What’s wrong with Kolten Wong? No, I am not trying to sound funny or rhyme here. I am legitimately concerned with the young second baseman’s performance.
The first half of the season for Kolten Wong was really good. He was really good defensively at second base and was also was having a really good season with the bat. Up until the all star break (where Wong should have been an all-star), Wong was hitting .280/.343/.434 with a .777 OPS and a pretty good 114 wRC+ (via Fangraphs). During that time, Wong had nine homers, eighteen doubles, and two triples while driving in 37 and swiping ten bags. Once again, those were really good numbers for the second baseman who is in his second big league season.
However, since the all-star break, things have not been so great for Wong. Since July 12th his numbers look like this .235/.291/.317 adding up to a .608 OPS which is atrocious, and then you look at the wRC+ at 69 (via Fangraphs), which is just as bad. Wong also, only had two homers, ten doubles, and two triples during this time, driving in 13 less runs than he did in the second half with 24. It is clear Wong struggled mightily with the bat in the second half.
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While, I don’t have an inside look into Wong’s mind to see what he was going through during that stretch, the young hitter must have been a tad exhausted after playing in a lot more games than he did in the previous year’s first half. Looking at his BABIP (.310) during this time, shows us that he wasn’t having above average ball in play luck during the first half, when you then look at the second half BABIP of .274 which is slightly below average but not by much it shows that these numbers can’t really quantify what went wrong.
According to Fangraphs, Wong’s first half success he had a line drive percentage of 24.7% and a ground ball percentage of 42.6% , flip that over to his second half and you see a dip in line drive percentage to 19.7% and a rise in ground ball percentage to 47.8%, a rise of five percent in each category. Another somewhat alarming stat would be Wong’s hard contact percentage. In the first half Wong was making hard contact 30.3% of the time, then in the second half it dropped down to 22.7% this coupled with his medium contact rise shows that Wong’s swing may have been tired.
This is even more evident by Wong’s placement of his contact. During Wong’s strong first half he was pulling the ball 44.9% of the time versus going up the middle 34.8% and to the opposite field 20.2% of the time. During the second half, he pulled the ball 34.5% of the time, went up to the middle 37.9% percent of the time, and shot the ball to the opposite field 27.6% of the time. You may be thinking “what’s wrong with that?” Well, the problem is that if you understand the hitter that is Kolten Wong, you know that he has an incredibly quick swing and has an incredible ability to turn on a pitch with the violently quick swing.
See this triple that he hit in San Francisco on a pitch high and away, Wong was able to pull the ball into deep right center, when most would have tried to go the other way with the ball. Wong’s not a big power hitter, so going the other way with authority and power like a Matt Holliday would. If Wong isn’t getting around on pitches, he’s not likely to get hard powerful contact consistently. Just take a look at this spray chart of Wong’s second half from MLBfarm.
As you can see Wong’s contact to his pull side is flooded with groundouts and the majority of his extra base hits have come to the opposite field – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His timing has obviously been off and he may have been laboring quite a bit.
Video evidence of this would be his double in Arizona on 8/27, as you can see he is pitched down and in (lefty hot spot) and he attempts to get around the pitch and lace it into right in true Kolten Wong fashion, but instead he’s late on the pitch and he “splices” it down the left field line for a double.
With this just being his second season and his first complete season in the majors, we are still trying to figure out just who Kolten Wong is. He had a similar numbers in the second half of last season with pull percentage of 37.4%, 36.9% up the middle, and an opposite field percentage of 25.7%. He had a little more success then, but this may just be a theme for the young player.
While it’s good to see Wong using the whole field, Wong’s hard hit percentage has got to go up and that violently quick swing we are used to needs to travel through the zone like it did in the first half. I know that I left him out on my list of X-Factors, but if Wong can return to the Wong of the first half during the postseason, watch out. Hopefully, this extended time off is enough for him to rest and get his swing right.