The Small But Terrible Jose Altuve

One of the most exciting things about baseball is the unique characteristics of its players. Although some of the baseball players are the gigantic superhuman types who are common in sports like basketball and football, others are sturdy, slender, have bellies, tall, or short. Your favorite team’s superstar could have a talent you couldn’t comprehend, yet have no distinguishing characteristics from your next-door neighbor.

Despite the diversity of Major League Baseball players, it’s hard to comprehend how a baseball player such as Jose Altuve exists. At 5 feet 6 inches, Jose Altuve is the shortest player in the MLB and is sometimes even considered shorter. In 2017, Jose Altuve was one of the top contenders for MLB’s Most Valuable Player Award, in a season that saw him garner an AL batting title, which was his third in four years. In the same year, he was also the leader of the baseball player value metric, wins above replacement. In the first game of the AL Series, he proved why he was the man to watch in the MLB postseason after he scored three home runs in Astros’ 8-2 win.

For a while, Altuve was a longshot before he became the superstar he is today. Astros once rejected Altuve in a tryout in Venezuela when he was a teenager because they considered him extremely short to be a baseball player. After the setback, Altuve’s father encouraged him to participate in the next tryout, and this time presented a glimmer of hope for the short player. Houston signed him for a $15,000 signing bonus, which is only a fraction of what top beginners are usually paid.

After that, Jose Altuve made his way through the Astros’ minor league system and made an impressive performance but to little recognition. Although Jose Altuve was a promising player, it took sometime before he got his first big break. For instance, in 5 minor league seasons, Altuve posted an on-base slugging of .867, and a batting average of .327 but was not included in any prominent top-100 list. Even after Altuve made it to the Major League and continued with his amazing performance, he was often dismissed as a role player or a fluke. Some people compared Jose Altuve to another short infielder David Eckstein, who was admired more for his tenacity than for his talent as a baseball player.

By Altuve’s 3rd full season in the Major Leagues, he had already made a name for himself as one of the league’s top players. He was a bag-swiping, slap hitting dynamo and garnered a Silver Slug Award while leading the stolen bases, hits, and batting averages in the AL. At this point, it seemed that Altove had achieved his optimal potential, as a plucky hitter in the Tony Gwynn or Ichiro mold. Then the most unlikely thing occurred, the 5 foot 6 inches player became a daunting power menace. His momentum started in 2015, when he began to hit the ball more frequently in the air, doubled his rate of home runs, and made 15 long balls, more than double of what he had managed to pull off in the previous season. This momentum continued to accelerate in 2016 when he made 24 home runs doubling his home run ball rate for a subsequent time. In 2017, he managed to repeat this feat.