Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 Cubs preview: Right field

Stop with the crazy spinning! Stop it! Shuushi!

In Kosuke Fukudome's first at-bat as a Cub, he lasered a double off the center field wall against Ben Sheets. In the ninth inning of that game, as you likely recall, he hit a three-run home run to tie it up. Only $12 million for this guy? What a bargain!

Or not. Fukudome batted .257 in 2008 and .259 last season. That Opening Day display of power and production was misleading: Fukudome has a total of 21 home runs and 102 RBI in his two seasons in the majors. (By the way, the similarity between Fukudome's 2008 and 2009 numbers is freaky: 150 games, 146 games; 501 AB, 499 AB; 79 runs, 79 runs; 129 hits, 129 hits. Weird.)

I have two pieces of very good news, however:

1) His OBP in 2008 was .359, and it improved to .375 last year (ahead of Theriot, Johnson, Soto and Soriano, among others). Last year, when batting first or second in the lineup, his OBP was .379.

2) He is expected to bat near the top of the order this season. He'll start in the two-hole, though that could change.

My point is, Fukudome has something to bring to the table, and it's his ability to get on base. That ability should be better-exploited this season with him expected to bat first or second rather than being expected to be a run-producer near the middle of the order.

Still, Fukudome's performance has been rather disappointing given that he batted .351 and .294 in his last two seasons in Japan. While he was credited (wrongly, one would think) with the Cubs' dramatic shift in philosophy in 2008 (taking pitches, drawing walks), it'd be great to see him put up his own solid numbers this season, rather than simply being credited with those of his teammates. After two seasons of watching him struggle to catch up with above average fastballs, I have a hard time believing that will happen.

Prediction: .264 avg, 9 HR, 51 RBI, .380 OBP, 13 stolen bases

But what do you think?


  1. As you mentioned, he is moving up in the order, so I think the most important category is runs. With only 79 the last two years, I think he will be closer to 100 this coming year.

    .256 avg, 8 HR, 44 RBI, .375 OBP, and 100 runs

    If every one of those is exactly right, I should win some sort of prize.

  2. Looks about right to me: .271, 8 HR, 45 RBI, .385 OBP

  3. You're right, I should have predicted runs as well. I'll go with 91.

  4. Isn't it hard to predict a player's runs since it has nothing to do with his talent, only the performance of the batters who follow him? I suppose the number would be affected if he's stealing a ton of bases.

  5. I think it's largely a function of the player's ability to get on base as well. For example, Ryan Zimmerman was fourth in the majors in runs last year despite being on the Nationals. Five of the top ten run scorers last year had an OBP over .385.

  6. Question, is he expected to only play right this year? I was looking over his two year stats and couldn't figure out why his fielding stats were so much worse last year than 2008 until I realized he was in CF for most games next year. Without going through the sausage grinding of the stats, it looks like he is an above average/ good RF and a pretty bad CF. Would you guys agree with this?

  7. I guess what really matters to me is how often a player gets on base (OBP), not how well the next player does.

  8. Yes, he will play right field this year with Marlon Byrd playing center. I think what you said is accurate--he doesn't quite have the range for CF, but he's an above average right fielder.

  9. Trevor-- do you not care about RBI's either and just worry about batting average? It is pretty tough to put up good RBI numbers when the players around you don't get on base.

  10. I don't think of RBI as nearly as important as OBP or batting average, but I consider it more valid than runs. RBI tells me how "clutch" a batter is, but I admit Tyler's wOBA is a much better indicator.