 hits, 55 extra base hits, and 55 stolen bases in a season since Ty Cobb in 1917. Right now, the Astros are one of four MLB teams without a batting champ (Brewers, Diamondbacks and Rays). However, if Altuve can hold off Victor Martinez with a couple more hits, the Astros will have their first ever batting title in franchise history.
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This weekend, Houston (69-90) will send Brad Peacock to the mound Friday, Sam Deduno will pitch Saturday, and Nick Tropeano will start the last game of the season on Sunday afternoon. The Mets (77-82) will send Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, and Bartolo Colon to the mound to start the three games. It is the two team’s first, and only, meeting of the season.