The thing about Jose Altuve is that, according to baseball logic, he shouldn’t really exist.

Altuve is 5-foot-6 on a good day, a height that allows few baseball players to succeed at any position – yet on the diamond, he’s larger than life. Rivals like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton may tower over him at second base, but it’s the diminutive 28-year-old from Venezuela who walks tall as a World Series champion, MVP, and one of the best pure hitters of his generation.

How on Earth does Altuve do it?

The key to his excellence is discipline. From the moment he arrived in Houston halfway through the 2011 campaign, Altuve has displayed an incredible batting eye that’s only improved with age. In the era of strikeouts, he represents a true throwback hitter who puts the bat on the ball consistently while avoiding the dreaded third strike. Even a very slight increase in his K-rate has still kept Altuve significantly below the league average during each of his eight big-league seasons.

Year Altuve K% MLB Avg. K%
2011 12.4 % 18.6%
2012 11.7% 19.8%
2013 12.6% 19.9%
2014 7.5% 20.4%
2015 9.7% 20.4%
2016 9.8% 21.1%
2017 12.7% 21.6%
2018 12.1% 22.2%

Those numbers are excellent, but there’s more to his greatness than just a lack of strikeouts. Altuve is a machine because of his unique and unparalleled ability to make contact.

The metrics O-Contact% allows us to see how often a hitter makes contact with pitches that are outside the strike zone, while Z-Contact% shows us the same for pitches inside the zone. Altuve has been in a class of his own in both categories since breaking in.

For his career, Altuve owns a 78.6 O-Contact%, and an even more impressive 93.5 Z-Contact%. Here’s how he compares to his peers in O-Contact:

Year Altuve’s O-Contact% MLB Avg. O-Contact%
2011 76.5 % 68.0%
2012 82.3% 66.8%
2013 77.4% 66.5%
2014 84.8% 65.7%
2015 81.7% 64.9%
2016 77.7% 63.9%
2017 74.9% 62.9%
2018 71.7% 62.9%

Now here’s Altuve against the league-average Z-Contact:

Year Altuve’s Z-Contact% MLB Avg. Z-Contact%
2011 95.7% 87.9%
2012 95.3% 87.2%
2013 94.8% 87.0%
2014 94.9% 87.3%
2015 94.6% 86.7%
2016 91.3% 86.3%
2017 91.7% 85.5%
2018 90.7% 85.6%

Simply put, there’s no place to pitch to Altuve. He’s going to find a way to hit the baseball.

Let’s also remember this is not a gigantic slugger here. We’re talking about a shorter-than-average player who’s still able to reach anything offered to him 200-plus times a season – and it’s not like he’s a slap-happy leadoff man, either.

Altuve’s power supply has increased year after year. He crushed 24 homers in each of the last two seasons, and is on pace to finish with 20 this season, per Fangraphs’ ZiPS projections. And for a small man, he hits some rather big flies, including a 443-footer earlier this season that ranks as the 30th-longest in MLB this campaign.

Watch Altuve step on the field and you’ll see a unique, once-in-a-lifetime talent who rises above everything expected of a man of his stature. He’s truly the exception to all of baseball’s rules.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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