Batting Second, Kosuke Fukudome

Posted by Lionel on March 11, 2009.

Lou told Fukudome yesterday that he was intending to pencil him into the #2 spot. I like this move. While I may be the only person East of the Pacific and not named Lou Pinella who likes it, here's why I think it makes sense.

Obviously, his left-handedness makes him ideal for the 2 hole, allowing Lou to use Board Games (Milton Bradley) lower in the lineup. While I like Board Game's potential to do damage and drive in runs, I'd hate to see someone like ARam hitting lower in the lineup just to get a leftie in the middle of the lineup.

Fukudome is a patient hitter. Of his 590 plate appearances, he hit the ball on the first pitch 77 times. In contrast, he worked the count full 118 times and the count was 3-1 or 2-2 another 128 times, meaning he saw at least 5 pitches in 41.6% of his plate appearances. In contract, Soriano had 59 PA's where he hit the ball on the first pitch and 52 full counts. With a free swinger like Sorianio leading off, the old adage of the leadoff hitter allowing the rest of the team to see a pitcher's stuff is thrown out the window. But if Fukudome works the count, you essentially fill that role with your #2 hitter.

Fukudome's patience will also help Soriano get more SB's, if Lou allows Sori to steal. But the bigger bonus I see is that Fukudome can be used in hit and runs. Fukudome may be at his best when he's just trying to put the ball in play on the ground. He hit 30 points higher with runners on than the bases empty. If he can get Soriano to second, maybe the double play machine DLee won't have the 27 GIDP's he had last year. If he can get himself on along with Soriano, he allows crooked numbers to be put on the board.

Most people will point to The Riot as the best 2 hole hitter. But he doesn't bring the same qualities to the table. Sure, he hit 50 points higher that Fukudome last year. But he had slightly more first pitches put in play than full counts (89 to 85). The Riot hit into 16 double plays in 117 plate appearances with a runner on first compared to Fukudome's 5 in 114 PA's. I'm not saying The Riot doesn't bring some good qualities to the 2 hole. He struck out about half as much as Fukudome last year, and stole 10 more bags, but also did that in 20 more SB attempts. The Riot is also at his best in the hit and run, when he can try to punch the ball through the open hole.

Fukudome should be better with Sori and likely DLee batting in front and behind him. But looking blankly at the stats would normally shoot a big hole in my theory, as Fuku hit just .154 in the #2 spot last year. But Soriano missed time last year from June 12th-July 22nd. During that period, Fukudome logged 58 of his 89 plate appearances in the 2 hole. So while he struggled batting second last year, he spent the majority of his time batting behind guys like Reed Johnson and The Riot.

Whether this is one of those brain-childs of Lou that will be reversed in a few days (see Sori moving down in the lineup) is to be seen. And if Fukudome struggles again, it's not likely he'll stay in the 2 hole for long.

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