Houston’s offense is one of the most improved in baseball and sophomore second baseman Jose Altuve is a big reason why. He came into today hitting .344 with a .918 OPS and notched four more hits in a 7-5 victory over the Brewers.
Altuve is a really fun player to watch because he’s 5-foot-5 (on a good day), rarely walks, has very little power, and reached the majors last season after playing just 35 games above Single-A. And through 75 games as a big leaguer he’s batted an even .300 with 87 hits.
That’s a ton of hits, in part due to the .300 batting average and in part due to his hitting near the top of the lineup while rarely passing up hits to draw walks, but Altuve notching 87 hits in his first 75 career games is also a reminder of just how amazing Ichiro Suzuki was as a rookie in 2001. That year Suzuki had an MLB-record 120 hits through 75 games. Seriously.
As for today’s game, Altuve joins some pretty good company in notching a four-hit game before his 22nd birthday (which is next month). During the past five years the only other players to do so were Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Starlin Castro, Cameron Maybin, Elvis Andrus, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, and Justin Upton.
And going back even further, the last second basemen with a four-hit game before their 22nd birthday were Jose Lopez in 2005 and Jose Reyes in 2004. Apparently being named “Jose” is the key.
Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:
Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.
With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.
The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.
You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.
Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.
Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.
Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.
Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.
Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.