One of the top hitters in Houston Astros history, Jose Cruz was a sweet-swinging outfielder who was good for above average batting averages and on-base percentages. A tools player, Jose could run like a gazelle, hit with precision and thunder and fielded his position well.
Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, Jose made his debut in 1970 and hit .353 in limited Major League action. He saw more action at the highest level in 1971 and hit .274 in just over 80 games. Once the Redbirds gave Jose regular playing time in 1972 and ’73, his numbers began to dip and he was used as a reserve throughout the 1974 season. Believing that Jose would amount to nothing more than a fourth outfielder, the Cardinals sold him to the Astros after the ’74 season and he became a fan favorite in Houston.
Jose enjoyed his breakout year in 1976 when he hit a nifty .303 and stole 28 bases. The next year Cruz led Major League rightfielders with 44 steals and was one of only two National League outfielders to post double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments. By 1978, Cruz was an established hitter and swatted the apple at a .315 clip that year. The Houston outfielder drove home 83 runs during the season and stole 37 bases.
The Astros were noted for their fleet-footed roster in the late 1970s. Cruz topped NL left fielders in thefts in 1979 with 37 as he was one of four Astros players to reach 30 steals: Cesar Cedeno, Enos Cabell and Terry Puhl being the others. The Astros ran their way to NL West pennant in 1980 with Jose topping NL left fielders in doubles. In his first taste of postseason play, Cruz hit Philadelphia pitching at a .400 clip but his club fell to the Phillies who went on to win the World Series.
In the strike shortened 1981 season, Jose led the Astros in homeruns. He copped the Silver Slugger Award for his position in 1983 when he led the National League with 189 base hits. His finest year, Jose also drove in 92 runs and hit at a .318 clip; his highwater mark. Jose finished third in triples in 1984 while winning his second Silver Slugger Award. The hot-hitting Astro paced his NL position peers in RBI, doubles and base hits. He followed up his ’84 season with an All-Star campaign in 1985.
Cruz led the Astros to the NLCS in 1986, leading the offense that supplied runs for star hurlers Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan. Jose led NL left fielders in RBI during the regular season, but couldn’t handle New York pitchers in the NLCS. The Astros lost in an epic series to the Mets and Jose would never make it back to the postseason as a player. After a poor ’87 season at the age of 39, Jose was granted free agency and spent his last Major League season as a reserve with the Yankees.
G 2,353/R 1,036/H 2,251/2B 391/3B 94/HR 165/RBI 1,077/BB 898/SO 1,031/SB 317/BA .284/SA .420