Exit Interview 2019: Kolten Wong

Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat.  Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them.  The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable.  Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.

If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez.  Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site.  My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast.  It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug.  So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!

Player: Kolten Wong

Season stats: 148 G, 549 PA, 61 R, 136 H, 25 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 24 SB, 4 CS, 47 BB, 83 K, .285/.361/.423, 106 OPS+, 4.7 bWAR

Statcast: 2.5% barrel %, 83.6 exit velocity, 25.1% hard hit %, .308 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Hero 9, Goat 7

Overall grade: A

Positives: Played in the second-most games in his career….won his first Gold Glove….received MVP votes….had a four hit game in Cincinnati in August, with one of those hits leaving the yard….had a higher average (.288 to .283) against lefties, though his OPS was better against the right-handers….hit .316 with a .922 OPS on the road….had a very strong second half, posting a .342/.409/.487 line….was scorching in August, putting up a 1.020 OPS for the month….hit .438 with a 1.158 OPS coming off the bench….was 3-6 with a double as a pinch-hitter….hit .309 in the two hole….had a .940 OPS on the first pitch….four of his home runs came when the pitcher was ahead….six homers came with no out, which lead to a .837 OPS in those situations….with two outs and runners in scoring position, hit .310….had a .318 average in late and close situations….had over a 1.000 OPS in the seventh and the ninth innings….slashed .332/.412/.521 against relievers….had a .927 OPS against power pitchers….hit .381 against the Cubs….destroyed the Brewers, hitting three homers against them and putting up a .419/.486/.629 line.

Negatives: Hit .255 with one homer and a .654 OPS at home….hit .244 in the first half, though seven of his home runs came then….had a .170 average in May….was 0-4 when he was the first batter of the game….had a .125/.222/.188 line as a leadoff hitter….seven of his homers were solo shots….hit .227 with a .636 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .172 in the fifth inning….had a .665 OPS against starting pitchers….was in the bottom 2% of the league in exit velocity and the bottom 7% in hard hit percentage….hit .206 in the playoffs.

Overview: While we’ve always known Wong is #good, we’ve often wondered what it would be like if he put all the phases of his game together at the same time.  2019 answered that question and it was a great thing to see.  Wong was pretty clearly the best position player for the Cardinals last year and was a key reason they ended their three year postseason drought.  Wong’s defense didn’t take a step back after his breakout last year put him on the national stage in that regard and he was healthy enough to bring his bat to the yard every day.

It’s easy to say that the confidence that he’s gotten from Mike Shildt has made the difference and I’m sure that it probably has a good bit to do with it.  Shildt running him out there every day let him not worry too much about 0-4 and let him look at the field rather than over his shoulder.  However, there’s still some cause for concern.  He had a .321 BABIP, which is one of the highest rates that he’s had as a Cardinal (though it’s not really out of line with expectations), and the low amount of barrels and hard hit balls does make you wonder if that’ll come back to bite him a bit.  Those are just details, though.  Wong was wonderful this season and should be a mainstay in the middle of the diamond for years to come.

Outlook: Wong’s contract could end next season, but it seems likely the Cards will pick up the $12.5 million option unless they work out a new contract for him.  While there’s some idea about selling high on Wong, the replacements for him are a pretty sharp drop off–Tommy Edman might be fine but then what happens if Matt Carpenter doesn’t bounce back–so I don’t think anything will come of that.  We’ll see Wong out there making highlight reel plays and hopefully getting big hits in 2020 as well!

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