TCB Astros Hitter of the Month for June

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston fell back to earth after a sterling May. Who was June's best hitter?

I really am an idiot.

Just last week, I wrote this about Jonathan Villar:

He also shows why Marwin Gonzalez won't be starting soon at shortstop, nor why Houston will send him down in favor of Ronald Torreyes or Kike Hernandez or anyone else. How many shortstops do you know who can put up slugging percentages of .500 or better?

The answer is one. In 2013 and 2014 (so far), only Troy Tulowitzski managed a SLG over .500. If you have a guy with even the chance of developing into a second name on that list, you give him all the rope in the world. That's why Villar stays with the team for the rest of the season and that's why Villar gets most of the starts at shortstop. Let him work out of his slump and hope some of that power potential continues to emerge.

Less than a week later, he's down in the minors and Mr. Gamebreaker is starting at short. The same thing happened shortly after I gave Robbie Grossman the Hitter of the Week award. Same with Marc Krauss. Did Jesus Guzman really deserve three honorable mentions?

Yet, the top of the list still looks good. Those are the three best hitters the Astros have had this season. Notice, though, that Jon Singleton hasn't appeared on the list once. That would be worrisome if we hadn't already established that I'm an idiot.

The reason I look so bad so often in these pieces is I fall into the same trap we are all warned against. I fall for small sample sizes. I try to extrapolate tiny week-long samples and make a big thing of it. Like that time I thought Matt Dominguez had fixed his walk rate. Wrong! Or that Villar's power would keep him on the roster. Wrong! Or that Marc Krauss was good at baseball. Wrong!

I feel pretty good about this week's choices. I'll try not to make any crazy statements on their futures, okay? Just so long as you forget that time I gave an honorable mention to Trogdor.

Honorable mentions

George Springer

There's power in power. Springer put up a very Springer-ian line of .227/.369/.455 this month with six home runs and a whopping 35 percent strikeout rate. He also had the second-highest non-Keuchel walk rate on the team (14.4 percent) AND stole two bases. Even with his paltry batting average, Springer had the third-highest wRC+ on the team at 128 and the third-highest wOBA at .357.

All of that is likely due to his power. Eight of his 20 hits last month went for extra bases. Thirty percent of them went over the fence, including that mammoth shot to left field Monday and the other mammoth shot out to the Five-Seven Grille in right center.

That's what got him intentionally walked twice Sunday against Detroit and what gives him value, even when he's striking out at Trogdor-ian levels.

Dexter Fowler

Fowler's line of .303/.392/.494 in June is more on par to what the Astros probably thought they were getting when they traded for the center fielder last winter. Fowler had three home runs last month with six doubles and one triple in 102 plate appearances. He also came very close to the coveted .300/.400/.500 batting line.

Of course, he had to follow that up with a trip to the disabled list for an injury that sidelined Anthony Bass for seven weeks. The only part of Fowler's game that hasn't shown up as expected is his speed. But, with Jose Altuve providing plenty of that and Fowler hitting ahead of actual power hitters like Springer and Jon Singleton, stealing might not be as big a deal.

Winner

Jose Altuve

Back in 2008, an Astros second base prospect named Matt Cusick hit .400 for the entire month of April at Lexington. He carried his lofty batting average into May. I was convinced Houston had uncovered a hidden gem. He wasn't going to hit .400 forever, but he was obviously a start in the making.

Three months later, I was convinced they had made a "Zobrist-for-Huff"-level mistake in trading him to the Yankees for LaTroy Hawkins.

Even back then, I was an idiot.

I bring this up because another Astros second baseman hit over .400 for a solid month. This guy is

Richard Justice made a great point about Altuve the other morning on SportsTalk 790's show with Adam Clanton and Lance Zierlein. He said that hitting coach John Mallee and Altuve have worked out a regimen that involves two sets of hitting drills before retiring to watch tape before a game. With that study, they try limit a pitcher to two pitches. All the others, Altuve fouls off. He focuses on those two and tries to drive the best one he sees.

Simple approach, right? Every hitter should do this, right? Not all have the hand-eye coordination of Altuve, which Mallee called the best he's ever seen.

This approach may explain Altuve's sudden drop in strikeout rate, as Altuve only struck out four times in June. That's four times in 103 plate appearances. His season strikeout rate of 6.3 percent officially makes him the toughest guy to strike out in baseball, just nudging lower than Victor Martinez.

Much like Cusick, Altuve isn't likely to hit .411/.447/.495 for the rest of the season. Heck, I'm surprised he did that over a full month. Altuve is also likely not to steal 17 bases in a single month again. That's just the second time an Astro has stolen 17 or more bases in a single month and the first since Gerald Young swiped 18 bags in 22 tries in May 1988.

Altuve, though, wasn't caught once.

His season projections now show him with 58 steals and 209 hits. Only one Astros (Craig Biggio, 1998) has gotten 210 or more hits in a season. Only five players in Astros history have stolen as many bases in a season and only two have done it since 1990.

It's easy talking about how good Altuve has been. Even if this month has been a letdown in the win-loss column, his brilliance every game has more than made up for it. Here's to hoping we get to see him amaze in the All-Star Game later this month.

Leaderboard

Name Winner HM
Jose Altuve 4 4
George Springer 2 3
Dexter Fowler 2 3
Jason Castro 2 2
Jonathan Villar 1 4
Marc Krauss 1 1
Bob Grossman 1 0
Matt Dominguez 4
Jesus Guzman 3
Chris Carter 1
L.J. Hoes 1
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