Texas, Measured in Altuves

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who is 5'5", has been turned into a unit of measurement by a baseball writer, who created a website that will convert distances into "Altuves."
Wed June 27, 2012 1:16 am
Associated Press | Pat Sullivan

How long is Palo Duro Canyon? 116,965 Altuves.

How many square feet is the Alamo? 6,236 Altuves.

If you don’t know what Altuves are, you’re obviously not a baseball fan. More specifically, you aren’t a Houston Astros fan.

Altuves are the so-called unit of measurement named for 22-year-old Astros second baseman Jose Altuve , who, at 5’5”, is the shortest player in the major leagues (though some places still list him taller). 

That hasn’t stopped him from hitting .309 with five home runs in his first full season in the majors and from inspiring the website (and Twitter feed ) “How Many Altuves?,” which comes complete with a conversion tool for distance, speed, volume, area, and even metric system figures.

The site is the brainstorm of 33-year-old Bryan Trostel, a Houston native who now lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where he works as a finance manager for a manufacturing company. Trostel also blogs for  AstrosCounty.com, primarily covering the minor leagues.  

The concept of “Altuves” apparently began when Altuve’s small stature and big play caught the eye of former Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg and his MLB Network Radio partner Mike Ferrin, who followed the Venezuelan youngster’s quick rise through the farm system last season, culminating in a promotion straight from AA Corpus Christi to the big club in July (after the Astros traded Jeff Keppinger). 

This year, Astros broadcasters Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown used the term to call one of Altuve’s home runs, which is what inspired Trostel.

Now, largely because of his efforts, you can find “Altuves” all around the game—in tweets, on national TV broadcasts, and in casual references like this one in a recent column about umpires from ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

In the sixth inning of an 8-5 Colorado win over the  Los Angeles Dodgers , Rockies third baseman Chris Nelson  made a diving stop on  Jerry Hairston Jr. , jumped to his feet and threw across the diamond to  Todd Helton , who made a deft pickup at first base. Problem was, Helton was half an Altuve removed from the bag when Welke signaled “out.”

Below, Trostel answers a few questions, followed by a few more Texas people, places and things converted to Altuves. 

So who actually invented the Altuve, and when and how?
When I first started the site I had no idea who started the measurement. Once the Twitter account got up and running I got several messages attributing the Altuve to Ferrin and Morgan Ensberg from their radio show sometime last fall. Ferrin himself let me know about this chat as the first time it appeared in print.

When did you first become aware of it?
I had heard JD and Brownie use the Altuve a couple times earlier in the season. At first for me it was just a novelty mentioned in passing. It wasn’t until the Justin Maxwell home run in game two of the double header against the Rockies (linked here ) that I thought to make the site. An Astros fan tweeted wondering how many Altuves Maxwell’s homer traveled and I thought there should be a quick calculator that helps people figure it out themselves. I built the site and had it up and running that night with just the basic calculator.

What’s been the most surprising reference you’ve seen since starting the site?
Most surprising mention for me would be a tossup between the mention by Craig Calcaterra on the NBC Sports blog that really helped the site take off, and the graphic that Fox Sports put together for their national broadcast of the Astros v. Reds game on June 2.

As far as using Altuves in a measurement, the one that really got the most attention was converting the volume of the Gulf of Mexico to Cubic Altuves that Jayson Stark mentioned for his ESPN article on June 8.

The most fun request I’ve received was to figure out how many Altuves tall Hello Kitty is, which ended up needed to use the size of Smurfs to help in the conversion. It was a special request by one of HMA’s earliest and strongest supporters.

Have you heard anything about Jose’s feelings on this?
Tully Corcoran, who writes for the FoxSports Houston website, asked Jose that as part of his piece on HMA. Jose said it didn’t bother him, he thought it was funny.

Does this happen if the Astros were a better team?
I think it still happens. Jose is a unique player for many reasons. Obviously his height, and his performance in spite of that, but also, many people forget he was the youngest player in the majors this season until Bryce Harper was called up. Combine that with the fact that he skipped AAA after less than 200 plate appearances at AA and his success is unexpected and impressive.

AND FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, MORE TEXAS ALTUVES:
1.26 Altuves: The height of Randy Johnson, the tallest Houston Astros player ever.

1,218,387 Altuves: The length of the Rio Grande between the United States and Mexico.

4,081,440 Altuves: The longest distance across Texas (from El Paso to Newton County).

266 altuves: Hole 5 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.

3,477 Altuves: Ricky Williams’ then record-setting career rushing yards at the University of Texas.

56.85 Altuves: The height of the Texas state capitol building.

23.035 Altuves per second: Texas’s new 85 mph speed limit.

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