Let’s take a look at our outfield – I wish we didn’t have to. The trio of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley left a LOT to be desired…
Kosuke Fukudome – Center Field
2009 Report Card Grade – B. One of the few “bright spots” for the Cubs in 2009 and I use that term loosely. Fukudome appeared to play better in his 2nd major league season, but when you look at the numbers, it really doesn’t play out that way.
2009 stats – 146 games; 499 at-bats; .259 batting average; .375 on-base percentage; 11 HR’s, 54 RBI’s; 79 runs scored; 112 K’s; 93 walks.
2008 stats – 150 games; 501 at-bats; .257 batting average; .359 on-base percentage; 10 HR’s, 58 RBI’s; 79 runs scored; 104 K’s; 81 walks.
In any event, because Fukudome didn’t have such stark differences between his 1st and 2nd half in 2009, he seemed to be a more consistent player in 2009. Fukudome showed good stretches during the 2009 campaign, but the .259 average and 100+ strikeouts 2 years in a row is a little concerning. Fukudome just finished the 2nd year of his 4-year contract. Paying an unproven 30-year old Japanese outfielder close to $50 million for a 4-year deal seemed a bit much at the time Jim Hendry convinced Kosuke to play for the Cubs. And once again (see Soriano), the numbers proved that true. Kosuke probably did not deserve a 4-year deal and he definitely did not deserve almost $50 million. This will go down as another bad outfield move by Hendry – it followed the Soriano debacle and preceded the Bradley debacle, so Hendry really has to feel the pressure to produce over the next couple of years. The Cubs payroll is mortgaged and inflexible because of the moves that Hendry has made the last 3 seasons, particularly in the outfield. If the players don’t produce, or if the Cubs miss out on younger, more dependable free agent outfielders over the next few season (see Jason Bay, Matt Holliday), someone has to be held accountable. And guess what Cubs fans, that person would be Jim Hendry.
On a positive note, Fukudome seemed to be a little more comfortable playing at the major league level in 2009. If he can continued to find his rhythm here in the states, that could translate into better numbers. He is also a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field so that also helps his cause. Let’s hope Kosuke can right the ship a little bit more in 2010…