5 Takeaways from Jose Altuve's 1st-Half Performance
Playing for the struggling Houston Astros, Jose Altuve's outstanding play during the first half of the Major League Baseball season has not gotten as much attention as it deserves. The second baseman is second in the American League in batting average (.335) and leads the AL in stolen bases (41).
Because of his small stature (5'6"), he often gets overlooked, but Altuve is not just good for a small guy. He's one of the best players in baseball.
Here are five takeaways from Altuve's record-setting first-half performance.
5. Size Doesn't Matter (At Least in Baseball)
Listed at 5'6", but perhaps only 5'5", Altuve is the shortest player in baseball. Fortunately for him, there is no 10-foot goal or 285 pound linebacker trying to knock his head off. The strike zone is from a man's chest to his knees, and baseball is a non-contact sport.
These aspects of the sport, along with Altuve's impressive athleticism, have allowed him to soar. Altuve spoke to Bob Nightengale of USA Today earlier this month about his season and his size.
I never let my size matter, just like Dustin Pedroia. Even when I got cut from that tryout camp, when they cut it down from 50 to 20, I still showed up the next day. I wanted to prove they made a mistake, and that I could be a big-league player. I told them, 'Don't judge me by size, but how I play.' I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
4. The Dude is Fast
The way Altuve's been stealing bases this year is almost silly. His 41 stolen bases are first in the AL and second in all of MLB, behind Dee Gordon's 43.
In June, Altuve had a stretch where he had multiple steals in four straight games. According to MLB.com, "he is only the third player in modern Major League history with multiple steals in four straight games, the last being Cleveland's Ray Chapman in 1917." That's right: 1917. That's 97 years ago.
Tarrik Brock, the Astros' outfield, first base and baserunning coach, talked to Evan Drellich of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) about Altuve's attitude as a baserunner.
He has no fear whatsoever. And he wants to run on every single pitch. So if you say, 'Hey, this is a good time to go,' before you get to 'go' - he is, he is off to the races. And that's one thing you love about a base stealer.
3. He Can Consistently Get On Base
All that speed is useless if you don't know how to get on base. Altuve knows how to get on base. His .335 batting average is good for second in the AL, behind Adrian Beltre (.337), and his 130 hits are a Houston Astros record for hits before the All-Star break.
Houston starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel talked to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com about Altuve's ability as a hitter.
"He's the most consistent hitter I've pretty much ever seen," Keuchel said. "He deserves nothing but the credit he's getting."
Altuve may not be able to keep up his record-setting pace, but there is no doubt that the Astros have found someone they can place near the top of their lineup who will consistently get on base.
2. The Astros Finally Have Someone They Can Build Around
The Astros have been struggling for a long time. For the last few seasons, things have seemed hopeless for the Houston fanbase, but Altuve has given them hope for future success.
At 24 years of age, Altuve should be in Houston for a long time. The Astros are bad again this season, but there are signs of improvement. At 40-56, the Astros are 19.5 games out of first place in the AL West, but they're not in last. That position belongs to the Texas Rangers. Improvement.
The rest of the infield is questionable in Houston, but the Astros do have George Springer in the outfield, and Altuve's play during this first half of the season has shown them they have a franchise player in the infield too.
1. Altuve Is an MVP Candidate
Chicks and sportswriters dig the long ball, so Altuve probably won't win the MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. He only has two home runs and 27 RBIs, but that hasn't prevented him from being one of the best and most exciting players in the first half of the season.
George Springer talked to Bob Nightengale of USA Today about the impact Altuve has had on the Astros this season.
The dude is unbelievable When he's in the batter's box, everybody in the stadium knows he's going to get a hit, and he does. When he gets on base, everybody knows he's going to steal a base, and he does. He's what makes the Astros go.
Robinson Cano is the starting second baseman for the American League in Tuesday's All-Star game, but Altuve deserves to be. Cano has the name recognition after nine seasons with the New York Yankees, but Altuve has been the better player.
"He's the best player in baseball," Astros manager Bo Porter told Nightengale. "It's not just his numbers, but the impact he has on the game. He's the MVP of this league."