Earlier in Spring Training, St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong expressed his desire to work on a more disciplined approach–one that was still aggressive, but confined to staying within the strike zone.
Over the last two weeks, Wong has put that approach to good use–batting .391 (9-23) in his last eight games.
“Just making the adjustments I need to make,” he assessed recently. “I’ve had two years so far in the big leagues and everything’s been consistent. I’ve had some good times and I’ve fallen off and not been able to get myself to recover fast enough where my average and everything it just dropped to where I didn’t want it to be.
“So this year, I came into Spring Training knowing that I wanted to make the adjustments and I wanted to become a man and say, ‘I’m here to learn’. That’s what me and Mabes have been working on every single day–just really figuring out how to shorten up my swing and being more consistent.”
Still honing in his swing to make it feel more natural, but is also pleased with the adjustments made to work deeper into counts.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Wong. “I kind of thought about last year–I wanted to bang my leg kick with two strikes because I wanted to see the ball more, I wanted to let the ball travel more, and really be able to work counts. Ever since then, I found I’ve just really stuck with that and it’s kind of taken off for me now. With two strikes, there’s no panic. I understand that I’m going to shorten up, take in my leg kick, and I’m going to see the ball. Ever since I started doing that, I’ve been pushing guys to 3-2 counts almost every single at-bat, that’s all I can ask for.”
It’s not that the leg kick doesn’t allow Wong to see the pitch, it’s how long he can see the ball.
“For me, I feel like without the leg kick I allow myself to really just let that ball travel a lot more than I would with the leg kick,” he explained. “It’s definitely something I’m giving up a lot of power and stuff, but I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed.”
Besides the leg kick and seeing more pitches, Wong has also wanted to get back on track with his base stealing. In 2014, he stole 20 bases while only being caught four times. Last year, those numbers dropped as he was caught eight times with 15 successful attempts.
“Me and David Bell and Hammer (Chris Maloney) worked on stuff,” said Wong. “I started to figure out things that I wanted to figure out. I was really timid out there and the reason I found out I was so timid is I had no rhythm out there. I was just staying there the whole time. When you’re like that, your first move is going to be back because you think the whole time, they’ll pick you up. Now, I create that rhythm where it gives me the option I can go back, but I’m still working my way to go forward.”
photo credit: Evan Habeeb, Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports