"Intuition pays off as Fukudome switches bats, slugs homer in victory over Giants"
This is the headline of an article I read Tuesday morning. The game recap comes from The Japan Times and was written by former podcast guest Jason Coskrey. Of course, Fukudome is former MLB outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. He now plays in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. I was surprised to see Fukudome still playing baseball, so I decided to look into his career for today's post. The beauties of having to blog every day...
Kosuke Fukudome turned 40 a couple weeks ago. He played in the major leagues from 2008-2012, ages 31-35. Before coming over to the states, Fukudome was one of the best hitters in Japan. From 2003-2007, Fukudome averaged 26 HR and a slash line of .313/.416/.587. He took home the Central League MVP in 2006, the same year he played for Japan in the first World Baseball Classic. He hit a two-run homer off Byung-hyun Kim of Korea in the semifinals, sending Japan to the finals where they would defeat Cuba.
Fukudome would later say that playing in the WBC increased his interest in playing baseball in America. The Cubs signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract before the 2008 season, becoming the first Japanese player in Cubs history. Fukudome started off the year on fire, hitting .327 with a .435 OBP in April. Despite slowly fading the rest of the season, he was selected to the NL All-Star team. The first of his 10 home runs that year was a memorable one for most Cubs fans, including myself.
That bat flip, though. The NL-best Cubs were swept by the Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS—Fukudome went just 1-10. That led to the infamous Milton Bradley signing, a three-year deal worth $30 million. Fukudome, who made 121/126 starts in RF in 2008, was forced to move to CF in 2009 (105/129). By all accounts, Fukudome was a terrible center fielder. However, he did continue to get on base at a high level, with an OBP of .375. With Milton out of the picture by 2010, Fukudome was back in RF. His three years with the Cubs were incredibly consistent.
|Year||HR||RBI||BA / OBP / SLG|
|2008||10||58||.257 / .359 / .379|
|2009||11||54||.259 / .375 / .421|
|2010||13||44||.263 / .371 / .439|
At the age of 34, and in the last year of his original contract, Fukudome was traded to the Indians at the 2011 trade deadline. He really struggled with Cleveland (.300 OBP in 258 PA) to end the season. Fukudome's last season in the big leagues was with the White Sox in 2012, after he signed a one-year, $1 million contract in the offseason. Fukudome was released in late June and went back to play in Japan for the 2013 season.
Since being back in Japan, Fukudome has seen gradual improvements. The guy is an on-base machine.
|Year||PA||HR||BA / OBP / SLG|
|2013||241||6||.198 / .295 / .335|
|2014||367||9||.253 / .349 / .365|
|2015||569||20||.281 / .361 / .463|
|2016||523||11||.311 / .392 / .453|
|2017||123||4||.321 / .420 / .455|
Despite really struggling in his first year back, 2013, Fukudome provided this great video. After a Matt Murton triple, he goes yard to tie the game in a packed stadium. It was April 19. The attendance for Fukudome's homer Tuesday night? 42,606. The Japanese love their baseball.