Tag Archives: Kosuke Fukudome

Kosuke Fukudome Update For June 4, 2009

Kosuke Fukudome, 44 games played, 2009: .308/.434/.500, 5 HR, 32 BB, 30 SO

Kosuke Fukudome, 44 games played, 2008: .319/.421/.450, 2 HR, 29 BB, 27 SO

2009 Kosuke is still doing better. He’s hitting for more power and his BABIP, at .354, is high, but not so high it’s unsustainable, either. He seems to be getting better at center field, too – his UZR/150 at the position has risen to -4.8. That’s still a little below average, but not as bad as it was, so he seems to be coming around as a center fielder, too.

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Is Kosuke really better?

Kosuke Fukudome had a terrible second half last season. And he followed it up with a terrible World Baseball Classic, which led into a terrible, abbreviated, spring training. Then he went 0-4 in the season opener, and didn’t start in game two, and I, at least, concluded that he’d be lucky to get half the plate appearances in center field.

Then in game three, he went 4-5 with a walk and a home run, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. Through seventeen games (that is, through everything before the Arizona series), he had, in 77 PAs, a .371/.481/.661 line, with four home runs.

This isn’t just as good as his hot start last year, it’s better. After 77 PAs last year, Fukudome looked like he’d be the rookie of the year, with a .317/.442/.460 line. ThisĀ  year, he’s hitting for a higher average, and as a result, getting on base more. His walks are down from 14 at this time last year to 13 this year – but last year, two of those were intentional, and none are this year. And he’s slugging 200 points better, because he’s hit more home runs in the first seventeen games than he did in the first 50 last year.

Can he keep it up? Well, almost certainly not. His batting average on balls in play is .413, which is unsustainable (although actually a little low for his also-unsustainable 31.3% line-drive percentage). And it’s a little higher than his BABIP at the same point last year, which was .387. So we can expect that average to drop a bit. But home runs aren’t part of BABIP, so if those keep up, he’s going to be much better.

In fact, he’s likely to put up a much better line for the whole season, anyway. Fukudome hit, after this point last year, .249/.346/.368. If he were to equal last season’s numbers, he’d have to go .241/.339/.333. It’s possible he could hit those average and on-base numbers, but I’m not sure he could equal that slugging number for the rest of the season if he tried. So it looks like, while Fukudome could still fall below the high hopes people had when he came to MLB, he’s in the midst of what we’ll look back at as something of an improvement on the season.

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Fukudome’s Head

Paul Sullivan wrote a column the other day on the nine things the Cubs need to worry about. Most of the things are things about which one could fairly worry, although none of them strikes me, alone, as a season-killer.

But one of those things is “Fukudome’s head.” What about it? Sullivan seems to be talking about how Fukudome got worse as the season went on, but why does that have anything to do with his head? The guy was an excellent player in Japan, but MLB is a harder league than NPB, and isn’t it possible that once the league adjusted to Fukudome, he wasn’t good enough to catch up? That he got a little lucky early in the season and it made him look better than he was?

If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about baseball writers – and there’s more than one – it’s the need to assign character faults to bad on-field performances. Why does it have to be anything more with Fukudome than that he’s just not as talented as we’d hoped? Isn’t it enough that he’s just not a great baseball player, does it have to mean there’s something actually wrong with him, too?

Apparently, for Paul Sullivan, yes.

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