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Kolten Wong: Cardinals’ MVP?

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

With the coaching staff fully behind him, Kolten Wong is showing what he is entirely capable of — both with the bat and glove. 

When Mike Shildt took over the managerial duties for the Cardinals, he made it a point to assure Wong that he would be given the starting job and that a small stretch of poor hitting wouldn’t result in his playing time getting diminished. For Wong, not having constant pressure on himself has led to one of the best stretches of his career — and the stats bear it out. Since Matheny’s firing, Wong is slashing .291/.369/.427 with a wRC+of 113. Combining that with his Gold Glove caliber defense makes for one lethal, versatile player. 

Speaking of Gold Gloves, the 28-year-old is primed to take his first one home this year. He leads all National League second basemen in defensive runs saved (14), ultimate zone rating (4.6), range runs (4.3) and defensive runs above average (6.5). And it’s not just a slight lead he has in those statistics, he has double the defensive runs saved of the player that trails him and an ultimate zone rating more than twice the amount of the infielder behind him. Quite simply, it’s utter domination. The award is his to lose.

Since the All-Star Break, Wong has been one of the top players in the National league. He is slashing .358/.432/.512 with an fWAR of 2.2 in the stretch of games. His on-base percentage and batting average are both in the top three in the NL. His fWAR is good for eighth in the league, ahead of well-touted stars such as Ronald Acuna Jr., Cody Bellinger, Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper. 

It’s not just his second half that has been strong, his whole year has been solid. His on-base percentage (.366) and batting average (.286) lead the team, while his slugging percentage (.426) and wRC+ (110) are within the top four on the club. Only Paul DeJong has accumulated more fWAR (3.8) than Kolten Wong (3.5) this season. When taking a look at Wong’s offensive runs above average (a stat that combines a player’s context-neutral value at the plate and on the bases), his 13.5 mark leads the Cardinals — and has shot up considerably from his -0.1 total in 2018. 

In comparing his statistics from 2019 to his other seasons, he is putting up career numbers in most categories: batting average (.286), slugging percentage (.426), fWAR (3.5), wRC+ (110) and wOBA (.338). Even hitting near, or even below, league average would likely still guarantee him a starting spot, given his outstanding defense, although to the surprise of many, he has provided more value offensively than defensively this year, according to FanGraphs. 

Wong may finally have the offensive numbers to win the Gold Glove award. There have been far too many instances in which he has led his position in most, if not all, of the relevant defensive metrics, however he still found himself unable to take home the award. The Gold Glove award voting should not take any offensive production into account, but going off of the results in recent years, it does seem to play a role in deciding the winners. This year, though, it should play in Wong’s favor. 

The Cardinals have three weeks left to fend off the Cubs for the division crown, and there’s no denying that Wong — and his scorching hot bat in the second half — will help decide which team will be at the top of the standings when the season comes to a close.

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