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.
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump