How does Altuve stack up against Biggio?

The Astros in their 58 seasons of existence have had a mixed bag of success by position. On the low side, you have these five fine gentlemen as the top five catchers of all time. Note – when Jason Castro comes in third, the depth is nothing to write home to mama about.

And yes it is a short DH history for the team, only since 2013, but when your top DH has only played a half-season that is saying something too.

https://www.mlb.com/news/astros-all-time-best-designated-hitters

But when it comes to second base, the Astros have had a regular cornucopia of riches. Three Hall of Famers, Nellie Fox, Joe Morgan and Craig Biggio have manned the second sack for the team, though obviously, Biggio manned it for a lot longer than the other two. Hall of Very Good Jeff Kent was at second base for a couple strong seasons and hit a game-winning home run that brought the team within sight of their first World Series. Bill Doran was quietly a solid cog for 9 years with the Astros and a big contributor for the 1986 team that fell just short of the WS.

Which brings us to the current occupier of the second base position, Jose Altuve. The question is and will continue to be, who is the greater Astro – Altuve or Biggio? It is always tough to compare players across eras, even when those eras are not that far apart with Biggio retiring after the 2007 season and Jose Altuve leaping from AA ball to the majors in 2011. Jose has always played second base. Biggio made the unprecedented leap from catcher to 2B early in his career and then wandered out to the outfield towards the end of his career. Biggio played more than half his career (the first 12 seasons) in the Astrodome, while Altuve has spent his whole career in the much more hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. Craig played 20 seasons with the Astros, while Jose is one season short of one half of that long.

But we love a challenge, so where does Altuve stack up against Biggio at the same point in their careers. Craig Biggio reached the same amount of plate appearances (5456) that Jose Altuve has right now on May 31, 1997.

Honors. We will compare Jose (2011-2019) to Craig (1988-1997), so Craig has a slight advantage of time here, though he really did not take off until after his position shift. Altuve made 6 All Star games, the same as Biggio. Jose had 5 Silver Sluggers to 4 for Craig and 1 Gold Glove to Craig’s 4. Altuve has the one league MVP amid 5 appearances in the top 20, while Biggio made 4 MVP top 20’s topping out at #4 in 1997. So, Altuve has a small edge here, but they are basically in the same neighborhood.

Statistics 

Here are career stats – Altuve through the end of 2019 and Biggio through the end of May 1997…..
Biggio –  .286 BA/ .372 OBP/ .420 SLG/  .792 OPS/ 768 runs/ 259 Dbls/ 103 HRs
Altuve – .315 BA/ .364 OBP/ .463 SLG/  .827 OPS/ 734 runs/ 299 Dbls/  128 HRs

Biggio –  1345 hits/ 492 RBIs/ 226 SBs/ 683 Ks/ 96 HBPs/ 570 BBs/ ~ 38 WAR
Altuve –  1568 hits/ 538 RBIs/ 254 SBs/ 623 Ks/ 49 HBPs/ 360 BBs/  36.7 WAR

This shows that Altuve is the better striker of the ball with a bit more power. It also shows that Biggio is better at getting himself on base and home. Something interesting is that though there is a bit of gap between them in OPS that when you go to OPS+ (which kind of normalizes it against the rest of the league around them) Altuve is only up 126 to 123 on Biggio for this time period. Very close. Stats tell you these are comparable players.

Playoffs

This is apples and oranges at this time. Altuve already has 207 ABs in his postseason career and Biggio had only 167 ABs only and on May 31, 1997…..he had none. All of his playoff experience occurred in his 30’s. Anyways, Jose has put up a .290 BA/ .345 OBP/ .872 OPS slash with 38 runs/13 HRs (including an ALCS winner)/ 29 RBIs. Craig in his whole career put up a .237 BA/ .295 OBP/ .618 OPS with 23 runs/ 2 HRs/ 11 RBIs. So, Jose has this area in spades.

All in All

Jose Altuve stacks up very well against the Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. The one piece of the story yet to be told is sustainability. Biggio was extremely durable, even playing 141 games at 41 y.o. (though this was as much to get him over 3000 hits as anything). Altuve has been overall durable, but has lost time the last two seasons, though Craig missed time with his knee blow out too. It will be interesting to revisit these numbers in a few years and see how Altuve is doing in his chase of history.

46 comments on “How does Altuve stack up against Biggio?

  1. I think if Altuve can stay healthy for 10 more seasons he will get to 3,000 hits and make it to the HOF.

    Biggio was not as skilled with the bat and whiffed on lots of low and outside sliders. Altuve swings at bad balls too but gets his bat on them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I thought about it Sarge, but I probably am being a little selfish about this – I just love to watch that kid run….

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  2. Myself. I set my heart aside for this and chose those whom I thought would make a large contribution on a steady basis. Straw has shown the ability to run, hit somewhat, and play multiple positions but… he will not be an everyday player. Yes, the pitchers will not be also but… the team will need the arms in the next two to three years.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You know Sarge, if Straw can maintain a .380 OBP, then he should start somewhere for someone. He’s not the lost at bat that Jake so frequently was. He won’t be a power guy, but he’s an excellent defender and will create havoc on the bases at the bottom of the order. I like that dimension he adds to the Astro lineup.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Talking about Biggio and Altuve, it’s pretty cool that we’re looking at two very evenly matched guys, both second basemen (for practical purposes), both Astros, both Hall of Famers. We’re lucky fans.

    We could dig for stats all day and not find supporting stuff that would indicate one guy having the edge over the other, at least at this point in time.

    I think Altuve has more raw talent. He does everything well. I think Biggio had more street smarts on the field. How many guys go to the All Star game as a catcher and a second baseman?

    Dan, as you note, it’s all about longevity now. I think if baseball gets back to a regular schedule in 2021, Altuve will reach 3000 hits at a younger age than Biggio.

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  4. It amazes me just how inaccurate our (my) memories can be sometimes. I’ve often thought that the 2000 season fell apart when Biggio tore up his knee. For some reason I remember it happening against Milwaukee in that old ballpark they had that closely resembled what you’d find in AA these days. Apparently it happened in Miami (another field that wasn’t up to par in my opinion) and was caused by Preston Wilson. Anyhow, that season hadn’t gone well for Houston to that point in August and Biggio was putting up his least impressive season since his sophomore campaign. Trying to avoid tangents, I’ll bring it back to the point that he rehabbed hard and bounced back with a very strong 2001. 2002-2007 were a mixed bag for him, but we’re talking about the years in the latter half of his 30’s so expecting him to put up eye popping numbers would have been realistic and suspicious.

    I have nothing but good things to say about Altuve. I hope he is able to stay healthy and continue thrilling us for years. Recall that there were years in the late 90’s that Bill James argued Biggio was the most valuable hitter in all of baseball and I think it’s fair to compare the two. Ignoring the obvious talent they both possess, it’s also well documented that they are two of the hardest working players in franchise history.

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  5. The equality of the two, from a stats viewpoint, is rather amazing. One is better at driving in runs and the other is better at getting on base and scoring them.
    I’d say that we are blessed to have them both. My heart does not allow me to choose one over the other.

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  6. I think it is always an advantage when a team can get good to great offensive production out of the middle infield or catching spots – the more “defensive” spots.
    Back in the day the Astros had the 2B covered. These days they cover both the 2B and SS spots with offensive players (yes I know Correa has trouble staying on the field) and I see that as a very large advantage for the team.

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  7. I see the glaring difference in contact rates.

    Think of the kid who learned to play by hitting bottle caps with a broomstick.
    Last few years, Andrelton Simmons has established himself an elite elite contact hitter. Literally, Altuve has kept career pace with Simmons in contact %.

    Career Contact %
    Biggio: 78.3%
    Altuve: 86.9%
    Simmons: 87.8%

    Simmons had an amazing 95.1% Z-Swing in 2019! (contact on strikes)

    Altuve and Biggio are standout leaders on their team. It’s coming out how hyper vigilant Craig was (Bagwell jokes about it on-air), much like Reynolds when it was his day to pitch. Structured, demanding, singularly focused.

    Altuve leads like Steve Alford getting suckerpunched by Bobby Knight — every other teammate fights for the L’il guy. They used to make fun of El Gigante, but he packs a punch himself. They both command respect.

    Both always, always praise their teammates first when interviewed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. AHA – On the radio they just announced that Alex Bregman is dropping his agent (I posted a link on this yesterday) because his agent also represents Lebron James, who is producing an Astros scandal documentary. Now it makes sense.

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    • Alex Bregman (and his new representation) should contract a documentary film crew to produce one where they break down the times LeBron James has double-dribbled or traveled without being called by the refs. There are already tons of examples on YouTube…it could be a longer series than The Last Dance.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have to ask this question. Kent hits the walkiff HR with CARLOS BELTRAN!!! on 2nd base. Did he steal the sign and relay it to Kent without the assistance of a garbage can??

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      • Tim McCarver (who I used to find a little bit obnoxious but appreciate more in watching the old games) had a fortune teller moment. Beltran led off with a single. Bagwell flied out. With Berkman up Beltran stole second and they decided to walk Berkman with a 2-2 count. McCarver says, Kent may take personal affront to that and on the first pitch he launched his homer.
        Fun to watch.

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      • Berkman, then Kent — it’s pick your poison either way.

        But did you notice Beltran’s body language at all? I think it was a fastball, wasn’t it? Just curious?

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      • It looked like a fastball – Beltran was standing slightly bent with his hands on his knees.
        He was holding a flashing neon sign that said “Fastball is coming – please hit the snot out of it….”

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      • Beltran didn’t give any visible signal. The pitch was clocked at 89MPH and came from Jason Isringhausen. It looked like a cutter. He didn’t have any sliders charted that year and it certainly wasn’t his curve.

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    • Remember Backe spent the first part of his minor league career as a position player. He didn’t move to pitcher until 2001.

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  10. – I don’t know what it is, but I just feel great when I see Biggio and his smile.
    – Ty Cobb sounds a lot like Ted Williams. It’s not that he is better, it’s that every one else is not as good as he is.
    – I am so glad that Altuve doesn’t get hit as many times by pitches as Biggio did.
    – Abraham Toro is less than a month older than Kyle Tucker. I’ve always been a fan and that hasn’t changed. I would love to see him as a starter in the Astros lineup some day.
    – Springer or Correa. I don’t have a favorite, but I sure would like one of them long term.
    – I think the Astros biggest problem with the layoff is development of their young pitching and the fact that so many of their Top 30 Prospects are pitchers who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December.

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  11. I don’t know where I’ve been all my life, but I never realized Willie Mays was a little guy, just 5’10”, 170. In 1962 he took a 10 thousand dollar cut in salary, from 85 K to 75 K. I can’t figure out what he did wrong in 61′, although his WAR was down to 8.7 from 9.5 the previous year. But who knew anything about WAR anyway? For the record, he posted a 10.5 in 62′ for those 75 thousand dollars.

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    • Yeah that pay cut for 1961 doesn’t make too much sense. His BA went down from .318 to .309 but every other major category went up. Maybe they used the “Roger Maris just launched 61 HRs for $32,000” argument…..

      Yes Mays was not a big guy, and Jimmy Wynn was a skinnier version of Mays.

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    • Willie Mays:
      Baseball Reference has him at 156.2 WAR.
      Fangraphs has him at 149.9 WAR.
      What an amazing player! What a wonderful man!
      Still alive at 89 years old.

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    • At age 89 he could probably hit .300 against Devenski and Sneed.
      He would do just as well in the prime of his career against today’s pitchers as he did against the ones he faced. He was one of the absolute greatest players ever.

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  12. From Evan Drellich: “Major League Baseball plans to deliver a new economics proposal to the Players Association on Tuesday, sources said.”

    That is code for “a salary reduction.”

    Like

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