News flash: Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is just flat out good.
By now you know the story of the diminutive in stature, but not in confidence, the second baseman from Venezuela who has become one the primary faces of the Astros. Before this season, Jose Altuve has already accomplished a great deal on the baseball diamond thus far in his career. Multiple All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, finishing in the top-13 of MVP voting twice, a pair of Silver Sluggers and the batting title in 2014 have established him as one of the premier second basemen in baseball. This could prove to be the foundation of a legend-in-the-making that is only continuing to grow in 2016.
Not only has Altuve been the spark plug in the Astros lineup, but he has also arguably been the team’s best power hitter in 2016. And yes, that is even considering Carlos Correa and Colby Rasmus. It is also fair to speculate upon the shape of the team’s offensive production without him.
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While it is reasonable to assume that the Astros would have a replacement level player at second base if Altuve weren’t on the team, the Astros would more than likely lose a sizeable amount of its total offensive production. After all, Altuve does account for 22% of the offense’s total home runs and 17% of the RBI total by the team in 2016. And he nearly has half of the team’s 28 stolen bases.
To truly appreciate the greatness that is Altuve, we have to broaden our view to grasp how special of a season he is having in 2016. Let me list off some of his early season statistics and where he stands in all of baseball before tonight’s game against the Cleveland Indians:
- Tied for fourth in home runs (9)
- Third in wRC+ (196)
- Seventh in SLG (.654)
- Tied for third in WAR (2.1)
- First in stolen bases (13)
In a nutshell, some of these numbers are even better than what perennial MVP candidates Mike Trout of the Angels or Bryce Harper of the Nationals has posted thus far in 2016. Manny Machado of the Orioles is perhaps the only player in baseball playing at a higher level than Altuve when everything is taken into consideration. The only knock on Altuve at this point is his -1.2 BsR, which is an area that most Astros seem to be struggling in right now. If you don’t believe me, go and check out the Astros baserunning gaffes in Arlington from a few weeks back.
Honestly, it would be unrealistic for anyone to speculate that Altuve will continue at this ridiculous pace. At some point, Trout and Harper will surpass him in the home run category. Odds are he won’t be in the top ten or twenty in home runs. Other players will bump him down the list in other categories. However, that doesn’t mean Altuve isn’t on track to do some special baseball stuff. In fact, he is on track to become a member of the 20/40 club (twenty home runs with forty stolen bases in the same season). If that happens, then he will join the likes of Trout and Carlos Beltran as one of the six players since 2000 to accomplish that feat. That is nice company to keep.
If that indeed happens, then a case of AL MVP for Altuve could be made. The MVP vote though also (unfairly) hinges on the overall success of the Astros this season, which may not bode well based on what we have seen thus far. However, if that scenario plays out then it is possible that we could see the Astros first MVP since Jeff Bagwell in 1994. And if that happens, then Altus’s ever-growing legacy at the ripe age of 26 would skyrocket to the baseball heavens.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference**