Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMLBNational LeagueNL CentralSt. Louis Cardinals

Kolten Wong, Second Base Messiah

Credit: St Louis Cardinals Facebook

It was a Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals were playing the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball. Kole Calhoun is at the plate with a runner on first and a 0-1 count. Calhoun hits an outside pitch for ground ball up the middle and right into Kolten Wong’s territory. Instead of gloving the ball and making the throw to Paul Dejong who is covering second base, Wong decides to play hot potato with the baseball and uses his glove to propel the baseball towards the waiting Dejong in one quick fluid motion. The crowd erupted in applause and caused Matt Vasgersian to yell “WOW! KOLTEN WONG, RAZZLE DAZZLE!” and Alex Rodriquez to proclaim the play is “A thing of beauty.” It was more than likely the play that secured Kolten Wong his first Gold Glove and due to it being on national television, a well kept Cardinal secret got out, the fact that Kolten Wong is the best second baseman to wear the birds on the bat since the Reagan administration.

For almost thirty years, the Cardinals have had a revolving door at second base. Kolten Wong has currently been at the position for six years and is the first Cardinal since 1987 to play more than five consecutive seasons at second base. Since 1945 only four players have had five-plus years patrolling the middle infield for the Cardinals. Those players being Red Schoendienst, Julián Javier, Tom Herr, and Kolten Wong. Here is how those four players stack up in bWAR during their first six years at second-base.

Schoendienst- 12.8 Javier- 6.8 Herr-18.5 Wong-16.0

At his current pace, Wong is on his way to becoming one of the greatest Cardinals second baseman that is not named Rogers Hornsby. The fact that Kolten Wong is currently on his way to beating Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst in value warrants a good look as to what makes him so valuable at second base.

There is no doubt that Wong’s primary value is in defense, but Wong is far from inept when it comes to his skills in the batter’s box. Wong has a career slash line of .260/.332/.388 with an OPS of .720. While those numbers might not set the baseball world on fire, Wong manages to get on base above the league average of .326, and has had two seasons of an OBP over .360. Wong also manages to “wear” the baseball quite frequently as he has been in the top 20 in the National League since 2015 in being hit by pitch. Where Wong shines at the plate is his ability to consistently make contact. In his career, he averages 575 PA and 85 strikeouts a season. Wong’s SO% sits at 15.3%, well below the league average of 21.2%. The odd thing about Wong is that, while his Swing% of 46.8 is average, he still manages to have a Contact% of 82.9. His ability to make contact leads him to have a Balls In-Play percentage of 72%(league average being 66%). Wong isn’t going to amaze anyone with his exit velocity but at the risk of sounding like a baseball boomer, when you put the ball in play, things happen. However as you probably already guessed by the first paragraph of this article, the main focus is on Wong’s defense.

Going into 2020, Wong has an UZR/150 of 5.9 and DRS of 51 through 5884.0 innings at second base. Since 2014 among active qualified second basemen, Wong ranks first in UZR/150, second in DRS, and first in Def. Since 2002 there have been eight main players to start at second base for the Cardinals, and Wong has a higher DRS than all of them combined. In 2018 and 2019, Wong has ranked in the top 3 in Outs Above Average at second base. When it comes to comparing Wong defense to Schoendienst, Javier, and Herr, the comparisons are not perfect because UZR and DRS were not tracked in their respective careers. The best comparison that can be made is to use dWAR from Baseball Reference, it’s not a perfect metric, but it gives us a good frame of reference.

dWAR through first six seasons at second base. Schoendienst- 6.8 Javier- 2.3 Herr- 4.5 Wong- 6.8

In an age where statcast, exit velo, and launch angle is king, Wong’s combination of defense, speed, and contact feels like he belongs in a bygone era of baseball, yet he fits perfectly in today’s Cardinals. With Wong’s free agency coming in 2021, one can only hope the Cardinals realize they have something special and historic playing second base.

All stats were gathered from

BaseballReference.com

Fangraphs.com

Baseballsavant.mlb.com

Drake McGrew

My name is Drake McGrew, I am 22 years old, I have a Bachelors degree from Arkansas State Universty in History with a minor in Poli Sci . I have been a fan of the Cardinals since I was eight years old and my love for the game has continued to grow ever since. I have traveled to 14 MLB stadiums and have attended two postseason games. Baseball aside, my hobbies include hiking, traveling, playing video games, and listening to copious amounts of Bob Dylan. I can best be summed up by my life motto, Peace, Love, and Baseball.

One thought on “Kolten Wong, Second Base Messiah

  • Mark Stangl

    Where did the time go ? KW will be 30 at season’s end and A Free Agent

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