Whenever I write my monthly second-base rankings, I find myself awestruck by how much better Jose Altuve is than any other option at the position. This usually leads me down an Altuve-based statistical rabbit hole, and today I’d simply like to invite you to join me, as I explore the reasons why the 26-year-old is the most productive 2016 fantasy bat to date. (Yes, he’s seriously producing better than the likes of Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, and David Ortiz in traditional 5×5 formats.)
First off, let’s compare the man to himself. Just 92 games into the season, his 15 home runs already equal last year’s career high. With 70 runs and 54 RBI, he’s on pace to shatter his career marks in both categories, which were also set last year (86 R, 66 RBI). He’s hitting .346, even better than the .341 he hit in 2014, when he won the American League batting title.
He’s already drawn more walks (42) than in any of his previous four full seasons. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, isolated power — all are miles beyond anything he’s done before. His 4.7 wins above replacement already tops last year’s 4.3 WAR.
Even by his own high standards, Altuve is having an absolutely ridiculous season. Comparing him to other second basemen isn’t fair. Even with Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cano, Ben Zobrist and Ian Kinsler all having excellent fantasy seasons in their own right, the gap between those guys and Altuve is significant.
So, instead of focusing on second-sackers, let’s talk about some of the ways Altuve is better than everyone else — or at least finds himself in elite company. Sometimes, it’s easy to take great players for granted, and what makes Altuve so special is the incredible variety of ways in which he excels at this game. I don’t remotely mean for this to be comprehensive; more of a collection of fun facts, if you will.
2016 ALTUVE DOMINANCE FACTORS:
- More hits (125) than any other player in baseball.
- Four qualified hitters have more walks than strikeouts this season: Bryce Harper, David Ortiz, Altuve and Ben Zobrist.
- Only two players — Jonathan Villar (33) and Starling Marte (32) — have more stolen bases than Altuve (24). While Altuve is an admittedly distant third, his 88.9% SB success rate is better than either Marte (84.2%) or Villar (75%).
- Altuve is one of six players with at least 15 homers and 15 steals. The others are Mookie Betts, Ian Desmond, Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Melvin Upton Jr.
- On a similar note, there are eight players with at least 15 homers and ten infield hits so far in 2016. Guess who’s one of those eight players? Yeah, it’s Jose Altuve. The full list, in case you’re interested: Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Nelson Cruz, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez, Wil Myers, George Springer. If someone could put together a highlight video of Nelson Cruz’s ten infield hits, it would be very much appreciated.
- There’s no better way to get a guy out than to get him down 0-2 in the count, right? Even that doesn’t work against Altuve! In plate appearances in which he finds himself down 0-2, he’s hitting .283/.333/.358. Statistically, a league-average hitter stepping into a 0-0 count is just barely more productive than Altuve is when he’s already two strikes in the hole. That is ridiculous.
- Let’s reverse that, shall we? What happens when pitchers get behind Altuve 2-0? Complete and total annihilation, that’s what. Here’s his numbers through a 2-0 count this year:
- .578/.712/1.000, .422 ISO, 13:1 BB/K, .651 wOBA
2016 ALTUVE WEAKNESSES, OF WHICH THERE ARE FEW:
- Runs into outs too often, which is a big part of why he’s “only” the No. 5 player in runs scored this year.
- This is a weird one! Altuve’s grounded into 12 double plays so far, which is 11th-most in baseball. Altuve’s 24 steals outnumber the ten players ahead of him on that list combined (20).
So, like I said, I don’t particularly have a specific message with this content, other than to enlighten you on some of the more remarkable aspects of Jose Altuve’s wonderful season. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and appreciate the ways in which baseball’s best players earn that distinction.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.