I wrote weeks ago about how I think Kolten Wong can be one of the best second baseman to ever wear the Birds on the bat. I still believe that but it seems like plenty of others around St. Louis do not. After Wong’s two error game in a Sunday against the Miami Marlins, the toll on Wong’s mental approach to the game was evident. After another couple of errors this week, Wong’s confidence in the field is fractured. Could it be that Wong just needs a day or two off to clear his head?
It’s no secret Wong has struggled lately. In his last 30 games, Wong is hitting just .197 with an on base percentage of .258 and a slugging percentage of .262. His signature brand of pop is missing in August, as he has zero extra base hits and only 10 singles(.156 average). It seems like a decade since his last home run and his average has plunged from near .290 to .263 in the past month. His 11 home runs, 48 RBI, and 114 hits are still respectable but his overall on base percentage and slugging percentage is dropping. Is he still hitting baseballs hard? While his overall line drive rate is 23.5%, his game to game rates in August have seen less sting on balls he hits. It’s not a great trend.
Maybe it could help if Mike Matheny found a comfy spot for Wong in the lineup. This season, Wong has taken swings in every lineup spot but cleanup. He has over 200 at bats in cleanup and 40+ in the #2, #7 and #8. He doesn’t know where he hits and it stems from the fact that when the kid is right, his bat can help in a number of ways. He can collect a double, crank a home run and has speed on the bases(14 steals included). He is the prototypical #2 hitter but his best stats come from the pressure free 8th spot. He has 20 hits in 60 at bats there, with a .391 OBP. One thing Matheny can do is shift him there to take some pressure off and get him to relax.
Another thing Matheny could is rest the kid. Wong has played in 37 straight games. That’s at bat in every one of those games and starting over 95% of them. While Jhonny Peralta gets a day off per week, Wong continues to play and his bat, body and mind could use a rest. Wong committed his 11th and 12th errors on Sunday and when the kid messes up, he takes himself to school mentally for the rest of the game. Part of being a highly talented soon to be 25 year old franchise type player. Wong has put together a lot of great moments over the past couple years and was handed the keys to second base last season. There will be setbacks.
A couple days off may hinder an ailing Cards offense, but it may dividends down the road when the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs continue to shove the Birds for their share of first place. The Central division isn’t softening up, with all three teams having great months of August, especially the Cubs. The time could be now to release some of the pressure from a kid who has hit .206 with four extra base hits since the All Star break. Rest him.
Kolten Wong may not like it, but a couple days off could relieve the pressure. If not that, bat him 8th and keep him there for a while. At this point, Wong needs normalcy or a small vacation. Do what is needed to get this kid right. He’s too important to run into the ground. A small rest could do wonders for Kolten Wong.