MLB Postseason 2017: Red Sox vs Astros ALDS series preview
By Sean Penney
2017 Stats: .264/.344/.459, 24 home runs, 101 runs, 102 RBI, 26 steals, 6.2 WAR
The dramatic fall in batting average stands out most about the stat line from Betts, a career .291 hitter who was second in the league with a .318 average last year. The reason for the decline points primarily to an absurdly low .268 BABIP that suggests Betts was one of the unluckiest hitters in the league. His .194 ISO is only slightly lower than last season. The percentage of soft contact he made was up a bit but his increase in hard contact was more than enough to offset that. His strikeout rate was almost identical to last year at 11.1 percent. Betts was swinging the bat well, the ball simply wasn’t falling in for a hit as often as it should have.
A dip in home run power played a small part, although that’s not completely unexpected. His career-high 31 home runs last year took even Betts by surprise, so the mid-20’s total is closer to what he’ll typically produce.
While the home run power declined, Betts was still an extra-base hitting machine. He racked up 46 doubles to rank third in the league in that category. He tied for sixth in the AL with 72 extra-base hits.
Betts was one of only three AL hitters to top both 100 runs scored and 100 RBI this season. He was also one of only six players in the league to join the 20+ home run, 20+ steal club.
As great as Betts can be with a bat in his hands, he’s even better with his glove. His 31 defensive runs saved were the most among major league outfielders and second most at any position.
His all-around game is why Betts remains one of the most valuable position players in the game even in what we consider a down offensive year.
2017 Stats: .346/.410/.547, 24 home runs, 112 runs, 81 RBI, 32 steals, 7.9 WAR
Altuve won his third career batting title, finishing well ahead of the pack. He was the only AL hitter to top 200 hits, which he has now done in four consecutive seasons.
The speedy second baseman was third in the league with 32 steals, a category he has twice led the league in during his career. His 24 home runs equaled the career-high he set last season and he joins Betts in the exclusive 20/20 club.
He’s no slouch in the field either. His 3 defensive runs saved ranked seventh in the league at his position and he was first with 13 total zone fielding runs above average.
Next: Ranking AL playoff lineups
While voters may be enamored with the prestigious power of Aaron Judge, it’s Altuve that was the best all-around position player this year. He should be the AL MVP this season and will be a stiff challenge for the Red Sox pitching staff to contain.