The Astros have consistently been among the best teams in baseball over the past several years, and few have made an impact quite like Jose Altuve.
The franchise second baseman has been with Houston since the days of back-to-back 100-loss seasons, and now that they are annual title contenders, he’s showing his immense baseball talent on the national stage.
Altuve defies the typical characteristics of star players. Mike Trout, Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Shohei Ohtani and many of the game’s best players are all above 6-foot. Altuve? Not so much.
Altuve has perfectly exemplified that baseball is a sport where anyone, regardless of size, can find success. He is one of the shortest players ever to play the game, yet has established himself not just as the speedy, defensive replacement, but as a feared power bat.
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How tall is Jose Altuve?
Altuve stands only 5-6. He is tied with Athletics utility player Tony Kemp for the shortest player to appear in an MLB game in 2021. Altuve, Kemp, Alexi Amarista, Danny Herrera, David Eckstein and Donnie Salder are all tied for the shortest players in the majors since 2000.
While Altuve is short, he is not the shortest ever to tally an at-bat in the postseason or hit a home run.
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Hugh Nicol, who last took an MLB at-bat in 1890, was 5-4 and tallied two at-bats in the postseason. He is tied with Billy Gilbert, who last played in 1909, for the shortest player to take a swing in the playoffs.
The shortest player to hit a postseason homer did come in the modern era of the game, however. That would be Freddie Patek, who played in the majors from 1968 to 1981 for the Pirates, Royals and Angels. Patek finished his MLB career with 41 homers and he hit a home run in the 1978 ALCS against the Yankees. He stood 5-5, and is the only player shorter than Altuve to hit a home run in the playoffs.
Jose Altuve’s playoff stats
While Altuve is not the shortest player to reach the postseason, he certainly makes himself stand out in another way.
As the World Series is set to begin, Altuve ranks third all-time in postseason home runs with 21. The only players with more are Manny Ramirez at 29 and Bernie Williams at 22. Ramirez is 6-foot and Williams is 6-2, both far more common heights for hitting homers.
Take a look at this plot of career home run totals — prior to the start of the 2021 postseason — by height (in inches), according to the Lahman Database, and see if you can spot Altuve.
That’s right. He’s the highest dot to the far left.
There really isn’t much precedent for batters in the postseason as short as Altuve hitting for as much power as he has. In fact, only four other players under 6-foot have racked up double-digit home runs. The company is pretty good.
Not too shabby.
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And this isn’t just a product of a lot of postseason at-bats. Altuve has always been an anomaly for his height. His isolated power (ISO), which is a measure of power taken by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage, is .261. Again, a number that high helps him stand out above other batters at his height, and puts him more in the category of sluggers that are 5-foot-10 and above.
Here’s a look at postseason career ISOs of batters under 6-foot, with a minimum of 50 at-bats.
It is not until the batters reach 5-10 that anyone has an ISO at Altuve’s level.
This is just a continuation of what Altuve has done throughout his big league career. Among batters under 6-foot, he ranks 16th with 164 career regular-season home runs, according to Stathead, and among those ahead of him, only Hall of Famer Lewis “Hack” Wilson (244) is Altuve’s height. No one is shorter.
Among qualifying players under 6-foot, Altuve’s career ISO of .154 is the 23rd-best among batters under 6-foot, and again, it is just Wilson (.238) that is 5-6 or shorter.
Altuve also has four seasons of at least 20 home runs. He is just two behind Wilson for the most by a player 5-6 or shorter.
So outside of Wilson, who played in the majors from 1923 to 1934, there is no precedent for a power hitter as short as Altuve. As he takes the World Series stage for the third time in his career, enjoy the anomaly he brings to the game.