Our MVP of the Astros 2016 season should come as a surprise to nobody: Jose Altuve.
Altuve had a monster season this year. He led the AL in both batting average (.338) and in stolen bases (30). He was fifth in wRC+ (150 wighted runs created) and 5th in wOBA (.391), which are both catchall offensive analytics.
Perhaps the most impressive Altuve stat this season is his home run total of 24. After hitting just 21 home runs from 2011 to 2014, Altuve hit 24 this season, a tall feat for the shortest active player in the MLB.
This sort of consistent improvement has been the mantra for Jose Altuve’s career. Right when you think he can’t get any better, Altuve surprises and greatly improves some facet of his game, and this year it was power.
Altuve had one of the best seasons of any Astro ever. His 7.7 WAR (wins above replacement-level player) ranked 4th all-time for the Astros, and was the best individual season since Craig Biggio’s 1997 season when he posted a 9.7 WAR.
Jose Altuve was an absolute beast this year and a deserving MVP candidate, but it’s likely he won’t earn the respect he deserves. Playing for a non-playoff small market team this year will negatively impact his chances.
Earlier in the season there was an ongoing narrative that Altuve was the ‘cute’ MVP choice, and was less deserving than other power-hitters like Josh Donaldson or Mike Trout. That is blasphemous. Altuve led the AL in batting average by 20 whole points (Mookie Betts had the second highest at .318), while hitting for an unprecedented amount of power, stealing bases, and playing solid defense at second base.
If Altuve were on the Yankees or Red Sox he would be an ESPN and national media darling, considering his production and backstory. Altuve was a minor-league unknown, who only found his way on the Astros after his father encouraged him to tryout a second time at the Astros Venezuala facility after he was cut the first time for being too short.
Altuve is the ultimate underdog, and he just keeps getting better. He is a very worthy candidate for our 2016 Astros MVP, and furthermore a very deserving candidate for AL MVP. He is undoubtedly the current face of the franchise, and an inspiring leader to all lower level, long-shot Astros minor leaguers. He was Mr. Consistency in a largely volatile season, and his constant production helped keep the Astros in the playoff race all the way to late September.
His team’s performance and lack of exposure may prevent him from winning MVP, but that will do little to deter Altuve; he’ll return improved and hungry for an even better season in 2017.
Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of our Astros 2016 season review, where we will name our breakout hitter of the 2016 season.