Following up yesterday’s Alfonso Soriano facts/stats with a Kosuke Fukudome sighting seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Back in 2008 (Fukudome’s 1st year in the United States with the Cubs), he started off hot by hitting a game-tying 3-run home run in the 9th inning against the Brewers on Opening Day and staying hot all through the month of April with a batting average over .300. But by the end of the season, Fukudome had a batting average of only .257 hitting just 10 home runs and driving in 58 RBI’s. 2009 brought a similar stat line — .259 batting average, 11 HR’s, 54 RBI’s. Sure his on-base percentage was solid – .359 and .375, respectively, but was he really worth $12 million a year for 4 years?
Well we’re seeing the same hot start for Kosuke in 2010, but I must admit, he seems a lot more relaxed and confident at the plate. Is it having 2 years under his belt in the U.S.? Is it something new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo noticed in his swing and Kosuke’s willingness to listen to his American coaches now? Whatever it is, I have been seriously impressed with the results. Kosuke already has 5 HR’s and 17 RBI’s in the 2-hole. He has a .342 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage. Most importantly, he already has 14 walks and just 11 K’s in 73 at-bats – that is an excellent ratio. He seems a lot more patient at the plate and is really making pitchers work the count so that he sees a lot more pitches. That makes the pitcher throw more pitches so you can get to the bullpen earlier, and it helps the sluggers behind him – Derrek Lee, Marlon Byrd, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano – see more pitches as they prepare for their at-bats. It becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Now don’t get me wrong, if he ends up hitting in the .250’s with similar offensive output as in his 1st 2 major league seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. But I’m really seeing a different Fukudome this year and believe he has a great shot at sustaining this output for the entire season. Maybe not 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s, but definitely close to 20 HR’s and 75 RBI’s with a lot of hits. Guess we’ll have to wait and see – but I hope Kosuke keeps it up!