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Altuve on verge of joining Ichiro in elite club

Historic achievements could be in store for reigning AL MVP Award winner
MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

The hits just keep on coming for Jose Altuve.

The Astros second baseman had 116 of them entering Friday night's game against the White Sox, a figure that both leads the Majors and puts him on track to get to the 200 mark yet again. Should those trends continue, Altuve will join some elite company.

The hits just keep on coming for Jose Altuve.

The Astros second baseman had 116 of them entering Friday night's game against the White Sox, a figure that both leads the Majors and puts him on track to get to the 200 mark yet again. Should those trends continue, Altuve will join some elite company.

First, there's the chase for 200 hits. It's a round number that few reach in today's strikeout-happy game, but Altuve is an exception.

Video: Altuve makes Astros history with 10 hits in 10 ABs

He has ascended to that plateau in each of the past four seasons, averaging 211. During that stretch, there have been eight other individual 200-hit campaigns, with only Dee Gordon doing it more than once.

Over time, 200-hit players have come in waves. The glory days were from 1920-37, with an average of nearly 11 players per season. There was a renaissance in the offensively robust period from 1996-2007, when there were more than six per year, but the frequency has dropped off since.

Enter Altuve. The 5-foot-6 sparkplug has batted .334 overall since the beginning of 2014, including .346 in his American League MVP Award-winning campaign last season. His current pace would yield 211 knocks this year and extend his streak to a rarely seen five seasons.

Most consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits since 1901
1. Ichiro Suzuki: 10 (2001-10)
2. Wade Boggs: 7 (1983-89)
3-T. Michael Young: 5 (2003-07)
3-T. Charlie Gehringer: 5 (1933-37)
3-T. Al Simmons: 5 (1929-33)
3-T. Chuck Klein: 5 (1929-33)

While 19 players have posted at least five total 200-hit seasons since the AL debuted in 1901 -- led by Ichiro and Pete Rose with 10 apiece -- only three have strung together at least five in a row over the past 80 years.

Video: Must C Classic: Altuve smacks a single for 200th hit

A fifth consecutive AL hits title would put Altuve in even more elite territory.

This, of course, depends partially on other players. But it's also a testament to how Altuve compares with his peers. The five-time All-Star has been one of the game's ironmen, tying for third in total games played over the past five seasons. Between that and his consistent production, he's risen above the pack.

Going back to 2014, Altuve's 961 total hits put him 124 ahead of the closest player (Charlie Blackmon) and 147 ahead of the closest AL challenger (Jose Abreu). In other words, even if Altuve hadn't played at all this year, he still would be perched atop the list.

In 2018, Altuve does face a threat in Mariners shortstop Jean Segura, who sits just four hits behind to rank second in MLB. But if Altuve can stay healthy and hold off Segura and the rest of the AL field -- which includes the likes of Detroit's Nicholas Castellanos, Boston's J.D. Martinez and Cleveland's Francisco Lindor -- he will match a feat previously accomplished only by Ichiro.

Most consecutive seasons leading their league in hits
1. Ichiro Suzuki: 5 (AL, 2006-10)
2. Jose Altuve: 4 (AL, 2014-17)
3-T. Kirby Puckett: 3 (AL, 1987-89)
3-T. Tony Oliva: 3 (AL, 1964-66)
3-T. Frank McCormick 3 (NL, 1938-40)
3-T. Rogers Hornsby: 3 (NL, 1920-22)
3-T. Ty Cobb: 3 (AL, 1907-09)
3-T. Ginger Beaumont: 3 (NL, 1902-04)

The amazing Ichiro topped the AL in hits a total of seven times during his 10-year streak of 200-hit seasons, and he finished second in each of the other three. Yet he also shared first place in 2008 with Dustin Pedroia.

Video: TB@HOU: Altuve belts pair of 400+ ft. HRs to tracks

Each of Altuve's four straight hits titles thus far have been outright, including in 2017, when he finished 12 ahead of Eric Hosmer. And now, he has put himself in position to do it again, batting at least .328 with at least 34 hits in each of the season's first three months, and going hitless in back-to-back games just three times.

That level of performance has become expected from Altuve, and now, it might take him to some historic heights.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve