At writing, the Houston Astros have played 29 games. Coming into the year, the expectation was that, by this point, the Astros would be something like 5-24. Instead, they're 13-16, with a positive run differential. The Astros haven't been good, but they've been a lot better than people thought they would be. They've been a legitimate baseball team! They have just about as good a run differential as the Tampa Bay Rays!
I've been meaning to write about Jose Altuve for a couple of weeks now, but with Ryan espousing the virtues of Starlin Castro, this seems like the perfect time to talk about Altuve. Why does an article about the Cubs shortstop lead to a follow-up article about the Astros second baseman? Because Castro and Altuve are essentially the exact same player.
You’d be hard pressed to find two more similar batting lines between any two players in baseball. Castro’s numbers are fractionally higher across the board, but after you adjust for the falling league average during the times they’ve been in the league (average wOBA was .321 in 2010, .316 last year, and .313 this year), Altuve’s line is marginally better. In reality, though, the differences are so small that the best description of their performances is that they’re pretty much the same.
There are more words - plenty more words - all leading up to the big finish:
Before the season started, we wondered if the 2012 Astros were going to be one of the worst teams we've seen in recent history. Thanks in large part to the success of Jose Altuve (and his double play partner Jed Lowrie, but that's another post), the Astros are actually a respectable 13-16 and are giving their fans reasons for optimism. Altuve might not yet be a household name, but he's on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate young star that the Astros can build around.
Altuve is freshly 22 years old. He's been an above-average hitter in the middle infield. If the Astros' 2012 season is all about identifying players who could help the next good Astros team in the future, then it looks like they've got a building block in Altuve. And perhaps in Lowrie, and perhaps in J.D. Martinez, and ... well Altuve is the most exciting guy so let's think about him some more. Altuve's got the right blend of youth and ability to project as a star.