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updated: 3/10/2011 4:17 PM

Quade's challenge: Getting most from Colvin, Fukudome

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  • Tyler Colvin follows through on a hit against the Kansas City Royals in a Cactus League game last week in Surprise, Ariz. Colvin has shown good power, but needs to improve his on-base numbers. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

      Tyler Colvin follows through on a hit against the Kansas City Royals in a Cactus League game last week in Surprise, Ariz. Colvin has shown good power, but needs to improve his on-base numbers. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
    Associated Press

  • Cubs right fielder Tyler Colvin catches a fly out against the Dodgers on Monday at HoHo Kam Park. Colvin has split time at first base during training camp and struggled with his defense in the outfield. (AP Photo/Matt York)

      Cubs right fielder Tyler Colvin catches a fly out against the Dodgers on Monday at HoHo Kam Park. Colvin has split time at first base during training camp and struggled with his defense in the outfield. (AP Photo/Matt York)
    Associated Press

  • After getting only 4 starts in May, Tyler Colvin managed to finish the season with 20 home runs. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

      After getting only 4 starts in May, Tyler Colvin managed to finish the season with 20 home runs. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
    Associated Press/2010 file

  • Kosuke Fukudome hits a two-run home run for the Cubs last August against Cincinnati. When he does start this season, he may lead off for the Cubs. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

      Kosuke Fukudome hits a two-run home run for the Cubs last August against Cincinnati. When he does start this season, he may lead off for the Cubs. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
    Associated Press/2010 file

  • Kosuke Fukudome comes up short in this stolen-base attempt last Saturday against the San Diego Padres. Fukudome is in the last year of a four-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

      Kosuke Fukudome comes up short in this stolen-base attempt last Saturday against the San Diego Padres. Fukudome is in the last year of a four-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/Matt York)
    Associated Press

  • Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome makes a running catch to take a hit away from Kansas City Royals' Mike Aviles last week in their Cactus League game in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

      Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome makes a running catch to take a hit away from Kansas City Royals' Mike Aviles last week in their Cactus League game in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
    Associated Press

 
 

From right field last year, the Cubs had a 20-homer guy.

They had a guy with an on-base percentage of .371.

They had a guy with a slugging percentage of .500.

They got all that indeed, but they got it from two different players with two different skill sets.

And both bat from the left side.

Kosuke Fukudome, who has been in and out of favor with the Cubs organization over his first three years here, is the on-base guy who can play a fair-to-decent right field.

Tyler Colvin was the kid who came to camp and literally hit his way (without walking) onto the team and put up 20 homers and a .500 slugging percentage before a freak and dangerous on-field accident ended his season with a punctured lung.

Both are back this year, and it'll be up to manager Mike Quade to figure out how to best use them.

Lou Piniella had a difficult time with that concept last season, constantly lamenting that "it's not easy" to get playing time for four outfielders.

It was so bad that Colvin got only 4 starts in May, or else his home run total may have topped 25.

Quade seemed to parcel out the playing time quite nicely after taking over from Piniella last August. Here are the issues for 2011:

Is Colvin the real deal?

We'll find out this year if he gets the playing time.

After Wednesday's Cactus League action, Colvin had 22 spring at-bats, tied for second on the team.

Last spring, he led the Cubs with 77 at-bats, putting up a hitting line of .468/.468/.753, with 8 doubles, 4 triples and 2 homers. Of course, the .468 batting average and .468 on-base percentage means he didn't take any walks.

Colvin's line for the regular season was .254/.316/.500. If you take a look at the line for free-swinging left-fielder Alfonso Soriano, it was .258/.322/.496, virtually the same as that of Colvin.

Scouting director Tim Wilken made Colvin his top pick out of Clemson in 2006, and Wilken stands by his man. The Cubs like Colvin's athleticism and ability to hit the ball hard.

How do Colvin and Fukudome compare?

Looking at fangraphs.com, it shows Colvin with a walks percentage last year of 7.7 and a strikeout percentage of 27.9. His walks-to-strikeouts ratio was 0.30.

For Fukudome, he had a walks percentage of 14.9 and a strikeout percentage of 8.7. The walks-to-strikeout ratio was 0.96.

Fukudome plays better defense, even though he may be slightly overrated in that category. Colvin has gotten off to a shaky defensive start in spring training. In addition to right field, he has logged practice and game time at first base to back up Carlos Pena. Quade wondered the other day whether that might be affecting Colvin's play in the outfield.

Is there a Colvin stat that stands out?

Baseball Prospectus made the observation that "his home run/flyball rate was up in the same stratosphere as those for guys named (Albert) Pujols, (Paul) Konerko and Papi (David Ortiz). If he can do that and play a great right field, he'll deserve an everyday gig, even while exacerbating the team's OBP problem."

Hold on. Pujols? Konerko? Big Papi?

Let's see. Colvin's home run to flyball rate was 19.4 percent. For Pujols, it was 18.3 percent. For Konerko, it was 19.5 percent. For Ortiz, it was 19.0.

On top of that, Colvin's isolated-power number (slugging percentage minus batting average, measuring extra-base ability) of .246 led Cubs regulars, ahead of Soriano's .238 and Aramis Ramirez's .211.

What to do with Fukudome?

Because Fukudome is one of the Cubs' top on-base guys, Quade figures to lead him off on days he starts. Aside from that, he figures to see time as a late-inning defensive replacement and as an occasional center fielder.

This is the final year of Fukudome's four-year, $48 million contract. Overall, it's been a disappointing four years, as Fukudome never displayed the consistency he did in his years in Japan.

"In an outfield overstocked with players equipped with a mismatched jumble of things they do and don't do, Fukudome is the one with the fewest virtues, but the one real strength, a willingness to take a free pass, makes him virtually unique on the roster," Baseball Prospectus authors wrote. "You might think that this would make him an indispensable cog... but a slow, low-powered corner-pasture prowler with little defensive value has a way of getting singled out for the skills he lacks.

"Add his $13.5 million salary and no-trade protection, season with one dash of bitters and a squeeze of regret; serve cold."

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