Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fukudome in a New Home

For the first time since 2007, the Indians are “buyers” in the July swap meet as the Indians have added Cubs’ OF Kosuke Fukudome to their painfully thin OF mix. According to most reports, the Cubs would pick up nearly all of the remaining $4.7M on Fukudome’s 2011 salary and the Indians would be parting with two minor-leaguers, Columbus reliever Carlton Smith and Kinston OF Abner Abreu. While most of the North Coast will exhale with a soft “meh” and as the sports-talk radio machine goes into high gear that “THIS…THIS is the BIG MOVE” (that I told you was coming), let’s get to know Fukudome and attempt to figure how he fits into this 2011 Indians team.

On the season, Fukudome has a line of .273 BA / .374 OBP / .369 SLG / .742 OPS with only 20 XBH in 87 games while walking 46 times and striking out 57 times. Though he has virtually no power (he has 3 HR this season in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field), his .742 OPS would put him 4th among current Tribe regulars (behind Hafner, Asdrubal, and Santana) and that represents an obvious upgrade over the Buck/Kearns/Carrera triumvirate, which will continue to live on in some amalgamation until Choo returns…which he still thinks will be in mid-August.

Regardless of Choo’s timeframe, the one thing that Fukudome has done since he arrived in America is get on base, and he has done so with remarkable consistency if you look at his OBP over the last three years:
2009 - .375 OBP
2010 - .371 OBP
2011 - .374 OBP

With the Indians previously stuck with Buck, Kearns, and Carrera starting in 2 of the 3 OF spots, Fukudome represents an upgrade in on-base ability at the very least, despite the fact that he has very little power. While it is true that he is a LH hitter, he has a generally even platoon split in his career:
Career vs. LHP - .712 OPS
Career vs. RHP - .783 OPS
Looking at that, it’s true that he’s better against RHP, but he’s not awful against LHP, something that cannot be said about Travis Buck, who has now been DFA'd.

Regardless and back to Fukudome, he’s generally played RF in his career with the Cubs, but has also played quite a bit of CF, which means that Fukudome can man RF until Choo returns (which, again, he thinks he’s doing in mid-August…or in two weeks), then sliding over to CF to provide some speed and on-base ability to the top of the lineup.

In Chicago, Fukudome was often seen as a bust, which was largely the result of the money he was getting paid on the North Side ($40M over the last 3 years) as Fukudome is a useful, if flawed and incomplete, player who was never worth the money that the Cubs gave him when he came stateside, but certainly represents an upgrade – however incremental – over what the Indians have been forced to play in the OF since the injuries to Choo, then Sizemore.

Certainly Fukudome may not move the needle and he may not be that BIG BAT that everyone seems to think is going to solve all of the Indians’ offensive woes, but there was really one difference-making bat available this July and he just made his way to the Bay Area after (surprise) the news that Beltran would block any trade to Cleveland, with the Indians intimating that Boras was “controlling the process”. If this comes as a surprise to you…well, you haven’t been paying attention. As much as I’d like to say that this wasn’t the obvious outcome to any Beltran-to-Cleveland talk, it was if you remember that thing that I’ve written about since Beltran’s name was invoked as a “trade target”…that Beltran wouldn’t come to Cleveland, that Heymann’s reportage of it meant that Boras was telling Heymann that Beltran wouldn’t come to Cleveland.

While other OF names have gotten more attention in recent weeks and may have more cache because of name recognition (justified or not), let’s all realize some things about the three names that have been most closely connected to the Tribe to this point – Upton, Crisp, and Ludwick.
BJ Upton has a cumulative OPS of .721 since the beginning of the 2009…
Coco Crisp has an OPS+ of 90 since he left Cleveland 5 ½ seasons ago…
Ryan Ludwick has a .718 OPS since the beginning of last season…
So, let’s all acknowledge that while all of those names may certainly look like an upgrade, at this point doesn’t it seem that the Indians are more than just one “big bat” away?

Those guys…yeah, those aren’t big bats, if you consider what they’ve done this year in comparison to everyone’s whipping boy du jour (who is about to feel the snarl of my whip), one Matt MaTola:
2011 OPS Totals
LaPorta - .703 OPS
BJ Upton - .702 OPS
Coco Crisp - .701 OPS
Ryan Ludwick - .678 OPS

Yes, LaPorta has the lowest OBP on the season among those names…but that also means that LaPorta has a higher SLG than Upton, Crisp (obviously), and Upton. So, if you’re looking for that big bat to plop in the middle of the Tribe lineup to apparently make everything sunny and happy on the North Coast, those names weren’t going to do it. That’s not to say that Fukudome is “the answer” to what ails the Indians, but at this point he represents an upgrade over Zeke Carrera stepping out of his 4th OF role and this team should be looking to make any and all incremental upgrades available to them.

Essentially, that’s what Fukudome is – an incremental upgrade and since I’m becoming more resigned to the fact that they won’t be adding a long-term piece (with the Nats’ acquisition of Jonny Gomes indicating that they may be buying, not selling…so Mike Morse’s availability can certainly be questioned), it may come back to the fact that the team has already made their BIG moves as Chiz arrived for Hannahan and Kipnis arrived for The OC as the Indians set their lineup up for today and tomorrow already.

Putting Fukudome in the #2 spot and in RF for the time being makes the lineup more palatable (though certainly not intimidating) as the addition of Fukudome gives the Indians at least a viable MLB player that can get on-base that can fill in while Choo gets healthy and can be useful for the remainder of the year.

While what the Indians gave up for 2 months of Fukudome looks like a pretty small price, the Cubs eating Fukudome’s remaining salary meant that the Tribe had to give up more than just the PTBNL’s and “cash considerations” that are so popular this time of year. With Fukudome in the fold, most reports indicate that the Indians are not done adding as they’re probably still looking to add a RH bat (like Ludwick…who will underwhelm more than Fukudome does if he’s added) or a starting pitcher before Sunday’s Trade Deadline.


Bob said...

Ugh. Please... no Ludwick.

Spills said...

Have to say, this was a much better "meh" of a move than what I was expecting for the trade deadline. Extra bonus points for the all of the Fuk jokes to follow.

Will be interesting to see what Fuk can do after leaving the cesspool the Cubs season has become. Based on the radio here in Chicago, the Cubs gave up on the season some time in late April/June. Typically I would chalk this up to shock jocks trying to grab ratings, but the play on the field seems to confirm it.

doby14 said...

What about the Ex-Cubs Factor?

Bric said...

Abner Abreu was hot, and is potentially a 30 HR, 30 SB guy. No, I don't think that's likely; Adam Miller, Chuck Lofgren, etc. prove that no on e is likely to succeed no matter how much raw talent and polished skill they may have. But Abreu is one of only two power hitters at "A" level and should never have been traded for a player who has no position after Choo and Sizemore return.

Scott Blake said...

Looking forward to you taking the whip to MaTola. This guy has been handed the keys to the first base job and has all but turned the keys back in.

Andy said...

Typically I would chalk this as very much as shock jocks wanting to grab ratings, however the hold out for the area appears to confirm it
When you have nothing to do or unhappy? What should you do to spend the free time? How about the game? like to get Cheap World Of Warcraft Gold in WOW, and how to have theCheap Gold for WOWwith less money, is there anyway to get the for us? We need to think about this.