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A trip to the injured list turned José Altuve’s season around

José Altuve is slashing .342/.393/.707 since May 2, the day he came back from the IL after suffering a hamstring strain.

Cleveland Guardians v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

On April 20, the Astros sent struggling José Altuve to the injured list for a hamstring strain. At the time, the second baseman was having a rough start to the 2022 season, slashing .167/.268/.250 in his first nine games with one extra-base hit and three runs batted in. Those numbers were pretty distant from the José Altuve we’re actually used to seeing.

Altuve wasn’t ready to come back to action until May 2, but when he finally came back, things changed offensively for him. It seems the trip to the injured list helped Altuve find himself and make some adjustments, or at least that’s what he’s shown in 21 games since returning.

In that span, from May 2 to 25, Altuve posted a .342/.393/.707 slash line and has partially carried the Astros’ lineup. Those averages are backed up by six doubles, eight home runs, 11 ribbies, 20 runs scored, and six walks. His 1.101 OPS is the fifth-highest in the American League. Plus, Altuve has recorded at least one hit in 18 of his 21 games since May 2.

Even though he’s taking fewer walks, he’s also getting fewer strikeouts as his K% went down from 24.4 to 13.5. And despite that Altuve is swinging more since he got back (38.6% against 53.6%) and is chasing more pitches outside the zone (29.5% against 40.7%), his contact has gone up and up from 78.8% to 84.4%, which means he’s being more effective at the batters’ box. For reference, Altuve’s contact percentage hasn’t finished a season that high (84.4) since 2016 (84.7).

What I find rarer is that Altuve has found success despite showing the lowest average exit velocity of his career. According to FanGraphs and Baseball Savant, Altuve’s exit velo is at 85.6 miles per hour, a number that differs from his Baseball-Reference profile (83.9 MPH). But anyways, Altuve has proven to be a wise man at the plate and has adjusted himself.

Speaking of adjustments, Altuve’s launch angle in the first period was a low 7.1º, but since he came back from the IL it went up to 16.7º, a much better number to get extra-bases. Besides, his HardHit% went from 19.2 to 32.9.

Another fix made by Altuve can be seen in his batted-ball profile. Take a look at the following comparison…

From April 7 to April 18: 20.8 LD% | 54.2 GB% | 25.0 FB%

From May 2 to May 25: 18.8 LD% | 42.0 GB% | 39.1 FB%

That’s the main reason for Altuve’s six doubles and eight home runs since coming back, also for his almost .500 points more in slugging percentage.

The best for the Astros is that Altuve stays red hot for as long as he can, especially considering they have failed to hit consistently – they’re 11th in batting average (.232). The good news is that they have taken advantage of José’s hot streak at the plate, going 18-6 in May.