So far the 2017 MLB season has been one of the more fun ones in recent memory. Despite some of the game’s brightest starts missing big stretches of time like Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson, these and other superstars have been putting on quite the show this season.
After overcoming a mediocre final five months in 2016, Bryce Harper has regained his 2015 MVP form hitting .336/.441/.634.
Two previously overlooked 3B, Jose Ramirez and Justin Turner, have inserted themselves into their respective MVP races hitting .322/.377/.569 and .369/.463/.569.
Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto are having some of their best seasons ever hitting .308/.427/.561 and .298/.419/.582.
Corey Seager and Mookie Betts have not backed down from their top three MVP finishes from a year ago, both using good offense and great defense to be top 10 in fWAR.
Rookie sensations Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are breaking franchise rookie records and aiming for more than just Rookie of the Year awards.
Teammates Carlos Correa and George Springer are a huge part of the driving force for the Astros, 8th and 9th in fWAR this season, turning themselves into MVP candidates.
However, the player that seems to be getting far less recognition than he deserves is the teammate of Correa and Springer. This is the man who just took over the MLB lead in fWAR from Aaron Judge last night, 2B Jose Altuve.
Jose Altuve’s 2017
#Astros Jose Altuve batting average:
Last 59 games: .412
Last 48 games: .434
Last 31 games: .469
Last 21 games: .511
Last 15 games: .544
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) July 25, 2017
Jose Altuve is a hitting machine. As seen above, from The Ace Of Spaeder Twitter account (a must follow for Baseball fans), Altuve has been hitting out of his mind! Going back his last 59 games, Altuve is hitting .412/.474/.655 with 10 HR, 24 2B, and 12 SB. Going back his last 21 games, he is hitting an absurd .511/.554/.744 with 4 HR, 9 2B, and 9 SB.
Altuve’s overall season has him hitting .365/.431/.574 with 15 HR, 30 2B, 21 SB, a 172 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR. The chart below shows his rank in several statistical categories:
So meanwhile Aaron Judge has been leading in fWAR since Trout went down and getting most of the headlines, Jose Altuve has been biding his time and quietly putting up a monster season of his own.
Nothing New For Altuve
As excellent as Altuve has been in 2017, this isn’t exactly a first for him. Going back to 2014, Altuve hit .341/.377/.453 with 56 SB and a 5.1 fWAR. He followed that up by hitting .313/.353/.459 with 38 SB and 4.5 fWAR in 2015. Last season he upped his power game hitting .338/.396/.531 with another 30 SB. But even better he put up a career high 24 HR and career high 6.7 fWAR.
In fact, going from 2014-present, Altuve isn’t just a superstar, he is a 5’6” juggernaut. In that time, Mike Trout leads baseball in fWAR at 30.1, with Josh Donaldson a good amount behind in second place at 24.2 fWAR. But who follows these two? Is it Bryce Harper? Buster Posey? Paul Goldschmidt? Manny Machado?
No, it is Jose Altuve at 21.8 fWAR.
Once again we see Altuve near or at the very top of some significant statistical categories here. Not only does he lead in BA, 2B, and H, he leads in BA and H by an insane margin. The next closest BA in that time frame is Michael Brantley more than .020 points away at .314. It gets even more comical by hits, with Charlie Blackmon in second place more than 100 hits behind at 668! Altuve is an absolute hitting machine.
American League Most Valuable Player Award
In his career to this point, Jose Altuve has placed 13th in voting in 2014, 10th in voting in 2015, and then all the way up to 3rd in voting in 2016. In 2017, with his biggest obstacles Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson both having missed about 40 or so games, this could be Altuve’s year to shine.
Of course, even with Trout and Donaldson essentially out of the picture, the path is nowhere near clear to the MVP. Altuve still has to contend with the most popular story of 2017, the real life behemoth in Aaron Judge. After all, it was just yesterday that Altuve was able to overtake Judge with a bit of a slump post All-Star break to help him. The next closest AL players in fWAR to these two are Mookie Betts at 4.5, then Correa and Springer at 4.0. Even then Jose Ramirez is lurking just behind them with 3.8 fWAR.
Going forward, here are the rest of season projections by Steamer for these players:
Altuve – .317/.374/.488 7 HR 15 2B 10 SB 132 wRC+ and 1.8 fWAR
Judge – .260/.359/.505 13 HR 8 2B 127 WRC+ and 1.5 fWAR
Betts – .306/.371/.524 10 HR 15 2B 9 SB 133 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR
Correa – Currently injured, Steamer only projects 8 more games, taking him out of the race.
Springer – .274/.367/.508 13 HR 11 2B 136 wRC+ and 1.9 fWAR
Ramirez – .296/.356/.470 7 HR 15 2B 7 SB 118 wRC+ and 1.7 fWAR
If Altuve can pull off these rest of season projections, he will be in a great position to take home the 2017 AL MVP. If he does indeed play that well, his overall stats would put him at .347/.410/.541 22 HR 45 2B 31 SB 157 wRC+ and 7.4 fWAR.
Baseball’s Second Best Position Player
As we have seen this season, there are plenty of excellent position players in the MLB. Mike Trout is not only the best position player in baseball by a wide margin, but the best player overall. Much like Clayton Kershaw when it comes to pitchers, Trout is the one that players aim to one day overtake.
But when it comes to the spot after Trout, there is a lot of very good competition from players like Harper, Donaldson, Bryant, Goldschmidt, Machado, Betts, and more players coming for the title each new year. However, I believe at this point, you can say with total confidence that the only player better than Jose Altuve is Mike Trout.