Cubs Fans “View” of Fukudome
By Mike Brandyberry
Many Cleveland Indians fans are not overly excited about the acquisition of Kosuke Fukudome on Thursday. But, considering the team’s recent struggles in the outfield, and their offensive struggles all summer, Fukudome seems to fill each of those holes for the rest of the season. I was able to speak with three writers for the Cubs’ blog, Obstructed View. Adam, David and Jeff certainly have a different view of Fukudome than Indians, and maybe Cubs, fans.
Adam: First off, congratulations on landing two months of Kosuke. I’m just sorry for your sake neither of those months is April.
Mike: I think Indians fans are lukewarm on the deal to say the best. They don’t really care about the prospects, but fans are not trusting of ownership and the front office of the Tribe. Many perceive this as a “safe” move. Fans want a big splash. While I don’t consider Fukudome a big splash, I’m kind of surprised Cubs fans are so glad to see him go. I guess my first question is why is that the case? Is it just because he really has never met the price of his contract?
Adam: I think Cubs fans are happy just to see Jim Hendry make any deal at all that sheds a contract, even if it is an expiring one. It’s just frustrating to see this team sit back and pretend contention is right around the corner.
I like Kosuke, but overall Cubs fans just expected more from him. Part of that is because they think a $10+ million salary is astronomical, and it’s just not the case anymore. And Kosuke was an anomaly. Every April he was great. As the summers wore on, Fukudome had worn out. Cubs fans tend to get grumpier at the end of the season. That doesn’t help Kosuke’s popularity.
Mike: Don’t worry, Indians fans completely understand dealing with an overpriced contract, resulting in no other team wanting to touch the player. In Cleveland, we call that Travis Hafner. In the last ten days the Indians have quite possibly lost three games because of outfield play. I think their hope is that Fukudome can play right field until Shin-Soo Choo returns. Once Choo returns, I think they have some ideas of trying to play center field and keep Michael Brantley in left field. However, I guess I have a hard time seeing an aging veteran playing a very solid center field, certainly not as well as a young, Brantley. My hope is the decide to move Fukudome to left field when Choo returns.
I also think they plan to Fukudome first or second. If it was me, I’d hit him second, with Brantley leading off and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting third. This allows the team to move Ezequiel Carrera down to the ninth spot and when Choo returns he won’t be expected to hit third, like he was early in the season. Choo could hit fifth or sixth and help deepen the Tribe’s lineup.
Are those all fair hopes and expectations? What should we expect from Kosuke Fukudome?
David: Fukudome is what he is: a leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers who gets on base an awful lot. He’s not going to steal bases. He probably shouldn’t face lefties. His defense definitely won’t hurt you. Kosuke was signed as the one key free agent entering the 2008 season and the Cubs, along with most of the projections expected very big things. He was compared to Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, which was more about them being Japanese than it was their playing abilities.
I think part of the Cubs fans frustration should be aimed at how he was used. He was signed to be a middle of the lineup hitter and it was evident early on he was not that, but the Cubs aren’t known for being a forward thinking organization. So finally four years into his contract they put him at leadoff and he’s done a fine job with the Cubs this season. He was wrongly labeled a middle of the order hitter, but that’s not his fault. It’s not his fault for signing a contract that was offered to him either. I don’t think the fans are upset he didn’t meet the price of the contract. They’re more upset they didn’t meet their own unreasonable expectations.
Considering what the Indians gave up to acquire him, I think this is a good deal for them. Fukudome is going to give you some solid on-base skills, strong defense and he can play any of the outfield positions.
As for expectations moving forward, I’m a big fan of projections and ZiPS projects a .333 wOBA (weight on-base average) going forward. That probably drops a bit with a move to the AL and to a less hitter friendly ballpark, but if the Indians use him wisely there’s no reason they can’t get .340 wOBA production out of him the rest of the way (batters hit better vs opposite handed pitchers of course). League average right now is about .320 so that’s not bad. Especially when the Indians are paying less than a million bucks and didn’t give up much to get him.
Like I said earlier, he’s a top of the order hitter so the 2 spot would be just fine. I’m really not sure how good he is in center field to be honest. He played there for about a year with the Cubs and didn’t look nearly as good as he does in right, but that’s typical. My guess is he plays left field, but I wouldn’t rule out the Indians giving him a chance to play center.
Jeff: I wouldn’t even call Fukudome a bad contract. He provided a lot of value as a leadoff hitter and one of the few Cubs who can work pitches and get on base, which is something most fans don’t value quite as highly. As others pointed out the main problem was with expectations on what kind of hitter he is.
Fukudome in center field is not a great idea, though maybe the Indians coaching staff can improve his positioning. Kosuke’s main problem in center was that he played so deep he might as well have been on the Red Line platform (to leave Wrigley Field).
Mike: Thanks so much for the feedback guys. Like I said, Fukudome in right field for the time being, and eventually in left field I think fits best. Considering he doesn’t have speed like most top of the order hitters, I think second would be best for him in the Tribe’s order. Since the Indians gave up very little, I think it is a good deal, as long as fans don’t think he’s taking this team to another level. I appreciate all the help and insight into Kosuke Fukudome. Your views don’t seem very obstructed at all.