Fukudome’s Fall

What’s happened to Kosuke Fukudome? Generally you would think that an established player coming over from Japan would struggle during the first few months of his MLB career while he adjusted to the different styles and levels of play and then settle into a groove. Fukudome however, started off a star in Chicago’s north side as the Cubs raced out in the NL Central going 35-21 through May while Fukudome posted a .310/.412/.442 batting line while playing more than adequate right field defense.

Fukudome would start to decline in June, but still managed a fabulous OBP thanks to 17 walks against just 22 strikeouts, giving him a fantastic .123 isolated discipline. Kosuke even doubled his home run total to that point with three in June giving him a decent, but not spectacular .138 isolated power mark. So while his average dipped down to the .260s for that month, his more important slash stats remained viable and healthy.

Then something seemingly happened on June 29th as from that point forward Fukudome has regressed in every category. He’s only hit three home runs during that 66 game span and a total of 11 extra base hits giving him a lean .089 isolated power and while he still drew 26 walks during that time, he also struck out at a much higher rate, 49 times in 233 plate appearances, a 21% clip compared to just under 16% prior. And those 26 walks represented about a five point decline in walk rate over that prior period as well.

Overall, it’s been a .207/.293/.296 slash line for Fukudome since June 29th. One might wonder if pitchers have adjusted to his lack of power and are starting to throw him more strikes as they fear him less. Or maybe he was just really comfortable in the five spot of the batting order, where he started the season until the middle of June when he got moved up to leadoff and subsequently bounced around as he’s faltered.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

4 Responses to “Fukudome’s Fall”

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  1. Red Sox Talk says:

    Or maybe it’s fatigue. A lot of players (Dice-K, Okajima) that have come over more recently seem to struggle with the grind of the American season, which requires a lot more travel and more games over a longer season. Of course, those are pitchers, so I don’t know if it hold as much for position players.

    For what it’s worth, in 2003 Hideki Matsui hit .299/.356/.449 in his first half season, and then .269/.347/.413 the rest of the way. He really hit a wall in August, then rebounded in September. Kaz Matsui went .269/.336/.411 the first half of 2004, and then hit .282/.316/.345 after the ASB, in very limited time. After a strong start, he went .233/.266/.252 in June of that year.

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  2. Isaac says:

    I have watched Fukudome day in and day out and like Lou has said numerous times, he needs to “Americanize” his swing. Or at least adjust to the adjustments the league has made to him. His follow through takes him towards first base and pitchers have continually hammered the outer portion of the plate, the area he can’t reach if his body is already half way out the box. The fact that he can’t hit a decent breaking ball isn’t helping his case either. Not only has he been extremely unproductive over the second half, but he has done it in spectacular fashion, corkscrewing himself into the ground with every swing, miss and twist.

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  3. I trace it to June 24th, against George Sherrill. The look on Fukudome’s face after the heater at the head was memorable. The flailing swings at waaay outside sliders were, too.

    A little more here on that game, if you’re interested.

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  4. Nick says:

    As a Cardinals fan I can say that I am so glad the Cubs still owe him 3yrs and 36 mil. The Cubs better win it all soon because very soon they are going to be saddled with numerous hefty contracts for players in decline. They have spent themselves to the brink of victory but there is a price for such largesse and soon it will come due. The Cubs are going to be bad for awhile when they find that they can’t trade away declining players with bad contracts….unless they push their spending to Yankee levels.

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