Well the Indians finally made their move. After weeks of speculation, name dropping, and begging by anyone who’s a fan of the team we finally got our answer. Cue up the drumroll.
*drumming noise*… yes, we’re very high-tech
The missing piece of the puzzle. The big bat that will single-handedly change the dynamics of the Indians lineup and lead us to the central division title is…
The Indians are in desperate need of a right-handed, power hitting, run producing outfielder. Naturally, the Indians made a trade with the Cubs to acquire a left-handed hitting outfielder who as of today has a .272 average (.262 lifetime), a whopping 3 home runs, and 13 rbi for the season. It’s not like you can explain those paltry numbers with injuries. Fukudome has played in 87 games for the Cubs. All of his stats are well below his career averages so it’s clear he’s not having a good year…or is he?
When you take a closer look at some advanced baseball metrics, Fukudome is having a better year than what traditional baseball stats would lead you to believe. Me personally, I’m more comfortable with the traditional stats, but the advanced stats are worth mention. They’re here to stay after all.
Brace yourselves. I’m about to try very hard to talk myself into the Kosuke Fukudome era of Cleveland Indians baseball.
The biggest issue for Fukudome this year appears to be the overwhelming amount of ground balls he has hit. Last season, Fukudome hit 146 groundballs all season. So far this year he has already hit 132 grounders. His career ground ball to flyball ratio is 1.65, this year… 2.16. That explains the dramatic decrease in his power numbers. It’s kind of hard to hit homers when you aren’t hitting the ball in the air. A change in approach or minor adjustment could very well turn theses stats around. A change in scenery could also help. Afterall, Chicago is one of the more stressful markets to play in.
One thing Fukudome has done well is hit for average and get on base. His current batting average of .273 is a career high. More importantly, Fukudome’s BABIP is .330 (batting average on balls in play). Basically this means when he puts the ball in play he’s getting a hit 1 out of 3 times. Adding to that, Fukudome also has tremendous plate discipline judging from the comparison between the percentage of pitches he swings at inside and outside of the strike zone (57% to 18%). He also makes contact judging by the fact that when he swings he makes contact on 85% of pitches he swings at and only swings and misses at 5.1% of all strikes. That is something the Indians have desperately missed since the beginning of June.
The lack of RBI can be attributed to a number of factors. First of all, Fukudome has served as the Cubs primary leadoff hitter. It’s guaranteed that one time each game he’s coming to the plate with no one on. It also means that his primary job has been to get on base and score runs, not drive them in. A second factor in his decline in RBI production could also be attributed to the Cubs all around crappy offense. They haven’t been good this year. How else do you explain them being one of the worst teams in the NL?
So maybe the Indians see something in Fukudome that no one else sees. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Despite what certain numbers might say it doesn’t change the fact that Fukudome has been a huge disappointment for the Cubs since he came over from Japan. He was supposed to be the next big Japanese import but instead he looks like another failed prospect. More importantly, this move tells us something about the Indians that many of us already knew. They’re cheap.
The Indians needed to acquire a right-handed power bat and as previously mentioned, Fukudome is neither. He’s the complete opposite. He’s a left-handed hitter who can occasionally yank one out of the park, but is more suited for hitting leadoff. How does he help us in the immediate future? He doesn’t. Quite simply, he was a move for the sake of making a move and he didn’t cost the Indians anything. They gave away two no name minor leaguers and are taking on zero additional salary. So much for making a splash.
In all honesty though, this is probably for the best. With the way the Indians are currently constructed it’s becoming very clear that they probably won’t win the AL Central. One bat won’t fix what is ailing them. I’m sorry but you can’t lose Sizemore and Choo for a prolonged stretch and expect to compete over the long haul. Throw in season long slumps from Santana and LaPorta along with rookies and other team’s throw aways and it’s a bad recipe for disaster.
But hey, we all wanted the Indians to make a move and well… they made a move. I guess we all got what we asked for. It’s possible they’re still wheeling and dealing and it’s also possible that Fukudome was acquired as a trade chip. Regardless, I’m still going to keep watching and I still hope they find a way to pull out the division and make the playoffs.
Then again, I might win the lottery and pigs might start flying. I can dare to dream