What happened to Fukudome in Cleveland?


What happened to Fukudome in Cleveland?

When the Indians acquired Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs on July 28 of last year, it looked to be a solid deal that could help a lagging Cleveland offense. Fukudome was hitting .273.374.369 following his final at-bat with the Cubs -- while his power had deserted him, he was still a good on-base guy who could help the Indians' playoff push.

But with Cleveland, Fukudome's numbers plummeted. His on-base percentage fell 74 points to .300 thanks in large part to a decreased walk rate (13.3 percent with the Cubs, 5.8 percent with the Indians) and an increased strikeout rate (16.5 percent with the Cubs, 20.5 percent with the Indians).

Diving deeper into those numbers, Fukudome had major issues against breaking pitches after moving to the American League. About one in every five pitches he saw in 2011 with the Cubs were breaking balls, and against those curveballs and sliders Fukudome was about five runs above average (per FanGraphs).

With Cleveland, he saw only a slight uptick in sliders (10.9 percent to 12 percent) and curveballs (9.6 to 11.4 percent), but combined, he saw a breaking ball in closer to one in every four pitches than one in every five. His struggled at recognizing those pitches, though, whiffing on over 10 percent of breaking balls as opposed to under 10 percent with the Cubs.

Granted, this is over a small sample size -- just 59 games and 258 plate appearances. And Fukudome's most significant struggles came in September, historically his worst offensive month.

But Fukudome hit well below his career August split of .281.364.441, posting a .293.331.414 slash line in the regular season's penultimate month.

I'm tempted to call Fukudome's offensive dropoff the product of a small sample size, normal late-season struggles and perhaps some discomfort with moving to an unfamiliar city for a few months.

If Fukudome exhibits the same pitch recognition issues with the White Sox, maybe his struggles could be chalked up to an unfamiliarity with American League pitchers. With readily available scouting reports, video, etc., the frequency with which pitchers change leagues and interleague play, that's not a claim I'm ready to make yet.

Until further notice, Fukudome should be expected to be a good on-base guy to come off the bench and start when needed. Two bad months in Cleveland, while concerning, aren't enough to cause a panic.

Pitch data was used via Texas Leaguers' database.

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.