Altuve putting up historic road numbers

Astros second baseman owns .418/.487/.685 slash line away from Minute Maid

August 25th, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, we talked a bit about the crazy home-road splits of Colorado's Charlie Blackmon. He has since had a little bit of road success ... but the numbers are still wild.
Blackmon at home: .392/.469/.806, 19 homers, 13 triples, 69 runs, 43 RBIs, 191 total bases.
Blackmon on the road: .290/.336/.464, 11 homers, one triple, 47 runs, 36 RBIs, 128 total bases.
We know Coors Field makes it very difficult to gauge the true value of a player. They tend to put up cartoonish numbers there, and it's difficult to figure out what is real and what is altitude.
In other words, Blackmon's crazy split makes sense. Nobody else is hitting like him at Coors Field, which says something. We might not quite know what to make of Blackmon's impressive season or where he belongs in the National League Most Valuable Player Award race. But the split makes sense.

This split is mind-boggling.
Altuve is wonderful. He's five-foot-nothin', a-hundred-and-nothin' (yes, I like "Rudy"), and he does everything well. Altuve is in position to win his third American League batting title, he's probably going to the lead the league in hits for the fourth straight year, he's leading the league in stolen bases again and slugging an insane .564. The only player even close to his size who ever slugged that high was Joe Morgan in his legendary 1976 season. And Morgan probably has an inch or two on Altuve.
Altuve has pure joy every single time he takes the field. When he came out of Thursday night's game with a neck issue, panic swept across the land … but it seems to be a minor day-to-day thing. This guy wasn't a prospect. Altuve hit .302 with 28 stolen bases as a 19-year-old, and he didn't even make the Astros' Top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America.
The next year, Altuve hit .301 at Class A with 15 homers and 42 stolen bases, and he moved all the way up to No. 28 on Houston's prospects list.
"Altuve fits no standard profile," Baseball America wrote. "He may put up big numbers this season but will have to keep proving himself at higher levels to scouts who remain skeptical of such a small body."
The next year in 2011, Altuve hit .389 in 87 games with 10 triples, 10 homers and 24 stolen bases, and the Astros called him up to the big leagues. A year later, he was on the All-Star team. In 2014, Altuve won hit first batting title by hitting .341. He stole 56 bases and hit 47 doubles, and ... well, you know the story.

Like Joe Sheehan likes to say: Why can't they make the whole plane out of Jose Altuve?
But this year, Altuve is doing something even crazier. He is probably the front-runner for the AL MVP Award. I mean, yes, there will be those who push for or the shortened season of or the splendid breakout year for . But Altuve leads the league in a lot of columns, including WAR, and Houston has been the best team in the AL all year.
And here's the craziest part: Altuve is having an anti-Blackmon season:
Altuve at home: .302/.351/.452, 15 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 16 stolen bases, 33 runs, 28 RBIs.
Nice season. Very solid. Now look:
Altuve on the road: .418/.487/.685, 20 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 13 stolen bases, 52 runs, 39 RBIs.
What is happening here? The Blackmon thing makes sense: Coors Field is a great hitters' park for everyone. But Altuve's road numbers? Basically unprecedented. His .418 road average would be the highest for any player in the past 90 years. Stan Musial's .415 average on the road in his seminal 1948 season is the closest to it. (In 1941, when Ted Williams hit .406, he hit .380 on the road.)

This is inexplicable, really. Well, OK, it's not entirely inexplicable. Houston's Minute Maid Park has played as a pretty extreme pitchers' park this year; the whole Astros team is hitting better on the road than at home. So you might expect a slight boost on the road. But Altuve's Ruthian numbers on the road are crazy. Batters naturally hit better at home than on the road for a variety of reasons, including comfort, fan support and a better understanding of the ballpark's dynamics. Year after year, hitters add about 15 points of on-base percentage and 20-25 points of slugging at home. To do what Altuve is doing on the road this year simply goes against baseball.
Now yes, of course, this is just a small sample size. For his career, Altuve has been almost exactly the same hitter at home and on the road. He's basically great everywhere. Altuve's home OPS is .813, and his road OPS is .816. His slugging percentage is .453 at home and on the road. So this year is an outlier.
Still, it's wonderful. I like to believe that Altuve is hitting so well on the road because he's Jose Altuve. He's pure joy, so of course he hits everywhere. For him, there is no road. The world is a home game for Jose Altuve.