Could Jose Altuve Double His Homer Output and Go 30-30 In 2016 for the Houston Astros?
Thirty-four games into the 2016 campaign Jose Altuve leads both leagues in stolen bases. Altuve has been a dangerous base stealer since making his debut in Houston in 2011. Since his first full season in 2012, Altuve leads the majors with 175 steals, 13 in 2016. The 5’6” infielder makes up for whatever he lacks in size with his speed as base running efficiency. And he keeps getting better.
“Since his first full season in 2012, Altuve leads the majors with 175 steals, 13 in 2016.”
After winning the AL batting title in 2014, Altuve turned up the power and slugged 15 home runs in 2015. After tallying just 21 home runs in his first four big league seasons combined, reaching double digits last year marked a career high. Unfortunately, the additional power came at the cost of patience and plate discipline. Altuve also set a career high last season in first pitch swings (40.3%) while at the same time bottoming out with his lowest walk percentage (4.8%) of any full season with the Astros.
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Fast-forward to 2016 and the talented young slugger has settled down at the plate without his offensive production skipping a beat. Altuve’s walk percentage is up to 10.6%, more than double last year’s rate. Part of that is his willingness to take more pitches, swinging at 29.8% of first pitches, a career low. When you put the patience together with the power Altuve projects to hit 43 home runs and walk 76 times. That pace might not be realistic, but he does have a real shot at becoming the Astro’s second member of the 30-30 club, following in the footsteps of Jeff Bagwell.
The 30-30 club is the group of hitters who have stolen 30 bases and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Bagwell accomplished the feat in 1997 and 1999. The most heralded Astro second baseman, Hall of Fame member Craig Biggio came closest in 1997 when he hit 22 dingers and stole 47 bases. Currently, there is only three 2nd baseman in the 30-30 club – Alfonso Soriano, Ian Kinsler, and Brandon Phillips.
Altuve has arguably already cemented himself as one of the best players in franchise history. If he can keep his 2016 production up, he would boast a 30-30 season, a batting title, 3 All-Star nominations, and a gold glove before the age of 27. Not bad Jose, not bad.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***