Altuve joins list of Silver Slugger Award winners
Second baseman is first Astros player to win a batting title and set single-season hits mark
FRIENDSWOOD, Texas -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve usually has a smile on his face, but his grin was stretched wider on Thursday after learning he had won a Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award as the top offensive second baseman in the American League.
Altuve is the 10th player in franchise history to win a Silver Slugger, joining Craig Biggio as the only Astros second basemen to receive the honor. The award follows a season in which Altuve led the Major Leagues in batting average (.341) and hits (225) while stealing a career-high 56 bases.
"I couldn't believe I won the Silver Slugger over Robinson Cano," Altuve said of the Mariners' second baseman, who had won the previous four AL Silver Sluggers. "But I want to thank God and keep playing hard."
Altuve is the first Astros player to win a batting title and set a franchise record for hits in a season, breaking Biggio's mark of 210 in 1998.
Altuve's 225 hits are the most by a second baseman since Charlie Gehringer had 227 for the Tigers in 1936, and Altuve set the single-season hits record by a Venezuelan-born player. He also posted franchise records for multi-hit games (69), three-hit games (24) and singles (168), all of which led the Majors.
"I think that's the biggest part when you have something over Robinson Cano," Altuve said. "That means you're doing really good. For me, he's one of the best players in the game and I know he's going to have a successful career like he's having. I feel pretty good and I feel proud to win this, and also we have a Gold Glove winner [pitcher Dallas Keuchel] on our team, that's a superstar getting a Gold Glove. That's really good for the Houston Astros."
Altuve spoke on Thursday at an event to open a Microsoft store at Baybrook Mall in which dozens of Astros fans lined up to play Xbox with him and get an autograph. The 5-foot-6 dynamo is becoming a star in Houston's star-studded sports scene.
"When people come to you and want to meet you, it's not only meeting you, it's meeting the Houston Astros, and everything I can do to make the fans happy, I'm going to do it," Altuve said.
Established in 1980, the Silver Slugger Awards are the top offensive honor in Major League Baseball. Managers and coaches of all 30 MLB teams vote for the players they feel are the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National Leagues.
Altuve joins a list of nine other Astros who have won a Silver Slugger Award:
Outfielder Carlos Lee (2007), third baseman Morgan Ensberg (2005), left-hander Mike Hampton (1999), outfielder Moises Alou (1998), first baseman Jeff Bagwell (1994, '97, '99), Biggio (1989 as a catcher, 1994-95, 1997-98), first baseman Glenn Davis (1986), outfielder Jose Cruz (1983-84) and shortstop Dickie Thon (1983).
Altuve, who recently returned from a few weeks of rest in his native Venezuela, was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Thursday night to spend a couple of days prior to going to Japan for the MLB All-Star Series 2014 -- a five-game series against Japan's national team that begins later this month.
"I'm real excited," he said. "I've never been in Japan before, and I want to see how's the food, how's the people, how's everything. I'm really happy."
The first game will be held Wednesday at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, with games two through five at the Tokyo Dome Nov. 14-16. The fifth and final game will be Nov. 18 at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo. Two exhibition games will complement the five-game series, with one game in Osaka (Koshien Stadium) and the other in Okinawa (Okinawa Cellular Stadium).
Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler is also taking part in Japanese tours.