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fukudome.jpgNo, it’s not pronounced Foo-koo-dohm. But everyone else seemed to be cashing in on the joke and I wanted a piece.

Speaking of cashing in (awkward segue of the day!), Kosuke Fukudome is officially a Chicago Cub. Last night, it was announced that he signed a 4-year $48 million deal to patrol the outfield grass of Wrigley Field. Umpbump has already done a small analysis of Fukudome’s numbers in Japan but here’s a quick recap:

  • Best offensive skill is plate discipline.
  • Will whiff on his share of third strikes, but makes very solid contact when he does connect.
  • Currently has the range to play centerfield, but at 31-years old, his skills will inevitably diminish in that department. May as well put him in one of the corner spots.
  • A fair expectation is an OPS around .830 (.370 OBP, .460 SLG). Not a star, but a very solid MLB outfielder.

Considering the money that both Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter received this offseason, we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that Fukudome is getting $12 million per year for four. I anticipated at least a $40 million deal and that was before the outfield market was set by the Anaheim-Hunter contract. So I can’t really fault the Cubs for going so high.

The positive here is that Fukudome gives the Cubs something they sorely needed – a guy who could get on base. With Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano in the lineup, Chicago has some pop (they just couldn’t keep all 3 on the field in 2007). But they often came to bat with the bases clear. The four guys who most often occupied the top two spots in the batting order (Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Jacque Jones, and Mike Fontenot) simply couldn’t fill these roles. In fact, none of them had an OBP higher than .337, which helps account for why the Cubs ranked in the bottom half in MLB in that category. As a team, they walked only 500 times in 2007, which was 26th out of the 30 clubs. If Sweet Lou pencils in Fukudome’s name in the #2 slot, the big bats ought to see some more RBI opportunities.

murton.jpgBut here’s the negative from my perspective, which is one that I imagine most Cubs fans will disagree with. I’ve expressed support for Matt “Big Red” Murton in the past, primarily because he would help Chicago in the OBP department. While I think that Fukudome is a superior player, to me, these two guys are rather similar. Neither should be expected to hit 30 homeruns because, simply, it’s not who they are. But utilized well, they’ll more than make up for their lack of power. So the question becomes, is Kosuke Fukudome worth $48 million more than Murton? I’m not so sure about that.

I should give the Cubs some credit here for improving during an offseason that’s looking difficult for anyone to do so. If they can keep Lee, Ramirez and Soriano on the field, they certainly have a chance to repeat as division champs, and Fukudome will help.

12 Responses to “Cubs Fans Scramble For The Fukudome’s ‘Luxury Box’ (Wait, that doesn’t work…)”

  1. Alejandro Leal says:

    And I don’t know if anyone noticed, but Kenny Williams is officially 0-3 in trying to land a “big fish” for the White Sox’ outfield.

    No Hunter, No Andruw, and now, no Fuku for you.

  2. The difference between Murton and Fukudome also lies in the fact that Murton is a below average fielder with a below average arm and average speed. Fukudome is said to be above average in all these categories. You can also not neglect the fact that the Cubs were in need of a bat from the left side that has some power. It may take him a season to adjust but he should be a superior player to Murton. Also the Cubs are more likely to bat this guy at 5 than 2. They want to get Brian Roberts for the 2 hole and will probably put Theriot there if they fail to acquire Roberts.

  3. So Melissa, you still approve of Soriano at the top spot? Him and his career .327 OBP?

  4. Sarah Green says:

    I know this ranks me somewhere below Beavis and Butthead in maturity level, but I always giggle when people talk about “the 2 hole.” Especially if they are “inserting him into the 2-hole.”

    Nate Silver has posted the PECOTA projection for Fukudome. Though he meant it to be positive, the headline should send a chill through Cubs fans anyway: Fukudome: The New J.D. Drew?

  5. Coley Ward says:

    Alejandro, the White Sox also failed to land Aaron Rowand, who just signed with the Giants for FIVE YEARS.

  6. Alejandro Leal says:

    Well, sure, there were rumors that “The Legend” (as Rowand is known in the South Side) was being considered, but I doubt Williams seriously pursued him.

    The fact that he singed for 5 years, however, means that the White Sox (specifically Williams) have fallen flat on their face because they refuse to offer more than 3 years to a Free Agent (or any of their vets for that matter).

    I mean they almost let Buerhle go because they wouldn’t give him four years.

    What I don’t understand is how on earth do they shell $19 million for a reliever?

  7. Alejandro Leal says:

    Paul Konerko is the only 5+ year contract the ChiSox didn’t inherit.

  8. Paul,
    No, I’m not thrilled with Soriano in the lead off slot but he has shown in the past that he isn’t capable of hitting lower in the order. Lou tried moving him down in the order and he was close to a .220 hitter. His batting average drops significantly if he’s not seeing fastballs in that lead off spot, his career numbers prove it. They spent a ton of money on him so they need to put him where he has the best chance to succeed. There are also rumors that they will put Roberts at lead off if they acquire him. If that’s the case look for Theriot to be in the 2 hole. (insert Sarah’s snickering here)

    As for the White Sox, Williams ended discussions with Rowand’s agent as soon as he said he wanted 5 years, they claim dollars weren’t even discussed. That is what is coming out of the Sox organization. Normally it is just pitchers that the Sox won’t offer deals in excess of 3 years to, Buehrle was the exception. Kenny also fell short on his bid for Miguel Cabrera and claimed he had no interest in Andruw Jones. I’m still saying they end up with Juan Pierre or Coco Crisp in center if they acquire anyone.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Huh huh, huh huh, huh huh.

    Heh, heh heh heh, heh heh heh.

  10. God, I would LOVE for the White Sox to take Juan Pierre off the Dodgers’ hands um, I mean, pry Juan Pierre away from the Dodgers.

    Please Kenny? Let’s just pull the trigger on this one while you are still in your post-Fukudome-to-the-Cubs depression.

  11. Melissa, I think I get what you’re saying. But I wasn’t aware that leadoff hitters see more fastballs than anyone else. A lot of times, leadoff guys come up to bat with no one on base – either as the first batter of the game or because the guys in the 7-8-9 spots don’t get on base very often. As far as I can tell, pitchers are more apt to throw breaking pitches in these situations. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Either way, Soriano only got 37 ABs in 2007 while not batting at the top of the order. It’s not much of a chance that he was given. You can look at any hitter and it’s really not hard at all to find a 37-AB-span during which they underperformed. Besides, in 2005, Soriano put up better numbers batting fifth than he did leadoff. I don’t put much stock in these numbers either, but at least it’s an example that it has been done.

  12. Paul, I don’t recall the exact number but John Dewan of Stats Inc. has discussed the fact that the lead-off slot does get a higher percentage of fastballs. He also stated that in the National League the lead-off batter comes to the plate 66% of the time with no one on base which also increases the number of fastballs seen by the hitter. You’re correct that Soriano didn’t receive a significant number of at bats outside of the lead-off slot with the Cubs but his career numbers also reflect a lower average, I believe his BA is under .240 when not hitting out of that lead-off slot. It’s also been apparent from things Soriano has said that he doesn’t feel comfortable lower in the order. So it’s also possible that his mental approach is having an effect on his productivity as well.

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