Now before I get a bunch of hate, I am not saying Betts should be ranked higher than Altuve on your preseason rankings, but why can’t we question it?
I can already hear you screaming “ALTUVE WAS THE NUMBER ONE HITTER ON THE PLAYER RATER LAST SEASON”, and although this is true do you remember who was number one on the player rater in 2016? I believe he goes by the name Mookie Betts.
Jose Altuve’s biggest appeal is his super high batting average, and you probably think Betts won’t even get close to touching Altuve’s average. Well think again!
A lot of Betts’ advanced contact statistics are actually better than Altuve’s. For example Altuve had a contact percentage of 84.9% last season, which is outstanding to say the least. Betts on the other hand posted an even more impressive contact percentage of 85.8%. We can also compare their swinging strike rate, and see that there is actually a bigger difference between the two. Altuve had a swinging strike rate of 7.2%, while Betts was ranked fifth in all of baseball with a swinging strike rate of 5.1%. That is a 2.2% difference between Betts and arguably the best contact hitter in the game right now.
Still don’t believe me?
How about we compare their strikeout rates. Altuve had a strikeout rate of 12.7%, which is good but not as good as the 11.1% Betts owned. Now it is worth noting that all three of these statistics are the worst of Altuve’s career, which is a little ironic since he posted a career best .346 batting average last season. Now for next year’s projections, I do have Altuve having a batting average of .315, but Betts is not far behind with a .305 batting average.
Although Betts batting average may have not been as appealing as it was in 2016, he did improve his approach at the plate. Last season season Betts was only swinging at 22.1% of balls outside the zone while Altuve was swinging at 33.1% of balls outside the zone. Now that is an 11% difference between the two, but there is a reason for this. Altuve was a lot more aggressive than Betts at the plate as he was swinging at 11.6% more pitches than Betts was. Betts was sure being patient at the plate, but maybe a little too patient. He was only swinging at 36% of balls thrown to him, but I predict that number to at least be a little higher in 2018.
Another one of Altuve’s big appeals is his stolen base potential. Betts was ranked as the faster player in 2017 according to Statcast’s Sprint Speed, but it was only by 0.01 ft/sec. I do believe that Betts could steal more bases than Altuve and it is not because of his 0.01 ft/sec advantage he has against him. It is because that Betts is arguably the best base runner in the league, and plays on a team that is all about contact and its running game. Altuve on the other hand plays on a team that is built around power, so it is not as important for Altuve’s advancement on the base paths as it is for Betts and Red Sox.
The last thing I will hit on is the power output of the two. This is the only other one besides plate discipline in which I think Betts is the clear winner. Yes, Altuve added more power to his game last season, but is it here to stay? Altuve’s hard contact percentage last season was only 28.2%, while Betts had a hard contact percentage of 35.7%. Betts also hit 10% more fly balls than Altuve last season, so I think it is safe to say that Betts should hit more home runs than Altuve in 2018.
I still ranked Altuve above Betts on my preseason rankings (unless you are playing in OBP leagues), but I just had to ask myself (and you guys) why? I believe it has to do something with Altuve’s consistency and Betts’ struggles last season. I think this also proves that advanced statistics are nice, but in the end it comes down to the final product. And there is no debating that Altuve’s final product was a lot better Betts’ last season.