Kolten Wong: Zero or Hero?

My frustration with the second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals is not a secret. I have publicly voiced my displeasure with Kolten Wong for years. He’s a streaky hitter and the most confusing defender you’ll ever see. However, the Cardinals still keep Wong around.. even going as far as signing him to a huge contract extension. How has that worked out? The answer: It hasn’t.

Whenever Kolten Wong steps into the batters box, I feel a rush of anxiety through my body. Will he actually do something productive? It’s a question many Cardinals fans ask. At the time of this post, Wong has been productive of late. In his last seven games, Wong is hitting .421 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. His overall season batting average has quietly climbed to .296.

While the offense is starting to show signs of life, his defense is STILL atrocious. It’s not even that he commits errors, it’s the plays and moments of when he doesn’t make the play. Basically there is an easy way to meter Wong’s defense. If the score is close and what a scorekeeper would consider a routine ground ball is hit his way, it will most likely be an error. If the Cardinals are up 8 and Wong has to move to his right and throw across his body to get the out, he will make the play.

Wong has played more than 200 innings so far and has five errors, but it’s only May. I’m confident he will show his true colors down the stretch. In the day and age of Sabermetrics, you can really tell a lot about a player beyond the numbers you see in a box score. One of my favorite statistics is WAR (Wins Above Replacement). WAR represents the number of wins a player added to his team above what a replacement player would add. Right now, Wong has an overall WAR of 0.4. In his career, he has a WAR of 6.0. Now, any rating between 5-7 is considered All-Star quality. That tells me he has the potential to be really good. However, numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Another great way to judge a player is by his attitude. Wong made headline news during spring training when he told Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch he didn’t want to share duties at second base.

“For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.”

I actually get it. Wong has struggled most of his career to produce a full quality season. Maybe he feels this season is the one where things change. Wong later said he wasn’t demanding a trade and loves playing for the Cardinals.

More recently, Wong showed maturity after a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Wong made two key mistakes that cost the Cardinals a win. The first mistake was running through a stop sign rounding third base and getting caught in a rundown. The second was in extra innings when he mishandled a routine ground ball. After the game Wong took the blame and had a positive outlook looking forward.

“I made some mistakes I shouldn’t be making. And I’m going to turn it around. If I sit back and worry about one game, I’m never going to get better.”

Kolten Wong will bat leadoff when the Cardinals take on the Atlanta Braves Saturday night. It could be another opportunity to prove to Cardinals fans, and himself, that he can be a hero instead of a zero.