For his career, Kolten Wong has a 33% success rate with bunting for hits (8-24). That’s pretty darn good guys and gals. Before we dive in, obviously there is the argument that this is too small a sample size to go on. I hear you, Brian Kenny of MLB Network, but Kolten Wong in his MLB career has nearly 1,500 plate appearances and has gotten below average results. Despite this track record, some analysts and fans alike are still bullish that Wong can play at an All-Star level at some point in his career. I would argue that 3 full seasons worth of stats might start to define what a player is, but in Wong's case, the people in his corner say that the stats so far do not matter because he can improve. So, for this exercise, we’re throwing out sample sizes entirely. Deal with it!
I’m going to use Wong’s career line for the comparisons:
ISO Slug: .122
ISO OBP: .61
Oof, not great. Those numbers are well below the MLB averages for 2016, especially in the slugging category, in which the MLB had a total .427 slug during 2016.
Now let’s look at Wong’s line if he bunted for a hit every at-bat, assuming he keeps the same ISO OBP:
ISO Slug: .000
ISO OBP: .61
Holy moly! Look at that BA! In 2016, that .333 average would have been good for 4th in the entire MLB, and the .394 would have been 9th in the MLB, just ahead of Miguel Cabrera. Yes, THAT Miguel Cabrera! That would be invaluable at the top of a lineup. Add in his ability to steal bases and he’s a true weapon.
But of course, bunting every time is silliness. Situational hitting, 2 strike counts, etc. What isn’t silly is realizing you might have a useful skill and using it to help the team. If Wong ever wants to get his OBP close to an acceptable range for the lead-off caliber hitter Cards fans have wanted him to be, he has to be willing to find other ways to get on base, even if that means leaving the big stick in the shed. Wong is a toolsy player, he just has to learn to get by with the ones he has instead of the one he doesn’t.
Thanks! Go Birds!