The seasons of Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha is incredibly integral to the success of the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals. Thankfully, there are signs that point to success for these two players.
As Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha stroll into their fifth opening day together, they seem tied together in St. Louis Cardinals history. Whether that be for good or bad reasons, these two players will always be remembered in one way or another for the 2013 pennant-winning season
In 2015, Wacha became an All-Star and Wong had what I would call an okay season with the team, and maybe his best full season as a Cardinal. In 2016, both left many fans with questions that still linger today around the two young Cardinals.
But In 2017, both young players made strides in the right direction. Wacha got his ERA out of the fours, and Wong started showing some discipline at the plate. As they mature, can the two keep moving in a positive direction?
As we get into the heart of spring training play, Cardinal nation impatiently waits for opening day, pondering many questions. Are we good enough? Can we win the central again? Will we be able to beat the Cubs and Brewers? Many of these questions I often think about myself.
Keeping Up With the NL Central
For the past few years, Redbird fans have entered opening day hoping that Cardinal second basemen, Kolten Wong would finally figure it all out. I’m sure some hoped he would never figure it out and be gone after being picked off to end a World Series. A moment that no fan will ever forget.
As a numbers guy myself, the metrics aren’t flawless, but they improved vastly last year. And as a fan of this great game, I’ve also learned that the eye test can, at times, tell the story just as well as numbers.
It is my belief that Kolten Wong flashed and jumped right off the screen last season. To be honest, he has started to do the same already this spring, and for the most part, the numbers are backing up my observations.
Looking around the NL central over the last few seasons, I’ve noticed there is a theme of slightly overrated middle infielders, including a few of our own. That is not to say that these guys can’t play at this level, and many of them very well, but if you take a look at some of Wong’s numbers compared to some of his peers within the division, it would seem we are okay here in St. Louis.
As you can see in the charts below, Wong’s OBP and K% have not only kept up with the league average but have surpassed a lot of good middle infielders in the central. Some will say that I am cherry picking numbers, but it is numbers like this coupled with what I’ve seen with my own eyes that make me think that Kolten has turned the corner. Also, I don’t know about you, but I hate strikeouts, and that’s a good number.
Worries About Wacha
Entering his fifth full season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Michael is looking for little of that early career magic that has kept him in red and white. Although it can be hard to live up to NLCS MVP as a rookie, Wacha did just that over the next few seasons. Sporting an ERA in the low threes, I was confident he would be a mainstay in the rotation.
Of course, then 2016 happened and I feared for Wacha’s future like most Cardinal fans. I know some of his slumps may have been due to injury, but he seemed like a different pitcher altogether. Still, moving forward, my primary focus for Wacha is to do whatever it takes to stay healthy. Hopefully, he can do that and become more consistent on the mound.
Keeping up with the Legends
In 2017, I not only noticed a different demeanor, but I noticed he was throwing his cutter and changeup a lot more effectively. If he continues to improve, I believe he could attain all-star status once again. Something I believe the numbers show as well.
His ERA and his K/9 both improved from his 2016 totals in 2017, and although his BB/9 actually got slightly worse, when compared to a couple of Cardinal all-time greats at the same age, he’s right where he needs to be. Wacha actually boasts numbers slightly better than that of Waino and Carp in K/9 and BB/9.
Now I am in no way saying that Michael Wacha will become Carp or Waino, but it is something to think/dream about.
Be Patient Cards Nation
My conclusion is this, Wacha is on a one year so he is playing for a contract. Wong still has a few years left on his. They are mainstays here, but fans get impatient. At the same time, fans should realize not every second baseman is Jose Altuve, nor is every starter Clayton Kershaw.
Although this season brings new life for both, and the fanbase has rotated to other question marks on the roster. The time is still now for these two to prove their worth. If Wacha stays healthy and Wong adds steals to his repertoire, they could play pivotal roles in returning this team to the playoffs.
As fans what we should do is optimistically watch. Rather than judge this roster during the spring, let’s hold off and see meaningful baseball first. These two are still young, and as we’ve seen with guys like Jake Arrieta and Matt Carpenter, not everyone is a superstar at 25 years old.
So go out there and steal a few more bags Kolten. Strike a few more out, Michael. The fans are ready to see it, and I, for one, will enjoy watching it play out.