Fukudome's First Was Fabulous, But He's No Kaz Matsui
Kosuke Fukudome's Cub debut was so riveting Monday afternoon, it was almost enough to distract from Kerry Wood's ninth-inning failure and the larger disappointment of losing the opener to the Brewers.
But terrific as it was, Fukudome's plate performance didn't quite match up to what one of his countrymen, Kaz Matsui, did when he first took the field for the Mets four years ago. On that evening, Matsui slugged the first pitch in his Major League career 429 feet, well over the center field fence in Atlanta's Turner Field, and set his new team off on a 7-2 season-opening victory. In addition to the homer, Matsui ripped a pair of doubles and walked twice, so he reached base five times in five PA's.
Given the way Matsui eventually stunk up New York, it could be argued that his Met career went straight downhill following that first game.
In any case, here's a review of the most prominent Japanese hitters to cross the Pacific and how they fared in their first regular season games on American soil:
MLB Debut: April 2, 2001 v. A's
Went: 2-for-5, including a strikeout and a run scored
Team result: Mariners won 5-4
Hideki Matsui, Yankees
MLB Debut: March 31, 2003 v. Toronto
Went: 1-for-4, with an RBI
Team result: Yankees won 8-4
Kaz Matsui, Mets
MLB Debut: April 6, 2004 v. Atlanta
Went: 3-for-3, including HR, 3 RBI, and a run scored, plus 2 walks
Team result: Mets won 7-2
Tad Iguchi, White Sox
MLB Debut: April 4, 2005 v. Indians
Went: 0-for-4, including a strikeout
Team result: White Sox won 1-0
Kenji Johjima, Mariners
MLB Debut: April 3, 2006 v. Angels
Went: 1-for-3, including HR and a run scored, plus a walk
Team result: Mariners lost 5-4
Akinori Iwamura, Rays
MLB Debut: April 2, 2007 v. Yankees
Went: 1-for-3 with a run scored, plus a walk
Team result: Rays lost 9-5
Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs
MLB Debut: March 31, 2008 v. Brewers
Went: 3-for-3 with a double, game-tying, ninth-inning HR, 3 RBI, and a walk
Team result: Cubs lost 4-3
Of all these players, Iwamura--who manned third base in Tampa last season, but is playing second this year--had the most productive first month in the U.S., hitting .472/.482/961 (OBP/SLG/OPS).
Ichiro went .358/.431/789 in his first month with Seattle; Hideki Matsui, who currently has a lifetime OPS of 856, put up a dismal .320/.364/684 line in his first April with the Yankees.
2nd in defensive WAR, NL.
6th in NL in RBI
Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.