Houston Astros Second Baseman Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve is the face of the Houston Astros
Whitey Herzog wouldn't know what to do these days, the running game in baseball is really down. There are no Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman type players in the game. This takes nothing away from Jose Altuve, perhaps he will inspire some people. He's certainly inspiring to me, and in several ways.
What am I even talking about? Well, Whitey Ball is a subject for a different day, but in short, Whitey Herzog managed a team of players dominated by people like Jose Altuve. Hitters who make contact very often, and hit for high averages, and steal a lot of bases. Who needs a home run when you have a team of hitters who hit singles, and then steal second base?
Houston doesn't have that kind of team, but they might grow one. They've got Altuve, and he is the face of the Houston Astros at this point in time, and probably will be for some years to come.
Jose Altuve steals another base
Base stealing players like Jose Altuve disrupt the minds of pitchers and catchers
Base stealing, as a part of the game, seems to be in decline. Altuve has led the American League in stolen bases each of the last two seasons. As a fan, I'd love to see more competition for the crown in base stealing. Altuve has also twice led the American league in caught stealing.
The base stealing threat is more than just something to statistically think about for its possible runs manufactured, the base stealing threat is a psychological threat to the opposing team's pitcher. The catcher can get rattled by the base thief threat too, as he's got to be thinking about gunning the ball to second or third base without throwing it into the outfield. You can bet the pitcher is also worried about the catcher and his accurate throw too, nobody likes having runs or loses charged to their records as a pitcher.
Jose Altuve - Gigante
Jose Carlos Altuve is a force of nature. They nicknamed him Gigante, and not entirely in jest. You see, Jose stands but five feet and six inches tall. But on the baseball diamond, his performance is often Gigante in relation to the game's outcome.
He has led the American League each of the past two seasons in total hits, and bases stolen. In 2014 he won the batting title too. He hit .341 that year, and don't be surprised should he win another batting title in 2016. He is the best lead-off man in the American League. He's also competing year in and year out now for being the best second baseman for his fielding. Going into 2016, he is only 25 years old. So you're looking at the next six or seven years of Jose Altuve, barring major injury, possibly becoming even better than he's already shown himself to be. He is Gigante, indeed.
Jose Altuve was once a long shot, now he's a sure thing
There are plenty of authoritative websites that say Jose is not five foot six, but five foot five. He is unquestionably the shortest player in the Major Leagues. So you figure he would lead the leagues in walks every year, right? Wrong. Jose is a free swinging sonofagun, and he doesn't swing and miss too often. He makes a lot of contact, and makes a lot of things happen.
Initially, Jose had been passed over by the Astros scouting people for being too short. He wasn't daunted by this, and was encouraged by his family to keep in pursuit of his dreams. Singed by the Astros in 2007 for a very low sum of $15 thousand, Jose was considered a long shot.
He isn't considered a long shot any more. Jose Altuve has the job at second base for the Houston Astros locked up as tight as a job can ever be locked up. Barring a serious injury, the job is his for the foreseeable future, but Jose earned it. It didn't come easy. Major League scouts scout on the body as often as not. 5 foot 5 inches? That is not what they're looking for. And so many high draft choices never see themselves to a starting position. So scouts don't always know what is what.
Both Texas Big League second basemen are from Venezuela
Altuve is from Venezuela, same as the other Major League second baseman playing for a Texas team, Rougned Odor. In 2007 Altuve would play in the Venezuelan summer league, but the next season he would play in the United States. By 2009 he was putting up the kinds of numbers he would as a starter for the Houston Astros. In 2010 he was still just playing class A ball, but he was playing so well he'd be promoted soon. In 2011 he would be the minor league Player of the Year for the Houston Astros.
In 2011 Jose Altuve would both represent the Astros in the minor league All Star futures game, and get promoted to the Big League club. He got hits in each of his first 7 Major League games. He also showed off his speed by getting his first Big League home run as an inside the park homer. After playing about half a season for the Astros in the Major Leagues, Jose would return to Venezuela and play ball there in the fall and winter. No one can question Jose's dedication to his craft. He'll play year round to make his mark if he needs to.
Jose Altuve is a small man who's swings produce big results
Jose Altuve becomes Houston's second baseman for the foreseeable future
If you tally up Jose's entire 2011 baseball playing statistics, they're rather amazing. In 898 total plate appearances combining his stats for the Astros organization and Venezuelan leagues, he hit 282 base hits. It didn't just up and happen that Altuve led the American League in total hits for 2014 and 2015. But in 2014 it was more than that, Jose Altuve led the entire Major Leagues in hits that season.
In May of 2012 Jose would become a part of an obscure fact of Major League baseball. Baseball is a game of statistics, and the love of statistics is everywhere. All statistics are analyzed and valid in some form or fashion in the MLB. On the first day of May Jose would go to bat against Jon Rauch, who was the tallest pitcher in Big League history. He stood six feet and eleven inches, making him an inch taller than Randy Johnson. Jose, at just five foot and five inches, was a full 18 inches shorter than the pitcher. So this marked the greatest differential in height in MLB history, with the lone exception being a publicity stunt, and not an honest bit of competition between professional athletes.
In 2013 Jose wasn't yet the player he'd become, but he'd become a rich man for the player he already was. Jose was good in 2013, very good, but significantly less good than he proved to be later. Anyway, the Astros organization realized then he was the second baseman they wanted for the future, and they gave him a nice large contract. Four years for $12.5 million dollars, but there are additional goodies also involved, but outside of those specific figures. In any event, the one time long shot for the Big Leagues is now a rich man.
A consummate athlete, Jose Altuve in action
Jose Altuve's breakout 2014 season
It was the 2014 season where Jose Altuve broke out big in the MLB. He had at least 130 hits and 40 stolen bases before the All Star game. Though his totals would decline significantly during the second half of the season, the year put every pitcher in Big League baseball on notice, Jose Altuve was a serious threat both at the plate and on the base paths.
Because Jose was given a spot on the 2012 All Star team when the Astros were still in the National League, and he was again given a spot in 2014, Altuve was then the only player in MLB history to make the All Star team for both American and National leagues while staying on the same team. Yes, such weird distinctions absolutely matter in Major League Baseball, and for its history. Before the season was done, Altuve would break Hall of Famer Craig Biggio's franchise record for base hits, which was 210. Jose would up the mark to a very impressive 225 total hits for the season. He also became the first Astros player to win a league batting title.
Jose Altuve 2015 and beyond
Jose would have a less statistically impressive season in 2015, but Jose is a player not yet in his athletic prime. There is always a learning curve going on in baseball. Batters learn how to hit, pitchers learn how to adjust to the batter to get him out, and the cat and mouse game goes on and on and on until someone retires. Jose won't be retiring any time in the near future.
He started at second base for the American League in the 2015 All Star game. He passed Craig Biggio again for the fastest Astro to reach 800 career hits. He became both the first Astros player to get 200 or more hits in consecutive seasons, and the first player from Venezuela to do so. Jose Altuve hit 15 home runs in 2015. You may think of the man as small, but he is built very very powerfully. Do not be surprised if he learns how to look for his pitch, and jack it to left, and over the fences more and more often, he is a terrific hitter who makes contact more often than not.
Back to Jose as a second baseman. In 2015, Jose led the American League in fielding percentage at second base. His .993 fielding percentage ranked first. He won his first gold glove in 2015, and his second silver slugger. Expect more great productivity from Jose Altuve, the face of the Houston Astros. Thanks for reading.