Baseball fans wondered what the Houston Astros would look like a season after getting exposed for illegally stealing signs. The Astros have been one of Major League Baseball’s most lethal offenses in the past few years, but many now believe their cheating ways were the reason why.
Almost a third of the way into the 2020 season, Houston is already showing regression at the plate. Jose Altuve has had an especially tough start to the year. He’s on pace to record the worst offensive season of his career by far. Coincidence or no?
Jose Altuve has been one of the MLB’s best hitters for a decade
He may be small, but Jose Altuve is a giant pain for opposing pitchers. Since his MLB debut in 2011, Altuve has recorded five seasons in which he batted .300 or better. From 2014-2017, Altuve batted .338 or better in three of four seasons. He led the league in hits in all four.
Altuve’s consistent success at the plate has led to six All-Star appearances and an AL MVP award in 2017. In his MVP season, Altuve batted .346 and slugged 24 homers.
The worst hitting season of Altuve’s career prior to 2020 came in his rookie year when Altuve batted .276 and had an on-base percentage of .297. The Astros’ second baseman hasn’t come close to those numbers since 2011.
Jose Altuve is having by far his worst offensive season as a pro in 2020
Ever since Altuve got to the big leagues, he’s been one of the best hitters in the entire MLB year after year. Before 2020, he had more seasons with a .300 batting average than seasons in which he hit under .300. That’s Hall of Fame consistency.
Altuve has been a lock for at least 150 hits every season since his rookie year, but that’s about to change in 2020. Through 17 games this season, Altuve is hitting an abysmal .187. Remember, he batted .276 in his previous worst year, and he was just a rookie then.
Altuve is currently on pace to set career-lows in batting average, OBP (.265), slugging (.333), OPS (.598), and strikeout percentage (22.7%).
All elite hitters go through slumps during their careers. Even Mike Trout can go a week without getting a single hit, but Altuve has been atrocious all season. It’s a small sample size, sure, but he’s running out of time to fix the trend.
Is the Astros cheating scandal the cause of Altuve’s struggles?
When the Astros were using video monitors to steal signs and relay them to hitters, the team could only do so during home games. In the last few seasons, many Houston players had questionable home/road splits, including Altuve.
Altuve has batted over .300 at home in each of the past three seasons. This year, he’s batting .188.
Now, we’re not even a third of the way through the 2020 season yet. Altuve could easily break out of his slump and finish the year around .300 in batting average. But if his poor offensive play continues throughout the year, fans will wonder how much receiving signs helped Altuve produce the gaudy numbers he put up in past seasons.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference