Sunday, October 6, 2013

Exit Music (For a Player): Jose Altuve

We start off our series of looking at the Astros one-by-one at the top of the alphabet with Altuve, Jose.

Acquired: March 6, 2007 - signed as an amateur free agent

152 games played, 672 PAs, .283/.316/.363, 89 OPS+
Baseball-Reference WAR: 1.0
FanGraphs WAR: 1.3
Walk Percentage: 4.8%
Strikeout Percentage: 12.6%

Altuve suffered a dropoff in every major offensive category (except RBI). Coming off his sophomore season in 2012, where he hit .290/.340/.399 (101 OPS+), Altuve was more aggressive with fewer results in 2013. He swung at more pitches outside the zone (a 7.1% increase over 2012) and overall (4.8% increase), making less overall contact (3.5% decrease from 2012 and a 2.0% increase in his swinging strike rate).

Altuve's numbers were salvaged by a strong opening and a strong closing. In April, Altuve hit .330/.374/.437 with nine extra-base hits, and 16 strikeouts in 123 plate appearances. In September, Altuve caught fire again, hitting .357/.378/.461 with ten extra base hits and eight strikeouts in 121 PAs. In between, his OPS was never over .642 for an entire month, though there needs to be some context here.

From Opening Day to May 12, Altuve hit .336/.373/.447 with 20 strikeouts in 166 plate appearances. And then on May 13, not only did Jimmy Paredes barrel into Altuve and almost break his jaw, but his grandmother passed away. It's an arbitrary endpoint, but from when he returned until August 31, Altuve hit .237/.272/.296 with 57 strikeouts in 384 plate appearances. As we wrote in July, there's an emotional side of baseball that we don't often consider.

In July, Altuve signed a four-year guaranteed deal with two option years that will see Altuve make $1.2m in 2014.

What went well:
*His fielding was much better. FanGraphs rated his fielding prowess a -13.4 in 2012. In 2013 he raised that to -2.1.
*When ahead in the count, Altuve improved his .900 OPS under said split in 2012 to .942 in 2013.
*When batting in high-leverage situations, Altuve hit .298/.355/.383 in 2013 (112 PAs), up from his .253/.284/.313 line in 2012 (89 PAs).

What didn't:
*Altuve led the AL and was tied for 2nd in all of MLB in getting thrown out stealing, with 13.
*While still putting together a perfectly average .287/.325/.409 line against LHP, that regressed from the .394 BABIP he enjoyed against LHP in 2012, when he hit .359/.405/.506.
*August. In 115 plate appearances, Altuve hit .200/.226/.264. That .490 OPS is the lowest in a calendar month for Altuve in his short career.