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Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 9:44 am
by Jocephus
by Jake Mailhot
September 4, 2019
https://blogs.fangraphs.com/kolten-wong ... cardinals/
Heading into the All-Star break, the Cardinals were sitting in third place in the NL Central with an even record of 44-44. Even though they were just two games behind the division-leading Cubs, their playoff odds were sitting at just 21.2%, the seventh-best mark in the National League. Since then, they’ve posted the best record in the NL, winning 33 of their 49 games since the midseason break. One of the biggest reasons for their surprising turnaround has been the excellent play of Kolten Wong.

Wong has accumulated 2.2 WAR in the second half of the season alone, by far the most wins by a position player on the Cardinals in that time. His 165 wRC+ ranks 14th in the majors since the break and he’s continued to flash the leather at second base. He’s setting career highs across all three slash components, and is on pace to hit more home runs and steal more bases than ever before. Wong’s excellence and Jack Flaherty’s masterful pitching since the All-Star break have carried the Cardinals into the division lead and boosted their playoff odds to 91.0%.

I should quickly point out that Wong is running a BABIP of .434 during his hot streak. He’s not really hitting for any additional power and his walk-to-strikeout ratio hasn’t budged. He’s simply benefitted from a ton of his batted balls falling in for hits over the last couple of months. But it’s not just blind luck driving his hot streak. He’s made some real changes to his plate approach that have helped him earn some of those extra hits.

Since his debut in 2013, Wong has shown a tendency to pull the ball rather than spray hits around the field. Around 40% of his batted balls have gone to right field with just a quarter getting hit to the left side. Pulling the ball isn’t necessarily a bad strategy, but Wong isn’t a power hitter who should be looking to hit that way. His career isolated power is .129, so he’s likely benefited from a few pulled extra-base hits, but his batted ball distribution isn’t ideal. Opposing teams have picked up on these tendencies and have started to shift against him much more often this year, from just 5.9% of his plate appearances in 2018 to 27.9% of them in 2019.

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 10:08 am
by Gashouse
/resists childish urge to post a photo of The Amazing Mr. Lifto.

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 10:29 am
by BottenFieldofDreams
Flagged. OP has no sophomoric joke. Mods, get to work!

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 11:19 am
by Spider John
Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals
Never thought I would read a line like that.

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 11:34 am
by Fat Strat
Quoting myself from a thread about a week ago:
did an update on his season in a different thread and his fWAR was at 2.1 on Aug. 13. In that time his UZR has gone from 3.2 to 4.9, which is a great example of why you can't read much into smaller defensive sample sizes. His fWAR is now at 3.0 and his wRC+ is at 105. He's officially having the best season of his career.
Now, Wong is at 3.4 fWAR and wRC+ is 109. UZR is holding steady this week.

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 11:36 am
by Big Amoco Sign
Still enough time to get that 6 WAR season.*

*bWAR

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 11:54 am
by Fat Strat
Big Amoco Sign wrote:Still enough time to get that 6 WAR season.*

*bWAR
4.5 right now. That thread had some interesting analysis in it; would be good to go back and review after the season. The premise isn't far off from what is happening. 6 WAR is just too hard for him because he doesn't have power or some crazy high BB rate. But, I think I remember saying 4-5 was definitely possible. Here we are!

Here's part of what I wrote in response to your GDT 6 WAR fun prediction:
Couldn't, in a career year, Kolten Wong's .257/.327/.386... become something like Jason Kipnis' - .276/.349/.429?

Yes, I do believe it could. It's not out of the realm of possibility at all. In fact, it really fits well with Wong's offensive profile in a typical career year, across the board bump. One season from Kipnis stands out -- 2016. Here, Kipnis produced .275/.343/.469 with a 114 wRC+ and a 10.0 DEF value (built from a 8.2 UZR). His WAR value? Not 6+. But, at 4.7... darn good!

There you have it folks. Kolten Wong's career year is Jason Kipnis circa 2016. Maybe Wong doesn't hit that slug%, but maybe he puts together more defense and contact ability -- a .280-.290 BA is not a stretch for Wong. But, here is the real key. That season, Kipnis had 688 PA's. Wong hasn't had over 411 since 2015. If Wong has any chance of reaching Kipnis' level, I think it all starts with health. If Wong can stay on the field, continue to produce at an elite level defensively, AND find a little extra in his bat, he could break 4 WAR. If...
I get predictions wrong all the time, but this one is on point.

Wong '19 (so far) - .285/.367/.430, 109 wRC+, on pace for 583 PA's and 4.1 fWAR.
Kipnis '16 - .275/.343/.469, 114 wRC+, 4.7 fWAR.

Wong with more contact and less power. Wong's WAR is lower not because of injury but because hitting down in the order has cost him PA's.

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 12:07 pm
by haltz
Wong has been doing a really nice Orlando Hudson impression lately, exactly a decade later

Code: Select all

Plyr    Yr     PA     BA    OBP   OPS+  DRS   WAR  /650
Wong    17-19  1303  .274  .359   106   31    9.8   4.9
O-Dog   07-09  1687  .293  .366   107   23   10.5   4.1

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 12:16 pm
by Jocephus
i swear haltz is the only one who knows how to do the code command

Re: Kolten Wong is Carrying the Cardinals

Posted: September 4 19, 1:49 pm
by Fat Strat
Orlando Hudson has long been cited as a comp for Wong and he is showing it more this season. Will have to look, but I remember Hudson being pretty consistent. That’s what Wong needs now.