May 31, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) fields a ground ball during the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Altuve, Potential 2014 All-Star and Team MVP?

Jose Altuve, Potential 2014 All-Star and Team MVP?

The hype surrounding George Springer and Jon Singleton has been the driving conversation surrounding the Houston Astros lately, and deservedly so. Jeff Luhnow’s plan is now starting to reap the fruits of its labor, and the fan base is savoring this sweet, long-awaited moment for the downtrodden franchise.

While Springer and Singleton have provided the Astros with more firepower in the heart of the lineup, the most valuable player on the team up to this point gets things going at the top of the order. The player who has meant the most to the Astros this young season is none other than the diminutive in stature, but not by his play, Jose Altuve.

For being only 5’6″, Altuve has a knack for showing up in the big moments for the franchise. It first started in 2011 after the Astros traded away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. The franchise needed someone to be a bright spot during this transitional period, and while the team continued to play poorly as a whole, Altuve stepped up to the challenge all the way from Double-A Corpus Christi.

His play over just 57 games in 2011 gave the Astros enough faith to give him a shot for the second base job that next season. Jose responded by giving what many consider to be the best season in his young career. His play throughout the 2012 season also led him to be the Astros only All-Star that year, a particular high note for the club.

But his 2013 season was a bit underwhelming. Moving from the National League Central to the more competitive American League West was massive obstacle to many of the players from the rebuilding Astros. Even Altuve at times seemed to be outmatched by the more competitive American League.

  • His on-base percentage dropped from .340 in 2012 to just .316 in 2013. Since Altuve is not known for his power or RBI potential, the only meaningful way he can contribute to a lineup is by getting on-base then to wreck havoc on the base paths.
  • His also set a new high in strikeouts with 85 along with drawing 8 fewer walks than what he accumulated in 2012.
  • Another alarming stat from 2013 was Altuve ground into 24 double plays, which is 16 more than he had in 2012.

But currently though in 2014, Jose Altuve is having himself a heck of a rebound season. Below are key stats and how he ranks amongst his peers.

  • 2014 stats through 62 games (tied for ML lead): In 282 plate appearances (2nd in ML), .316 batting average, 83 hits (leads ML), 2 HR, 20 RBI, 21 stolen bases (3rd in ML), 17 BB, 22 strikeouts along with a .355 OBP, and .422 SLG.
  • Not only has his batting average risen, he has improved his OBP by .039 as well.
  • He continues to wreck havoc on the base paths with 21 SB while only being caught stealing 3 times so far this season.
  • By his increasing his hit rate along with his ability to draw more walks and less strikeouts, more than at any other time throughout his career, means he is learning to choose his pitches more carefully and adjust to the strike zone better. And by extension this awards him the opportunity to be more aggressive on the base paths.

By digging deeper into some of his advanced stats shows us more of how he has improved overall in 2014 compared to 2013.

  • WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which measures a player and the number of wins they provide versus a replacement player from the minors or the bench of the major league team. Altuve’s WAR in 2013 stood at 1.2 while currently in 2014 stands at 1.7, which is an improvement and the highest in his career if the season ended today.
  • Runs created per game, or RC/G, is a an extension of a formula created by Bill James and others that estimates a players total contributions to a teams run total. In 2013 Altuve had a RC/G of 3.6, which was lower than his 2012 RC/G of 5.0. But, now in 2014, Jose has maintained a RC/G of 5.8.
  • One stat that provides evidence in his defensive improvement is in his range. Currently, Jose maintains a RF/9, or Range Factor per nine innings, of 4.95. This is an improvement based on his 2013 RF/9 of 4.75. Unfortunately, he will always be somewhat limited on range due to his small stature, but with proper positioning and smart decision making he can remain an adequate second baseman defensively.

Each of these stats provide evidence that Altuve is playing much better throughout the course of 2014 than he did throughout all of the 2013 season.

Now, will Altuve continue this level of play throughout the remaining 100 games of the season? That would be fantastic, but no one knows for sure. But it is clear he has stepped up his game from last season’s regression. Now that he is comfortable playing in the American League we should continue to see more improvement from Jose going forward.

Tell me what you think Astros nation! Should Jose Altuve be the front-runner for the Team MVP at this point, and will he represent the Astros in the upcoming All-Star game in July? It is an exciting time for the organization and should continue to only get better!

Tags: Houston Astros Jose Altuve

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