Despite being the best player on the resurgent Houston Astros for the last few years, Jose Altuve has been overlooked in voting circles.
In 2014, the once-moribund Astros showed signs of life by winning 19 more games than they won in 2013 (despite managerial mistake Bo Porter running things without rhyme or reason) thanks largely to Altuve’s efforts: he led the American League in hits, batting average, and steals, all while putting up a WAR of 4.8. To rewards his nearly solo offensive output, he finished 13th in AL MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger.
In 2015, Altuve once again turned in an exceptional season (leading the AL in At Bats, hits, and steals), led Houston to its first postseason appearance since the Astros were thumped by the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. He improved his fielding dramatically, (improved defensive War from -10.1 to 5.4 and took home a Golden Glove), added another Silver Slugger, and for all that finished 10th in AL MVP voting. (It must also be noted that Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout went absolutely berserk for their respective teams and posted unreal WARs (8.7 and 9))
And in 2016, Altuve has shown even more growth as a player: his ISO (power measurement) has grown for a fourth straight year, and currently sits at .205 to pair with his 15 homers; His walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate; He’s posting the best UZR/150 of his career (he’s playing the best defense at second he’s ever played); and his wRC+ is a bananas 156. The man is behind only Trout and Donaldson in WAR in the AL, and ranks fourth in the Major Leagues in WAR behind Trout, Donaldson, and human earthquake Kris Bryant.
Altuve is picking up the slack from Carlos Correa, who is battling a sophomore slump, and leads the AL in steals, hits, and games played. He’s the top dog of this Houston team, the best player on a team of phenomenal players – which one can’t say about Josh Donaldson, whose teammates include Edwin Encarnacion (whose 81 RBI at the All-Star break is just filthy), Joey Bats, Troy Tulowitzki, and the out-of-nowhere Michael Saunders.
And again, the Astros can and probably will make the playoffs. They might even be able to take the AL West if they turn up the heat in the second half of the season, which one cannot say about Mike Trout’s Angels – they’re over 10 games back from the Astros with no signs of turning anything around.
Truly, this could be a magical season for the young Altuve, who keeps improving his game every season he plays. He’s carrying the load for the Astros, offensively and defensively, and he’s just a fantastic player to watch. Personally, I don’t think a player can be judged by just Sabremetrics, the Eyeball Test, or by team play – I think of mix of the three can lead to an honest testament of the player’s all-around worthiness, and for me this season Jose Altuve stands head and shoulders above his competition.
Not literally. He’s only 5’6. He takes baths in a thimble.