Jose Altuve asked to be moved down in the Houston Astros lineup before Saturday’s game.
Jose Altuve’s well-publicized struggles at the plate this season have drawn either genuine concern or unbridled glee, depending on whether one harbors an irrational degree of hatred for the Houston Astros and a disregard for the facts. Those struggles haven’t been lost on Altuve himself either, and it caused him to do something not many players would have done.
After manager Dusty Baker posted Saturday’s lineup with Altuve again hitting third, the former MVP and three-time batting champion went to his manager and asked to be moved down in the order. Baker later said Altuve simply wants to win and make it to the postseason, so he clearly felt that being moved down was the best thing for the team.
“I’m not helping the club right now at the top of the lineup and I appreciate the respect you’re giving me,” Altuve told Baker. But he freely admitted that “the guys ahead of me are swinging the bat better.” Who, other than a consummate professional and team player, would do that?
“He’s a consummate team man,” Baker said of Altuve. “I’ve only had one other player tell me that in my whole career because usually guys don’t come tell you ‘move me down in the order.’ He did it for the betterment of the team.”
Is There an Easy Fix?
After going 1-for-3 with an RBI in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Mariners, Altuve is hitting .181/.253/.313 through 91 plate appearances. Now that we’re a third of the way through the season, there’s enough of a sample to look at the deeper stats and see if we can identify the root of his struggles.
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Unfortunately there isn’t an easy explanation. His chase rate and swing percentage are not abnormally different from prior seasons, and he’s still making contact in the zone about as frequently as usual. He simply isn’t generating hard contact as often, and when he does chase outside the zone, he’s making contact less frequently.
His detractors will argue it’s all because he doesn’t know what pitch is coming due to the absence of trash cans or buzzers, but that’s utter hogwash. The buzzer theory is a complete myth, and Altuve is known to not have participated in the trash can banging. The haters don’t care about that, of course, as they’ll invent reasons to hate him simply because he’s the face of the franchise.
I’m no hitting coach or psychiatrist, but I suspect the fallout from the sign stealing scandal may be weighing on him heavily, causing him to press under the pressure he’s put on himself. He cares about his team as much as any player in the sport, and that’s exactly the kind of guy you want in the clubhouse.
While those who believe the lies may see him as smug or dishonest, those of us who care to pay attention know the truth. Altuve displayed great humility by asking to be moved down, and he’s never tried to deflect blame for the sign stealing scandal despite his lack of participation. We’re just waiting for him to break out of this slump and resume being one of the game’s best hitters.