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Thursday, December 8th, 2016

NO REASON TO FREAK ON FUKUDOME

9

Seems that Kosuke Fukudome is everyone’s favorite whipping boy these days. How about some samples?

Lou Piniella said there was no sense in playing him anymore in the NLDS. Then he proceeded to play him again.

Bruce Miles from the Daily Herald: “Now, the Cubs have a major problem…at 31, he may be entering the downside of his career.”

Paul Sullivan in today’s Tribune: “It doesn’t matter how much money he’s owed. Kosuke Fukudome should not wear a major-league uniform if he can’t hit major-league pitching. He’s not tradeable, and his financial advisers (along with the players’ union) probably would not allow him to “retire” from the majors to go back to playing in Japan. Iowa, unfortunately, appears to be the only viable option to see if he can get on track.”

I like Sullivan but that has got to be the most stupid thing he’s ever put on paper. Here’s the truth about Fukudome–he still has a lot of value, even if he hits .260 next year. Here’s why.

Guess who led the Cubs in walks? Fukudome did with 81. Even with his miserable second half, he still finished with an OBP of .359. Despite the power bats, the Cubs still need a player like Fukudome. He also led the Cubs in pitches per plate appearance with a 4.29 average. There is a lot of value in all 3 of those stats. He works pitchers, he draws walks and he gets on-base. The Cubs have not had a player like that since I can’t remember.

With the possible exception of Aramis Ramirez, Fukudome is the best defensive player the Cubs have, and certainly the best defender of all the outfielders. He has great range, a great arm and he makes wise decisions when the ball comes to him with runners on base. And if the Cubs can run Edmonds out there in center, I know Fukudome can play there too–much more than the 12 games he played there this year.

For a team that kicked around the ball too much during the playoffs, there is tremendous value in having a solid defender like Fukudome.

Finally, he is allowed to make adjustments during the offseason. The talk about being on the downside of his career or going to AAA is absurd. The league figured out his holes. He can seal them. He’s not going to just lay down and die. Guys Like Hideki Matsui and Kaz Matsui had to make adjustments too. And they played better in year 2 than they did in year 1. He might not hit .300 next year but he won’t hit .260 either. I’ll bet his power goes up too.

So quit freaking out on the guy. He came from Japan, had all the Cubbie hoopla, made the All-Star team and then was expected to help win the World Series. Maybe it all turned out to be a bit too overwhelming for him. How would that make him different from any other Cub?

[tags]Chicago Cubs, Lou Piniella, Kosuke Fukodome, MLB[/tags]

  • John Bigenwald

    Absolutely on target. If he started on Saturday there were 2 balls he gets to that DeRosa didn’t. The difference in the game — no, he’s still clueless at the plate.

    But how many rookies look like Hall of Famers until July then fall off the table. Doesn’t mean they don’t adjust and become productive in year #2. If he’s still auditioning for the Bolshoi ballet next year, then we can talk about an epic fail.

  • dhaab

    I think those words written by Sullivan are spot on. He’s untradeable.

    I agree with you on the OBP factor and defensive abilities, BUT he hit about .225 over the last 4 months of the season and that is ALARMING, to say the least. He looks lost at the plate and the fact that he made no adjustments during the year is even more reason to be worried. I don’t know why you think he needs an entire offseason to figure out how to make adjustments at the plate. That’s what all good hitters do. You seem to have your Cub blinders on for this guy just because he takes pitches and plays good D.

    Look, there are a lot of outfielders in the majors who make FAR less money and are able to do the things that Fukodome does. Skip Schumaker makes $400,000 and he’s a very similar player. Hell, even Matt Murton is a similar kind of player. Fukodome is basically a 4th outfielder in this league. The bottom line is the Cubs took a huge risk in signing Fukodome to such a long and expensive deal and now they’re stuck with him. But at least he brings in a bunch of Japanese fans to Wrigley. :)

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    We’ll agree to disagree. To completely disregard his torrid start and his career in Japan and base everything on part of June through the NLDS strikes me as a bit severe.

    You bring up Schumaker. He’s already 28 and LaRussa didn’t even play him his first 3 years. Aren’t you glad they stuck with him?

  • dhaab

    Yeah, I had been on the fence with Schumaker for the past two years. He was always solid defensively and he could run, so I tolerated his paltry hitting. But, there’s no doubt that he grew into what he is now. He just wasn’t as good of a hitter in ’06 or ’07. But now he’s entering the prime of his career and his numbers are improving.

    On the other hand, KF (Fukodome) is now 32 years old and he’s on the downside of his career. And even with that, KF’s numbers in Japan weren’t earth shattering even in his prime seasons (ages 28-31), especially concerning Batting Average. He always walks, but his average has always been pretty low. The numbers I’ve seen have him hitting under .260 3 out of the last 5 years in Japan. And of those 3, he hit .224 one year and .247 in another. IMO, that’s not very good, no matter how many times you’re walking.

    Who knows, Matt. Maybe he’s playing hurt, but he needs to figure it out soon. From a fundamental aspect, his swing seems to have way too many moving parts and it seems to hinder his contact rate.

    I think for the kinds of numbers he’s giving the Cubs so far, his contract is far too high and for too many years.

  • dhaab

    Just saw this in the Tribune:

    Fukudome Heckled at O’Hare Airport

    Kosuke Fukudome’s downfall has led to booing at Wrigley Field, and now he’s getting no respect.
    Passengers at O’Hare Airport were surprised to hear his name being paged over the public address system in Terminal B on Friday morning.
    But it turned out that it was all a joke.
    “Paging Kosuke Fukudome, paging Kosuke Fukudome … Please report to the Cincinnati Reds. You have been traded for a player to be named later.”
    Some of the passengers waiting for flights laughed, while others cringed.
    Either way, it looks like Chicago’s love affair with the Japanese star is officially over.

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    Not sure where you saw that about his averages, but he hasn’t hit under .277 since 2001.

    2007: .294
    2006: .351
    2004: .277
    2003: .313
    2002: .343

    And he’s actually only 31. But we will see how he does.

  • pv

    Zoner, I agree that his all-around skills are strong enough to stick with him, and I’m optimistic he’ll be better next year. Sullivan is off the mark. If that airport story is true, Marty Brenneman just got another reason to smile smugly.

  • dhaab

    Wow! I found my stats in Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster book. Seems there is quite a difference between his stats and yours. I also find it rather difficult to believe he EVER hit over .340 once, let alone twice.

    It’s funny to me to see your numbers now because Shandler predicted he would hit .260 this year, so he was almost right on with his BA.

  • HeyBuddy

    The Japanese baseball numbers that I’m able to find for Fukudome match what Zoner posted, but the discrepancy is interesting. Based on the numbers I’ve seen, if he was able to put up similar numbers for the Cubs they would be getting their money’s worth, but I think he will be hard-pressed to…

    I’m no expert on hitting, but to me it looks like Fukudome is bailing out every time he swings. His rear end is moving AWAY from home plate as he swings… As a result his balance seems poor and there seems to be an exaggerated twistiness (to use a technical term) to his swing. So, to me, it seems like he has some things to work out, and 31 seems a bit late to be remaking ones swing, especially with what he’s being paid.

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