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.
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.