Sure, he’s the shortest regular of this century, but Jose Altuve has managed big things. Last year, he put up the second-best batting average of a second baseman in the free agency era, broke the Astros’ single-season record for hits, and showed the best pop of his career. A few changes to his game helped him be even better.
“Oh he’s always been this good, I remember when I first saw him in the Venezuelan Summer League and was amazed,” laughed his current hitting coach, Dave Hudgens. But he agreed that a small change to his batting stance over the last few years may have made a difference.
Here’s Altuve in 2013. Watch his front leg.
Here’s Altuve this year. Watch his front leg again.
See it? Altuve added a little bit of a more dramatic step with his front leg in early 2014. “Not too much, just a little,” Altuve said of the change. “I wanted to do an early step, not a big leg kick.”
The change has helped him in a couple different ways. “I recognize pitches earlier now that I’m doing that,” Altuve said. Hudgens agreed that the step has helped him start his entire swing and thinking process earlier. Altuve has always made a lot of contact — he’s in the top ten in contact rate this year — but his ability to make contact took a leap forward with the step.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.