HomeTeamsAstrosHouston’s Heartbeat: Jose Altuve Continues To Power The Astros’ Offense

Houston’s Heartbeat: Jose Altuve Continues To Power The Astros’ Offense

Jose Altuve has been the heart of the Astros for as long as he’s been in the league. He’s seen the franchise lose 100 or more games in a row three times, and seen them win 100 or more games in a row three times. He’s won an MVP, an ALCS MVP, six Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, and has been an All-Star eight times. Earlier in his career, he recorded four-straight 200-hit seasons and won three batting titles. Late in his career, he’s become the Astros’ best player in the clutch during the postseason. Case in point: he hit three home runs in one game against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS, hit a miraculous game-tying home run that year in Game 5 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and of course, belted the walk-off two-run home run off of New York Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman to send the Astros to the World Series in 2019. Now, in 2024, Altuve is off to the best start of his storied career.

However, last season started off poorly for Altuve. Playing in the World Baseball Classic for Team Venezuela, he got hit on the right hand by a Daniel Bard pitch, breaking his right thumb. Altuve needed surgery on his right thumb; his first game of the regular season came on May 19th, the Astros’ 44th game of the year. The team had done well in his absence, going 24-19, in large part to Mauricio Dubon’s play at second base during that time. Altuve played admirably during the rest of the season, hitting .311 in 90 games with 17 home runs, 21 doubles, 57 RBIs, 14 steals, and 76 runs scored. He finished with 2.8 WAR, good for eighth on the team, and one spot ahead of Dubon, who finished the year with 2.7 WAR. The Astros won the American League West division title on the last day of the season. Altuve followed up his solid 2023 season with another steady postseason performance, collecting 14 hits in 11 games with four homers, three doubles, and six RBIs. He added another clutch postseason moment to a career full of them by hitting the go-ahead three-run home run off of Texas Rangers’ closer José Leclerc in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, giving the Astros a 5-4 victory in the game and a 3-2 lead in the series.

This past offseason, Altuve signed another contract extension with the Astros, a five-year deal worth $125 million, cementing himself as an Astro for the remainder of his career. The new deal will pay him through his age-39 season. About his time in Houston, Altuve said this during a news conference announcing his contract extension: “Houston is my home. I have obviously two homes. I grew up in Venezuela, my country. Every time I go there, I tell my wife, ‘Let’s go home.’ And when it’s time to come back, I tell her, ‘Let’s come back home.’ It’s good to have two places where you think you can live, where you can call home. We’re living the best life in Venezuela and in Houston.”

While he’s accomplished so much in his Astros career, Altuve is showing the baseball world that he still has more left in the tank. The 34-year-old is off to his best start in an Astros uniform, hitting .343/.406/.557 so far in his first 34 games of the season with an OPS+ of 178. Among all qualified major-league hitters, Altuve ranks eighth in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, and tenth in slugging percentage. He’s third in the majors with 48 hits (behind two Los Angeles Dodgers: designated hitter Shohei Ohtani with 52, and shortstop Mookie Betts with 50). He leads the Astros in doubles (9) and steals (7), and is tied for second in home runs (7). He also leads the team with 25 runs scored. Currently, he’s third on the team in WAR with 1.6, behind starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (1.7 WAR) and right fielder Kyle Tucker (1.8 WAR). During Friday’s 5-3 home win over the Seattle Mariners, Altuve stole his 300th base, becoming only the fifth player in MLB history to record 300 steals, 2,000 hits, 400 doubles, and 200 homers, while maintaining a career batting average over .300. The other four players are all Hall of Famers: Derek Jeter, Paul Molitor, Willie Mays, and Roberto Alomar.

How has Altuve managed to get off to the best start of his career? For starters, he’s near the top in some important Statcast categories; he’s in the 89th percentile in whiff percentage (16.1%) and in the 91st percentile in strikeout percentage (14.2%). His hard-hit percentage (36.2%) is the highest it’s been since 2018. Altuve’s line-drive percentage and fly ball percentages are at career-highs of 26.3% and 28.8% respectively, while his ground ball percentage is at a career-low 38.1%. His ISO is a remarkable .214. (The league average ISO is .157.) He’s pulling the ball more than he ever has before in his career, pulling the ball 45.8%, seven percent higher than last year. He’s also hitting to the opposite field a career-low 7.6%, which is five percent less than last year. Altuve has only recorded four hits to the opposite field this season, according to Statcast.

The only knock on Altuve’s offensive production this year is that he’s not hitting well with runners in scoring position. In 22 at-bats, Altuve has only five hits (a .227 batting average), including a double, and five RBIs. The Astros rank in the middle to bottom-half of the majors in most categories when hitting with runners in scoring position. They are 10th in hits (78), tied for 13th in batting average (.263), 19th in RBIs (99), and 24th in homers (6). The ball club is also 16th in on-base percentage (.328) and 20th in slugging percentage (.384). As Altuve gets more opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position, his numbers should undoubtedly start ticking upwards.

Regardless, the second baseman continues to prove his doubters wrong (if there are any left at this point). While the Astros look to make up ground on a so-far lost season, Altuve has done all he can offensively to carry the ball club. As the team looks to get some more firepower from their offense—especially from third baseman Alex Bregman and, as of late, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez—Altuve, along with shortstop Jeremy Peña and right fielder Kyle Tucker, will continue to lead the team with their consistent production at the plate. Altuve continues to be the engine of the offense. It’s only a matter of time until we see what the rest of the Astros’ offense (and the team’s pitching) can do to support him.


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