Is there anything left to say about Jose Altuve? By age 28 he has been a six times All Star, five times Silver Slugger, three times Batting Title winner, and 2017 Most Valuable Player. He has led the league in stolen bases twice and even has a Golden Glove. But one thing you’ve never been able to say about Jose, that he was a premier home run hitter.
Before the start of action Monday, Altuve had eight home runs, third in the AL, more than George Springer or Mike Trout. As Jake Kaplan of the Athletic pointed out, Altuve’s eight home runs in 2019 came in only 79 PA’s, and even in his best year, 2017, it took Jose 237 PA’s to hit his eighth homers.
His power numbers are up all across the board. His slugging pct is .617. His career average is .456 and his previous best season was .547. His ISO is currently .321. The career average is .140 and his previous best season was .202.
Batted ball data bears out that Altuve is actually hitting the ball harder. His stacast xSLG is .624, 94th percentile in MLB and about .150 better than his career average. His hard hit% is 47.7%, compared to a career average of 32.1% and an MLB average of 34.1% He is barreling 13.8% of his batted balls, compared to a career average of 5.8%, and an MLB average of 6.2%. His exit velocity is 89.4 MPH, three MPH faster than his career average, and above league average for the first time in his career.
Altuve’s swing discipline and contact profile indicate that Jose’s new-found power is not just a fluke, but is being done with intent. He is both swinging less often, 42.0% compared to a career average of 48.7%, and making contact less often, 76.3% compared to a career average of 87.4%. It’s as though he is waiting for a ball to drive, then taking a big swing when he sees it, and getting a better percentage of barrels when he connects.
But he is also missing more. His swinging strike% is 10.0%; career average 6.1%. His K% is 19.1% this year, compared to a career average of 11.2%. His xBA is currently only .286, .010 lower than his career average. But as shown above, when Altuve does make contact, he is hitting the ball very hard. His current xWOBA at .402 is the highest of his career.
According the Fangraphs, Altuve is hitting more fly balls than usual, 38.1%, compared to a career average of 30.9%. His average launch angle is 15.6%, compared to a career average of 10.2%. And perhaps most tellingly, he is pulling more. His pull rate is 56.9%, compared to a career average of 41.1%.
So Jose is swinging harder, swinging and missing more, but also barreling more, and pulling for the left field fences. And hitting over them at an unprecedented rate.
We have seen glimpses of this power-first Altuve before, but never with so much intensity. But just because he is feeling his power stroke thus far in 2019, doesn’t mean that at some point Altuve won’t choose to revert to the contact, doubles style hitter that has made him a presumptive Hall of Famer up to this time in his career.
Jose can do whatever he wants in my book.