St. Louis Cardinals: Looking into Kolten Wong’s improvements

jmcdonald
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 5: Kolten Wong #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run walk-off home run against the Chicago Cubs in the tenth inning at Busch Stadium on May 5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 5: Kolten Wong #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run walk-off home run against the Chicago Cubs in the tenth inning at Busch Stadium on May 5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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A few St. Louis Cardinals have struggled at the plate, but one has been making real strides at improvement.

A few weeks ago I took a look into Kolten Wong and his struggles, at the time the numbers were brutal. It was hard to defend him but I did my best. Since then, the St. Louis Cardinals have continued to win and Wong has progressively found himself doing more and more.

As of April 19th and the writing of said piece, Wong was batting an abysmal .146 at the plate. He was just one of a handful of Cardinal players sitting solidly below the Mendoza line. As of writing this, he has increased his average to .212, not spectacular but a real sign of improvement.

One of the biggest reasons for his immense struggles was his brutal BABIP. As of April 19th it was sitting at .171, well below his career average. Today, his BABIP sits at a much improved .235. Still 50 plus points off of his career average, so still expect to see that continue to rise in the coming weeks but most assuredly, improved.

There is a clear reason for Wong’s improved BABIP; he is starting to make much more solid contact. His hard hit ball rate is up over nine percent in the two and a half week span since the first look at his struggles. His line drive percentage on hit balls is up five percent and his staggering groundball rate on April 19th (63.6%) has slowly but surely dropped and currently sits at 55.9%.

Obviously still a ways from his career average of 47.2 but improving at a solid rate.

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Wong’s improvement at the plate has a lot to do with improving weather conditions but far more to do with his confidence. This is where some credit needs to be rolled out to a source some may find surprising, Mike Matheny.

While Mike may get the brunt of the fan bases’ angst, he played this well and deserves some credit. Matheny could have benched Wong while fans were clamoring for it but he didn’t. Outside of a standard day or two off, Wong has been this team’s everyday second basemen.

It is easy to slide a guy onto the bench and say he needs to get his head right, Matheny didn’t do that. He rolled with Wong through his struggles and is starting to see dividends at the plate. Sure his .212 batting average isn’t stellar but a nearly .70 point jump from mid-April is nothing to scoff at.

There are others in a much worse position and not showing near the improvement that Wong has been.

On April 19th I told you Wong was off to his best start defensively of his career. At that time he only had one error, he still only has that one error. His fielding percentage is .992 and he already has seven defensive runs saved on the year which puts him in a tie for the Major League lead. Those are Gold Glove winners.

Wong’s bat may be ice cold at times but if he keeps this up defensively, you would be crazy to take him out of the lineup.

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The Cardinals do find themselves in a pinch. Between Kolten Wong, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Carpenter and Jose Martinez, someone has to sit. Matheny is in a brutal position. He’s going to anger a faction of the fans no matter the choice he makes, but to me Kolten Wong should be locked in at second base everyday going forward.

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