Fukudome is Fukun Strugglin'

.327/.915
.293/.792
.264/.789
.236/.688
.107/.330

It's safe to say that Cubs RFer Kosuke Fukudome has, well, cooled off a bit since his hot start to the season. The above numbers are Fukudome's batting average and OPS in order from April to August. The numbers are pretty staggering.

The spotlight has been turned on Fukudome and his recent struggles this week when Lou Piniella made a comment about sitting Fukudome a bit until he starts to produce. Said Lou:
"We need him to start hitting. If not, I'm going to have to start looking for other options." "I'm going to put the best lineups that I can out there to win baseball games, period."
Lou has backed off those comments a bit today, but his concerns certainly didn't come, um, out of right field. Fukudome is clearly struggling.

The "common knowledge" on this seems to say that Fukudome started hot because none of the pitchers knew him. The pitchers have adjusted to Fukudome as they have learned his tendencies and have begun to throw to him accordingly. Fukudome has failed to adjust as well to the pitchers. I'm not sure that's true. Fukudome is clearly a good hitter. I'd like to think that he has the ability to adjust and hit bad pitching. I'm more inclined to believe the problems are coming from Fukudome and that's why he's struggling. Why? I don't know-but something is up. (A quick look at Fukudome's Fan Graphs didn't turn up much in my eyes-yours?)

It's possible that the grind is just getting to Fukudome. The Japanese season is significantly shorter than MLB's. Perhaps his body is just wearing down. He's not getting any younger. Perhaps he's being affected by being away from his family? Last I heard, his family was still in Japan. Maybe he changed his approach at the plate? Maybe the coaches tried to change something? Who knows-but Fukudome isn't playing as well as he could, and should be right now.

So where's that leave the Cubs? I say-let's get the guy some time off and give a guy who clearly deserves one a shot. In 80 PAs on the year, "pinch hit professional" Darly Ward is hitting just .221 with a .720 OPS. He's got 2 HRs and just 9 RBIs. And Ward has just 32 PAs since July 1st. Ward just hasn't put it together this year. I don't know if it's the end of the line for him, but I'm damn certain that he's a waste on the Cubs bench.

James Micah Hoffpauir is a beast right now. Set aside that in only 39 PAs on the year across a few stints with the Cubs that Hoffpauir is hitting .378 with a .951 OPS. Dude is hitting .371 with a 1.151 OPS and 19 HRs at Iowa in 224 ABs. That's downright Bonds-ian. As Lionel likes to do, if you extrapolate his numbers out over a full season at Iowa-you get something like this (stats a few days old):

.367 BA
52 HR's
215 RBI's
132 Runs
80 Doubles
457 total bases
.421 BA with RISP

Hoffpauir's hot spring has carried over into the year. And he's kept it rolling. So why is he not up helping the club? At the very least he should replace Daryl Ward on the Cubs bench immediately. Imagine a guy like this coming in late in a game off the pine? And Hoffpauir should be used as a "good-enough" replacement in RF to allow Fukudome a couple of days off a week. If you need the defense-bring Fukudome in. But otherwise, let the kid play a bit.

Going back to Lou's comment...playing Hoffpauir over Ward and Fukudome right now is the best lineup. Period.

Comment (1)

Anonymous

August 13, 2008 at 10:18 AM

Obviously, I couldn't agree more.

-Correll