HOUSTON -- He's no longer a novelty. He's no longer known more for his height than his accomplishments. He's not just one of the best second basemen in the Majors. Jose Altuve has arrived, cementing himself in 2016 as baseball's best hitter.
The 5-foot-6 All-Star has made a career out of proving people wrong, and 2016 was no exception. Just when you thought he couldn't play at a higher level, Altuve had the best season of his career with the Astros. He won his second American League batting title in three years, hitting .338 with career highs in homers (24) and RBIs (96) to go along with 30 steals, 42 doubles, a .928 OPS and 7.6 Wins Above Replacement. He led the AL in hits for the third year in a row and was named to his fourth All-Star team.
Altuve finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting, behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and was named the Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year.
Altuve is the first second baseman to record 100 runs scored, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers, 95 RBIs and 30 steals in a season. He's just the sixth player in Major League history to reach all of those marks, regardless of position. By winning the batting title for the second time, Altuve became the first second baseman to win multiple batting titles since Rod Carew won five from 1969-75.
"He's the epitome of everything that's right about the Astros," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's a great example, he's a hard worker, he will play selflessly and never take any of the credit, and will want all the blame. He's a great example for all of our players on how to be excellent, and I think this season showed what kind of impact he's had with the caliber of awards he was up for."
The desire to be the best has fueled Altuve for a long time. It fueled him 10 years ago when he was turned away from an Astros tryout camp in Venezuela, only to show up the next day when he refused to take no for an answer. It fueled him when he made the All-Star team in 2012 and most in baseball didn't know who he was.
All that he's done in the three years since is win two batting titles and amassed 818 hits -- 67 more than any other player.
"Like I said before and will say 100 times, I want to keep getting better," Altuve said.
Altuve has added another dimension to his game every year, putting up career-best power numbers this past season. He would still like to hit 30 homers and drive in 100, two milestones he narrowly missed last season. He talks openly about numbers because he knows putting up good numbers means he's helping the team.
"When I was signed by the Astros when I was 16, if you told me I was going to be 20-20, everybody would be like, 'Nope.' I still doubt about myself I could be 30-30, but you never know," Altuve said. "It could happen."
And who would doubt him?
"That's what drives him, is getting better every year," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.