About the last thing on Terry Francona’s mind these days is whether or not he’s getting into the Hall of Fame. Given that he’s a young 57 years old, he figures to have this gig for the foreseeable future.
That’s where we’re here to help. Only 22 managers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. One of these days, Francona will join their distinguished ranks.
His 1,381 regular-season victories are 30th on the all-time list, and he’s quickly approaching an assortment of Hall of Famers, including Earl Weaver (1,480) and Tommy Lasorda (1,599).
Francona’s two World Series victories put him in even more exclusive company: Only 10 managers have won more, including Giants skipper Bruce Bochy (three).
Perhaps most important is Francona’s 8-0 record in the World Series and his 35-19 postseason mark. Only six managers have won more postseason games, and that .648 winning percentage is third on the all-time list among managers with at least 30 postseason games. In front of him: Ned Yost (22-9, .710), Joe McCarthy (30-13, .698).
Comparing different eras is tricky given the additional rounds of postseason play in the modern era. But winning the World Series and winning on the game’s biggest stages stand any test of time.
It wasn’t just that he was one of baseball’s resplendent talents, although Jose Fernandez certainly was that.
His fastball routinely touched 97 mph. His slider was wicked, mid-80s, with a hard dip at home plate.
He broke bats and buckled knees, understanding the fear factor of facing someone who throws that hard and believes the inside portion of the plate belongs to him.
That’s the Jose Fernandez scouts first saw as a teenager in Tampa. He was the 14th pick of the 2011 Draft and threw his first big league pitch two years later at 20.
He made just 76 major league starts, averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and compiling a 2.58 ERA. No player had a brighter future.
His death at 24 in a weekend boating accident in South Florida is a stunning punch in the gut, not just to his teammates and friends, but to an entire sport.
And yet, what a lot of people will remember is not his blazing fastball or the career arc he was on.
Instead, they’ll remember that he was a happy young man filled with energy and joy.
He liked people. The Marlins will tell you that they’ve had few players as engaged with community and fans.
He signed autographs endlessly. He made appearances routinely, in hospitals and clubs and all the rest.
After being named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, he showed up to do a couple of MLB Network hits during the General Manager Meetings.
What struck those on the set that day was not that he was so gracious about winning the award, but how when it was over, he went around the room thanking the cameramen and producers for their work.
It was a simple gesture, really, but it stood out, that this 20-year-old kid took the time to say thanks.
He’d had a hellish time escaping Cuba, and perhaps because of that, appreciated his new country and all its possibilities.
Once in the Marlins clubhouse, he excitedly approached reporters to show photos he’d taken at a concert the night before.
He appreciated the life that baseball had given him and was determined to soak up every last ounce of it.
He was so animated on the mound and had such raging competitive fires that he sometimes rubbed opponents the wrong way.
But even they would admit that it was a great experience to watch him pitch. He brought so much energy and emotion to the job that it was impossible not to feed off him.
From the moment he arrived in 2013, the Marlins could see a bright and shiny future built around Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton.
No team had two players with a more impressive combination of talent, personality and relentless work ethic.
These will be tough, tough days, this final week for the Marlins. Fernandez’s death hits every player, coach and manager in the sport because the one thing these people appreciate is the sheer talent and the thrill of watching the kid continue to build on his accomplishments.
But it’s a devastating blow to the Marlins. Teams are like families. For nine months, they live with one another and support one another and kid with one another and all the rest.
His death creates a huge hole, especially emotionally. He will be missed every fifth day because of the talent he took to the mound.
But his absence will be felt every single day when his laughter and his smile are no longer there, when teammates are forced to see his locker, his uniform.
The Marlins will have an off-season to deal with their loss and grief, but the healing will take a lot longer than that.
He was such a rare talent, such a captivating personality. There haven’t been many like him. He will not be forgotten.
If you had tapped Terry Collins on the shoulder in Spring Training and told him how it would play out, he surely never would have guessed that his Mets would still be nicely position to return to the postseason on Labor Day.
To revisit: The Mets do not have David Wright, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda or Juan Lagares.
They will not have Wright, Harvey or Walker again this season. As for the others, stay tuned. Matz (shoulder) is the only one of the group not on the Disabled List.
The Mets have used 45 players, including 10 starting pitchers. Collins has started eight different third basemen, eight left fielders.
Yoenis Cespedes missed two weeks in August with a leg injury and is playing despite it down the stretch.
Every team knows injuries are part of the game, part of the process of preparing. That’s why all those bottom-of-the-roster signings and acquisitions sometimes end up being so important.
To be gutted, though, is something else. The Mets were built around those young starting pitchers. Nothing they could have done would have prepared them for losing the production they hoped to get from Harvey, Matz, deGrom and the others.
Well, there’s one thing. That would be to replace talented young pitching with more talented young pitching.
When the Mets most needed help, rookie starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman provided it. At a time when the Mets have won 11 of 15, those two have combined to go 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA.
And that’s why the Mets might just be the most amazing story in baseball. On this Labor Day, they’re a mere one game out in the race for the second NL Wild Card berth.
“We had different names on the backs of those young pitchers,” manager Terry Collins said. “Those young guys we had last year came up and really, really pitched well that last month. We’ve got a couple new ones, but they’re pitching very, very well for us.”
- That patchwork rotation has been baseball’s best the last 15 games, with an 8-4 record and 2.99 ERA.
- Noah Syndergaard has emerged from health injuries of his own to throw three of the best start of his career (2-1, 1.23) when his team needed him most.
- Offensively, the Mets have averaged 5.2 runs per game during this stretch.
- Cespedes and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera have 11 home runs in 15 games.
- Jay Bruce is 8 for 19 with 2 home runs, 4 RBIs in his last five games.
- Mets have homered 18 times the last 10 games and have hit at least one in 18 of 21 games.
- At various times, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson have made important contributions.
Regardless of how it plays out, Collins has to be enormously proud of his players for continuing to fight through the adversity.
Along the way, he has done himself proud for holding things together. Sometimes this stuff just can’t be explained. Pulled this way and that, disappointed again and again by injuries, they’ve somehow survived.
The Mets play 22 of their final 25 games against teams with losing record and have the easiest remaining schedule (.450 winning percentage) in the majors.
But that stuff isn’t always important in September. (The Cardinals have 16 of 27 games left against the Cubs, Pirates and Giants.)
It’s not who you are playing as much as how you are playing, how healthy you are and how fresh you are.
If the Mets somehow get past the Cardinals to put themselves in the NL Wild Card Game, they will have done the kind of thing players, coaches and managers remember forever.
Mark Teixeira is retiring, and his legacy will be that he was one of the best baseball players of his generation.
He was also so much more than that. He tried to do everything right. He prepared meticulously and relentlessly.
He prided himself on being a good teammate and on putting the bottom line in front of his personal accomplishments.
He was accountable on every level, a stand-up guy who deflected praise and accepted blame.
Teixeira understood that Major League Baseball had given him a platform he could use to make the world a better place.
He was involved in an array of charitable work, but his heart was in the Harlem charter school he helped build.
That school has a 95-percent graduation rate, and in part because of Teixeira’s work, countless kids had college doors opened for them.
His decision to retire at the end of this season will allow his career to be placed in a larger perspective.
Is he a Hall of Famer?
He’s in the conversation. He’s 55th on the all-time home run list with 404 and 123rd with 1,281 RBIs.
His 52.1 WAR is tied with Mickey Cochrane for 170th on the all-time list. He’s just in front of a handful of Hall of Famers, most notably Kirby Puckett and Orlando Cepeda.
Really, though, Teixeira had two distinctly different carers, which isn’t unusual. Before injuries to his back, wrist and legs began to take their toll, he was a monster of a player.
In his first nine seasons (2003-2011), he averaged 35 home runs, 36 doubles, 113 RBIs and a .904 OPS.
During those nine seasons, he was fifth among all players in home runs, sixth in doubles, fourth in RBIs and 15th in OPS.
He was also a three-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger winner and a five-time Gold Glove winner.
He never won an MVP Award, but finished second to Joe Mauer in 2009.
In the end, he was one of those guys who did the game proud. Whether that gets him into Cooperstown is a discussion for another time. Baseball was lucky to have him as long as it did.
Maybe Adrian Beltre saved an entire season for the Texas Rangers. Let’s revisit that one in a couple of months.
No team has had a bigger hit this season than Beltre’s game-winning walk-off home run Monday night that turned a 6-5 loss to the Athletics into a 7-6 victory.
Inside the clubhouse, the Rangers will tell you that’s exactly what they’ve expect of him. He’s a future Hall of Famer, one of the best third basemen ever.
To the Rangers, he’s that and a lot more. He’s their leader, their heart and soul. In the toughest times, he keeps things moving in the right direction.
Through a brutal few weeks, there was never a day when the Rangers looked liked they’d given up when everything, absolutely everything, was going against them. For Beltre to deliver in that situation validates so much about both the man and his career.
There’s an amazing larger story with these Rangers. Yes, they’ve had a tough few weeks, losing 15 of 19 at one point and going almost two weeks without getting a victory from a starting pitcher.
Their lead in the American League East had gone from 11 games to 2 1/2 when Beltre’s home run got it back to 3 1/2.
Problems here, problems there. First, the rotation was decimated by injuries and poor performances. In attempting to prop up his rotation, Rangers manager Jeff Banister risked burning out his bullpen.
And then as General Manager Jon Daniels was shopping for starting pitching—Chris Sale, Chris Archer, others—Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo got hurt.
Suddenly, he had fewer cards to play. How could he trade Jurickson Profar when Profar suddenly was a critical part of the offense? Stay tuned.
Here’s the amazing part of this story, the part of it that doesn’t get much play as we focus on the comings and goings of a pennant race.
The Rangers have just finished a stretch in which they played 29 of 39 games on the road. Despite all the problems, they did two amazing things in this stretch:
- They cobbled together a winning record (20-19).
- They remained in first place.
Now the Rangers can see a crack of sunlight. They’ve won three games in a row for the first time since late June and play 25 of 38 at home at a time when the Astros schedule gets tougher.
Are there still reasons to worry? Yes, absolutely. While the Rangers have the worst ERA in the majors the last month, the Astros have the best.
During the three-game win streak, only one starter finished six innings. In all, they allowed four earned runs in 16 1/3 innings. That’s not Cy Young stuff, but it’s better than they’ve been getting.
The hope is that Yu Darvish will stay healthy and productive. Even if Daniels acquires one starter—he almost certainly will—A.J. Griffin and Martin Perez must pitch well.
Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are wild cards. Both are on the Disabled List, and it’s unclear when either will return.
It’s a huge tribute to Banister’s leadership—and he would say, to Beltre’s and to others—that the Rangers have held it together.
Now they’re back home and have a winning streak to try and build upon. The AL West might be won in a month-long stretch beginning August 5 when the Rangers and Astros play nine times.
The Rangers have dominated the series, going 9-1 against the Astros this season and 22-7 the last two seasons.
In the end, it’s probably about the pitching. The Astros are getting the best pitching in the majors. The Rangers aren’t.
But they’ve survived. They’ve got Darvish back and just got acceptable performances from Griffin and Perez. That’s a breath of fresh air and maybe a start to something more.
The Yankees are fascinating on a whole bunch of levels. As you probably know, they’ve made a fundamental commitment to doing things a different way.
“I don’t believe we should have to have a $200-million payroll to win the World Series,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said.
This statement does not mean the Yankees won’t spend money. They will. Lots of it. More than almost any other franchise.
For this, they will not apologize.
Nor should they.
But the larger mission is to build a consistently productive player development system and to use big-ticket free agents to fill specific holes.
So last off-season, the Yankees toed a disciplined line. They got younger. They didn’t go crazy in free agency.
However, if they were to contend in 2016, they needed productive seasons from some of their older players.
What did C.C. Sabathia still have in the tank? Carlos Beltran? Jacoby Ellsbury? General manager Brian Cashman did a nice job adding young, athletic guys to his club the last two off-seasons, but those guys weren’t going to carry the load in 2016.
Back when the Yankees were 9-17 and in last place in the American League East, the season seemed to be coming undone.
The Yankees have been exactly what they hoped they could be. Since May 6, they’re 22-13 and have climbed back above .500 at 31-30.
They awake this morning over .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on April 13.
This run is tribute to manager Joe Girardi and his coaches, to the environment they created and to push ahead in a city where, well, the environment can be tough on a losing team.
That’s especially true of the Yankees, who’ve set the bar for winning in professional sports.
Back to the old guys.
At 35, C.C. Sabathia has figured it out. Again. He has regained some of his velocity and all of his command. Mixing in cutters and sinkers and curves with a nice changeup, he has fashioned six of the best weeks of his career.
His .087 ERA is leading the way for a rotation in which Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova are 9-2 during the run.
Let’s be honest. You didn’t think Sabathia had something like this in him, did you? He probably wondered himself.
He has set a high standard for production and professionalism. He has a high pitching aptitude as well.
To see someone make significant adjustments is a tribute to Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild for his guidance. It’s also a tribute to Sabathia’s tenacity and smarts.
And there’s 39-year-old Carlos Beltran.
He’s doing some nice work on a Hall of Fame resume with 12 home runs, 10 doubles, 34 RBIs and a .314 batting average since May 6.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner are all in the middle of nice runs.
Even Alex Rodriguez, who struggled so mightily early in the season, has gotten it going, hitting .317 this month.
And the Yankees are very much back in the conversation. They’ve gotten within 5 1/2 games of first place in the AL East and within a game of third-place Toronto.
Are the Yankees better than the Orioles and Red Sox? That’s a tough point to argue at the moment.
That’s also a discussion for another time. All that matters now is that the Yankees keep winning and regaining their footing.
There could be reinforcements coming from the minor leagues over the next few weeks, and Cashman is relentless in looking for upgrades outside the organization.
For now, they look like a team capable of making a second straight postseason appearance, and if they get there and have Masahiro Tanaka and Sabathia lined up and Beltran and A-Rod hot and…
Nah, forget about it.
Let’s enjoy the ride and see where it goes.
Old guys rule.
Miguel Cabrera had just been buzzed by a 97-mph fastball from Blue Jays relievers Robert Osuna. He hit the ground hard, got up slowly and took a couple of seconds to collect himself.
He didn’t seem to even glance at Osuna. What he did next speaks volumes about him on so many levels.
He didn’t scream at Osuna. He didn’t charge the mound. Instead, he got even in the ultimate way.
Two pitches after being knocked down, Cabrera turned another 97-mph fastball into a towering game-tying double off the wall in right-center in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Tigers rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, then won the game 3-2 in the 10th as part of a run that has them 30-29 and tied with the Royals for second place in the AL Central, three games behind the Indians.
Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland sometimes would scold reporters asking him to compare Cabrera to other players.
“Don’t even try,” he would say or something close.
Leyland wanted us to appreciate that we’re watching one of the best baseball players ever. There just aren’t many worthy of comparison.
Cabrera will step onto the field at Yankee Stadium on Friday with 2,399 career hits, the 124th-most in history.
Here’s the part of that number that’s so striking: At 33 years, 53 days, Cabrera will be the fifth-youngest player to collect 2,400 hits, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Every young player is a Hall of Famer: Ty Cobb (31 years, 177 days), Rogers Hornsby (32 years, 86 days), Hank Aaron (32 years, 198 days) and Robin Yount (33 years, 8 days).
He made his big league debut at 20, and in 14 seasons since, his resume includes 10 All-Star Games, a Triple Crown, two MVPs and five other top five MVP finishes.
He has four batting championships, and his .959 OPS is the 16th-highest of all-time, his .561 slugging 15th. He’s climbing the leaderboard in RBI (58th), doubles (58th), home runs (50th) and a string of other numbers.
There have been times in recent seasons when it was easy to wonder if he could still perform at an elite level.
His performance suffered at times as he attempted to play through a string of injuries. This season, though, he has played in all 59 Tigers games with 12 home runs, 12 doubles and a .904 OPS. He took a 10-game hitting streak into Friday’s game.
He has played in all 59 Tigers games this season and is showing he’s still capable of being one of the game’s elite players.
There’s something special about being able to watch a player that is going to be remembered as one of the best ever.
For this, we are the lucky ones.
One question lots of people are asking about the Phillies is whether or not they’re remarkable start is sustainable.
Let’s just enjoy the ride and all its possibilities. There’s no team in baseball more fun to watch than this one.
At 24-17, the Phillies are seven games above .500 for the first time since 2011, their most recent playoff season.
They’re tucked at the top of the NL East standings, a half game behind the first-place Nationals and a full game in front of the third-place Mets.
“Our confidence is through the roof,” catcher Cameron Rupp said.
They’re doing this despite a -28 run differential—seventh-worst in baseball—and an offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the majors.
Here’s how they’re winning:
1. 14-3 in one-run games. Only the Giants (9-5) have more.
2. Fifth-best rotation ERA (3.72) in the National League.
3. Seventh-best bullpen ERA (3.91).
4. Closer Jeanmar Gomez 16 for 17 in save chances. Right-hander Hector Neris 11 holds.
5. Neris and David Hernandez leading NL relievers in strikeouts—33 and 30. “Give us a lead, we feel like we’re not going to give up a run,” Hernandez said.
6. 13-8 against NL East.
7. Three walk-off victories.
Magic? Yeah, there’s some of that. But winning is winning is winning. Since an 0-4 start, the Phillies are 24-13. Since April 20, they’re 18-8.
They’re making every run count. They’re scored fewer than five runs in 20 of their last 22 games, but gone 15-7.
There’s something so cool about watching a bunch of kids win when almost no one outside of their own clubhouse thinks they’ve got a chance.
This is a reminder that teams who turn their roster over to young players have no idea what will happen.
“It’s crazy, but hey, why not?” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’re playing well. We’re pitching well. We’re playing good defense. We’re getting just enough runs to win. I’ll take it every time.”
Regardless of how this season turns out, the Phillies have so much young talent that their fans have every right to be optimistic.
There was already a feeling that things were headed in the right direction. In last year’s hiring of Andy MacPhail as president of baseball operations, the Phillies handed the keys to one of the game’s most respected and accomplished executives. He methodically put together a smart, innovative front office.
In Mackanin, the Phillies got a manager who is on his way to becoming a star in his own right.
Most nights, Mackanin runs out a lineup with four or five position players 26 or younger: third baseman Maikel Franco (23), left fielder Tyler Goeddel (23), center fielder Odubel Herrera (24), first baseman Tommy Joseph (24) and second baseman Cesar Hernandez (26).
Herrera has evolved into a true star in just his second full major league season. He impacts games in every way possible and has a .901 OPS.
But it’s the pitching that has been a difference maker. In Vincent Velasquez (5-1, 2.42 ERA) and Aaron Nola (3-2, 2.89), 24 and 23, the Phillies have two guys who have a chance to stabilize the rotation for years to come.
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is the oldest member of the rotation at 29. He’s 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and has jump-started his career after three tough seasons with the Rays and Diamondbacks.
Best of all, there’s room for growth, not just with the young guys on the team, but in a farm system about to deliver another wave of talent.
Right-hander Zach Eflin, 22, has a .810 WHIP at Triple-A, and two others, Mark Appel and Jake Thompson, appear to be on the fast track to the big leagues.
And there’s the top prospect in the system, 21-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford, who has a .760 OPS at Double-A.
Baseball is a relentlessly cruel sport, with a season long enough to expose every weakness. But teams like the Phillies, who keep on winning, something is revealed there as well.
“We believe that we belong here,” Rupp said. “We have 25 guys in this clubhouse who believe we can win. I think it’s shown.”
When the San Francisco Giants are on a roll like this, almost everyone in baseball seems to be struck by the same thought.
Uh oh, here they come.
That’s what happens when a franchise wins the World Series three times in six seasons—2010, 2012, 2014.
The Giants didn’t even make the postseason in 2011, 2013 and 2015. That’s the strange part of this deal.
In the last five seasons, seven teams have won more regular-season games than the Giants. The Cardinals (396) have 30 more victories than the Giants (366).
In the postseason, though, the Giants are 23-10 (.697). The Royals (22-9, .710) have a slightly higher winning percentage.
That’s a tribute to an organization that gets it on every level, beginning with team president Larry Baer and his top baseball executive, Brian Sabean.
These men are the gold standards for doing things right in baseball, whether it’s the environment at AT&T Park or constructing a winning club.
And there’s that manager, Bruce Bochy, who has 1,726 regular-season victories–16th on the all-time list–and three championships.
There are 22 managers in the Hall of Fame. Bochy will be there shortly after he decides he has had enough.
In terms of communication, getting a cohesive effort and managing a bullpen, there surely has never been anyone better.
Bochy would be the first to tell you that having players like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, that being part of an organization that produces Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, etc., have been critical to his success.
During Spring Training, he marveled at the way his players welcomed new players into their clubhouse, how all that mattered was the bottom line, that is, playing smart and winning.
Most nights, the Giants are the only team on the planet that runs out a lineup with an entirely homegrown infield: 3B Matt Duffy, SS Crawford, 2B Joe Panik, 1B Belt and C Posey.
“They have such pride in wearing the Giants uniform,” Bochy said.
Those of us on the outside never really understand this sort of thing. Some discount it completely.
I once asked Jack Morris if we made too much of chemistry and teamwork and that stuff.
“I think you make too little of it,” he said.
There were plenty of questions about these Giants. Even after a $251-million spending spree for Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, there were unknowns:
1. What did Matt Cain have left in the tank? In the previous two seasons, he’d made just 26 starts with a 4.83 ERA.
Could he come close to being the guy who was 55-35 with a 2.93 ERA between 2009 and 2012? In those four seasons, he was a monster, averaging 220 innings and 180 strikeouts.
2. Would a reconfigured bullpen be as good as the one that was so good in the championship years?
3. Finally, could Bumgarner, Posey, Hunter Pence, etc., continue to play at a championship level as they got older?
So far, so good.
The Giants just won their sixth straight road game and today can complete a 7-0 trip for the first time in 103 years.
Since finishing the last home stand with a walk-off victory over the Blue Jays, the Giants are 7-0. In this time, the starting rotation is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA.
Cain has allowed three earned runs in 15 innings in his last two starts. Cueto and Bumgarner just pitched the franchise’s first back-to-back complete games in 14 years.
Meanwhile, the bullpen has done fine, going 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA.
Offensively, the Giants are hitting just .237 during the winning streak, but with that kind of pitching, it hasn’t mattered.
The Giants have gained three games in the NL West standings during the winning streak, going from one game out to a 2 1/2-game lead.
The Dodgers and Rockies are both 2 1/2 back. The Dodgers have had a remarkable first half considering all the injuries, and the Rockies may have enough young pitching to hang around.
When the Giants are done with the Padres tonight, they’ll return to AT&T Park for a weekend series against the Cubs.
The place will be packed, but then it always is. The crowds will be loud, but they always are.
It’ll be a good checkpoint to see what the team who is playing the best at the moment can do with the team that has the best record in the majors.
But the way things are going, we might just see a lot more Giants-Cubs this season, and won’t that be fun?
Jose Altuve is the AL Co-Player of the Week, and once more reminds us that greatness comes in all shapes and sizes.
Jose Altuve spoils us. Again and again. With his quickness. With his instincts. With his relentless desire to be great. If you drew up everything you’d want in a baseball player, he might look exactly like Jose Altuve.
You’d throw in some added hunger which is a byproduct of having been told he wasn’t good enough. Remember that the Astros, like every other team, sent Altuve away from his first tryout camp in Venezuela. Only after they took another look were they able to focus on what he was instead of what he wasn’t.
To make the most difficult game on earth look so easy is an incredible accomplishment. And Altuve has been so good for so long that we take him for granted.
When the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade last season, we were so taken by Carlos Correa’s gifts and Dallas Keuchel’s greatness that it was easy to overlook the little guy.
Now about that. Altuve is 5-foot-6. This has hindered him, but not in the way you think. Sure, it kept some teams from signing him.
Beyond that, his height became the focus of his early seasons with the Astros. ESPN almost made him famous, but in concentrating on that one thing, it was easy to overlook that this is a really good baseball player.
Scouts say you can watch hitters for a long time and not see another one with hands as quick as Altuve’s. He simply has the God-given ability to get the bat into the hitting zone faster than others.
He led the American League in hits and stolen bases for a second straight season. He also hit 15 home runs, which is more than twice as many as he’d ever hit before.
That additional power is part of the continuing evolution of his game, which should be no surprise to anyone know who knows how badly he wants to continue to improve and to walk away as one of the great hitters ever.
He won that first batting title two years ago and is still only 25 years old. But in the first two weeks of this young season, he has been better than ever before.
He’s way more selective at the plate, which is reflective of a .397 OBP. His OPS is 1.024, also the highest of his career.
Given that he’s more selective at the plate, he’s putting himself into more hitter-friendly counts. As a result, he has four home runs already and a .627 slugging percentage.
He hit .208 on the Astros opening road trip to New York and Milwaukee. When the club came home, he got hot, and in seven games against the Royals and Tigers, he batted .407.
For that, he was named AL Co-Player of the Week with Orioles OF Mark Trumbo. Altuve also had three doubles, three home runs and two stolen bases.