Astros: Debunking the myth that Jose Altuve is struggling
Jose Altuve’s numbers aren’t flattering, but the Houston Astros talisman is not struggling, and you just need a few stats to prove it.
I’m so sick of all the fans—mainly of the Dodgers and Yankees variety—who are chirping about how Jose Altuve is struggling because the Houston Astros aren’t cheating anymore. First of all, just look at last year. Second of all, it doesn’t take much to dig into the poor luck that Jose Altuve has had hitting the ball this season, despite the recent report from ESPN that he is struggling beyond just bad luck.
I’m pulling out the Fangraphs again in this one, even though it should be enough to just say “Jose Altuve is Jose Altuve.” Still, in order to stick it to the sudden onslaught of Altuve haters, I’ll go ahead and bring out the numbers.
Keep in mind that given the shortness of this season, it may be hard to completely crawl out of the numbers funk he’s in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate that Altuve isn’t just putting up poor numbers because he’s “no longer cheating.”
Jose Altuve’s bare bone numbers say one thing, but a deep dive shows another
Altuve is hitting just .182 this season, a far cry from his .313 average. But if you would kindly direct your attention to the handy BABIP (batting average on balls in play) figures, you will see a ridiculous figure of .188.
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The major league average for BABIP is .300 and for his career, Altuve is just shy of that at .297. He’s never even been below .200 before.
The significance of BABIP here is that anything below .300 signifies poor luck or good opposing defense or some combination of the two. The fact that Altuve is in a completely different tier is significant, especially when paired with the fact that he is hitting a smaller percentage of his balls softly than ever before.
Just 11.8% of the balls he puts in play are hit softly. Which of course means that this season, he is hitting the ball harder than usual, he’s just not getting rewarded for it—37.3% of the balls he hits are hit hard, which is his second-best percentage of his entire career, second only to last year. Which, conveniently, is the other year (among the slew of others) that he didn’t cheat.
The only, only number that indicates struggle is that he’s striking out more this year. But it’s early. Altuve goes through stretches.
To the biased fan out there (Dodgers. Yankees.) they aren’t going to dig into Fangraphs to see if Altuve is actually struggling across the board, they’re just going to look at his average and say that he’s not wearing a buzzer anymore.
But as for you, you now know the truth. Altuve is still hitting the ball essentially the same as he always has. It just isn’t landing yet.