Kosuke Fukudome

On the day of the rule 4 draft, I'll keep this short. It's based on a Sun-Times article by Gordon Wittenmyer about why Kosuke Fukudome is surprising the Cubs management with his solid performance so far in 2009. I guess the surprise is they had virtually written him off when they went out and got another multi-year contract, free-agent,  left handed hitting right fielder (OK, Bradley is a switch hitter) for the second year in a row. The article implies that the reason Fukudome was bad the second half of 2008 was that he was having subconscious mechanical problems with his swing, related to his 2007 elbow arthroscopy for the removal of bone chips.

But perhaps the most important reason and least known publicly was the affect his surgically repaired right arm had on his swing.

Fukudome had elbow surgery late in the 2007 season, and the elbow started bothering him last season right about the time his decline began in May. By the end of the season, his hitting mechanics were a mess.

''I didn't feel the pain physically, but I must have been subconsciously feeling the pain of the elbow,'' said Fukudome, still reluctant to openly admit pain. But when asked if it was a factor last season, he said, ''Probably it was.'' 

All I'm going to say about this victory is, Alfonso Soriano reminded us why it's worth having a left fielder who can't actually field, Kosuke Fukudome continues his drive to be christened "Mr. April," and Carlos Marmol, who is officially NOT the Cubs closer, made our opponents' best hitters look helpless in a way that the guy who is our closer never, ever could.

 

Cubs (2-1; 1st in NL Central) vs. Brewers (1-2; 4th in NL Central) at Miller Park

Head-to-head Record
First meeting in 2009. Cubs won 9 of 16 games between the teams in 2008.

Pitching matchups
Friday, 3:05pm
Rich Harden (0-0) vs. Braden Looper (0-0)

Saturday, 6:05pm
Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 1.50) vs. David Bush (0-0, 18.00)

Sunday, 7:05pm
Ryan Dempster (0-0, 3.00) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-1, 13.50)

W - Ted Lilly (1-0)
L - Brian Moehler (0-1)

Box Score

In the spirit of Passover, we begin tonight's recap by asking, why is this night different from all other nights?

The answer:

Tonight the Cubs sent nine men to the plate in each of the first two innings, building a lead so large, it allowed Ted Lilly to throw his own personal game of Home Run Derby and still win his first game of the season.

Details after the jump.

Torii Hunter crushed a lead-off first-pitch home run to ignite a seven-run 4th inning, propelling the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa, as the Cubs set an all-time single-season Cactus League attendance record. (It probably helped that the 2009 Cactus League season was extended by a week and a few extra home games to accomodate the WBC).   

box score

Prepping for the first game of 2nd Round WBC play in San Diego on Sunday, Team Japan edged the Chicago Cubs 3-2 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park on a cool & breezy Thursday afternoon in Mesa, AZ. 

box score

These past few days I've been thinking. I've had the thought that maybe certain things are true and we need to accept them. For example:

  • Maybe Andre Dawson and Ron Santo really aren't hall of fame players. For the past few years they've done all sorts of changing of the way that the veterens committee elects members and all still come back with the same news for Ron. These are his peers that aren't seeing it. Perhaps we're simply blinded by the fact that we so badly want to see something go well for the guy. As for the hawk, maybe those days in Montreal on the turf cost him his spot.
  • Maybe trading Mark DeRosa, as unpopular as it was from a fan standpoint, was a good idea. You always hear the saying that it's better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late. We've seen the latter in the last few years with guys like Marquis and we'll probably see it again with someone like Felix Pie. Perhaps Jim Hendry made the right call.
  • Maybe Kosuke Fukudome just needed a year to get used to the big leagues and he really won't suck in 2009. It would be a great help to us and would allow us to keep Milton Bradley as healthy as possible. Perhaps we just need to hold out hope.
  • Maybe Ronny Cedeno will finally learn to not be a retard with the mental errors. After all, we did agree to a contract with him today.
  • Maybe....just maybe...The Cubs will win a World Series in 2009.

Then again, maybe I'm retarded.

A look at the ten Cubs hits from the season so far that did the most to enhance the team's chances of winning, according to FanGraphs' Win Probability Added statistic.

#10.) May 11th, 7th inning v. Arizona, man on first, one out, Cubs trailing the Diamondbacks, 4-2. Facing former Cub Juan Cruz, Reed Johnson cracks a two-run homer to tie the game, which the home team will go on to win 6-4, after Daryle Ward delivers a two-run double one inning later. Johnson homer = WPA .321

#9.) May 2nd, 9th inning at St. Louis, man on second, one out, Cubs trail the Cardinals, 3-1. Jason Isringhausen is in for the Cards, trying to preserve a 3-1 St. Louis lead for starter Adam Wainwright, but Alfonso Soriano will have none of it, clobbering an Isringhausen pitch for a game-tying two-run shot. Chad Fox, who clearly has no sense of drama in addition to his physical challenges, winds up serving a game-winning two-run homer to Skip Schumacher in the 11th inning. Soriano homer = WPA .342

#8.) April 23rd, 10th inning at Colorado, men on first and second, two outs, Cubs and Rox are tied, 6-6. The Cubs get two men aboard for Ryan Theriot, who lines a single to right field that scores Mike Fontenot with the lead and eventual winning run, extending a Cubs winning streak to six games. Theriot single = WPA .351

The countdown continues after the jump.

The five hits from the past week that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chances of winning, according to Win Probability Added as calculated by Fan Graphs:

#5.) Tuesday, 9th inning at Tampa, man on first, one out, Cubs trailing the Rays, 3-1. Kosuke Fukudome doubles against Troy Percival, sending Mark DeRosa around to third. It's so obvious the Cubs will at least tie up this game and send it to extra innings. It's so very, very obvious...right up to the moment the Rays retire Reed Johnson to lock down the 3-2 win. Fukudome double = WPA .150  

#4.) Saturday, 4th inning vs. White Sox, men on first and second, one out, Cubs trailing the Sox, 4-3. Fukudome hits a ground single to right, scoring Ryan Theriot from second base to tie the game 4-4, with much more run-making yet to follow in this fourth inning. Fukudome single = WPA .159

The countdown continues after the jump.

One of our trusted readers tells us that he heard on WGN radio that Lou Piniella has decided to bat Kosuke Fukudome leadoff until Alfonso Soriano is back...or until Lou changes his mind again. I would assume that Jim Edmonds would get the bulk of the work at the five spot from now on, at least versus righties.

I also wanted to share this story that another reader found via the Sun-Times:

Mark DeRosa interrupted Matt Murton's back-in-the-big-leagues news conference Tuesday with the question most people want the answer to:

''Will you stop hitting swinging bunts and start driving balls out
of the ballpark with your quads the size of bricks?'' DeRosa said,
grinning. ''Let's ask the real questions. You going to hit some home
runs?''

Replied Murton: ''Why not?''

That's the even bigger question -- the one probably most responsible for keeping Murton in the minors longer than expected.

 That is the million dollar question with Murton, now isn't it?

 

Monday's tense victory over the Dodgers might have been much less so if the Cubs had capitalized on a bases loaded/one out situation in the last of the sixth inning. Instead Chad Billingsley turned Kosuke Fukudome's hard groundball back to the mound into a snappy, 1-2-3, inning-ending double play.

In general, the Cubs offense, which remains the highest-scoring in the NL at 5.7 R/G, has held up its end of the workload in 2008. It's certainly been true in the precise situation that Fukudome found himself.

According to numbers presented at Bill James Online (subscription required),

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning during the past week of Dusty-dissing and Pirate punishment, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):


#5 Big Hit:
Friday, v. Pittsburgh, 4th inning-- With the Cubs trailing 1-0, Kosuke Fukudome rips a leadoff triple against Ian Snell. (Fukudome would score moments later on a Mark DeRosa single). WPA .120

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP *Zach Duke SP Ryan Dempster
  0-0, 2.89, 7 K, 4 BB
2-0, 2.37, 13 K, 9 BB
       
CF *Nate McLouth CF Reed Johnson
2B Freddy Sanchez SS Ryan Theriot
LF Jason Bay 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Adam LaRoche 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Xavier Nady LF Matt Murton
C #Ryan Doumit RF Mark DeRosa
3B Jose Bautista C Geovany Soto
SS Brian Bixler 2B Ronny Cedeno
P
*Zach Duke P Ryan Dempster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WGN Radio is reporting that Kosuke Fukudome has a sebaceous cyst on his forehead which is causing some swelling in his right eyelid and thus, some vision problems. However, according to WGN's Cory Provus, Fukudome is on medication and is expected to return to the lineup on Monday.

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning this week, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):


#5 Big Hit:
Saturday v. Houston, 3rd inning--Derrek Lee cracks a solo home run off Roy Oswalt to tie the Astros, 2-2. Lee would later employ his game-tying skills to more good use. (See #4 Big Hit.) WPA .120


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:

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