The Houston Astros and their fans suffered through six straight losing seasons before emerging in 2015 as an AL Wildcard team.
In that first postseason game for the franchise since dropping the 2005 World Series, the Astros shut out the New York Yankees 3-0 behind a gem from Dallas Keuchel.
The club then pushed the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals to five games before losing a dramatic ALDS.
Entering 2016, the young and talented Astros were a fashionable pick to go deep into October. Instead a miserable 17-28 start buried them 10 games back in the AL West Division by late May.
The Astros righted their ship in June, fighting back to a winning record. Then they began to chip away at the division lead. They pulled to within just 2.5 games of their Long Star State rivals, the Texas Rangers, in late July.
But the Astros then again faded, losing 14 of 20 to fall 10.5 games out, and the team never fully recovered.
Though in the end they finished just two games off their 2015 pace, the 84-78 mark had them 11 games behind the Rangers. They finished five games out of a Wildcard berth.
The offense received a strong power season from C/DH Evan Gattis, who banged a team-high 32 homers with 72 RBI.
21-year old shortstop Carlos Correa hit .274 with a .361 on-base percentage while supplying 20 homers, 96 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases.
Right fielder George Springer ripped 29 homers, knocked in 82 runs, and scored a team-high 116 times.
On the mound, Collin McHugh led the rotation with 13 wins, 184.2 innings pitched, and 177 strikeouts. Doug Fister, Mike Fiers, and Keuchel won 12, 11, and 9 games respectively.
The club’s best starting pitcher this year, when he was available, was 22-year old Lance McCullers. He went 6-5 with a 3.22 ERA, and with 106 strikeouts over 81 innings. His season was cut short in early August by an elbow injury that is not expected to hold him back in 2017.
But the Astros best all-around player was their second baseman, Jose Altuve. He put together a season that has made him a finalist, and to some the favorite, for the AL MVP Award.
Altuve hit for a .338/.396/.531 slash line with 24 home runs, 96 RBI, 108 runs scored, 42 doubles, with a team-high 30 stolen bases and 7.7 WAR mark.
He was voted the starter for the AL in the All-Star Game, his fourth career MLB All-Star appearance. He was also honored with his third career Silver Slugger Award.
On October 27, Altuve was named the winner of The Sporting News 2016 MLB Player of the Year. Now he awaits word on that AL MVP Award after receiving votes each of the last two seasons.
“If I win, it’s going to be great. If not, I’m going to feel proud because I feel like I did what I had to do to help my team,” said Altuve per Jake Kaplan with the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t want to stop here. Like I’ve said before, and I can say it 100 times, I want to keep getting better.”
If Altuve can actually get better, that will be bad news for the rest of the American League. For 2016, not only is he the Houston Astros Player of the Year, he is one of the top players in the entire sport.