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updated: 6/23/2011 6:42 PM

Other Cubs could learn a lot from Fukudome, Pena

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  • Kosuke Fukudome ranks second in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance at 4.27. Only he and Carlos Pena (3.99) are in the top 20 among Cubs.

      Kosuke Fukudome ranks second in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance at 4.27. Only he and Carlos Pena (3.99) are in the top 20 among Cubs.
    Associated Press

  • Kosuke Fukudome hits an RBI triple against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of a baseball game Thursday.

      Kosuke Fukudome hits an RBI triple against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of a baseball game Thursday.
    Associated Press

  • Kosuke Fukudome watches after hitting a three-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the sixth inning.

      Kosuke Fukudome watches after hitting a three-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the sixth inning.
    Associated Press

 
 

Watching any Cubs game this year is like watching two Cubs games.

No, it's not that the bad baseball makes the displeasure seem double.

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It's that when the Cubs come to bat, there are two different sets of plate appearances: one for Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena and another for everybody else.

The difference is so stark that when Fukudome or Pena come to bat, it's almost like you've picked up your remote and switched to, say, a Red Sox game.

Fukudome and Pena see pitches, take pitches and take walks.

Pena leads the Cubs with 43 walks, and he has an on-base percentage of .350. Fukudome is second on the club in walks (36) and he has an OBP of .400.

The next-best walker is Geovany Soto, with 21. Starlin Castro has a rising OBP of .352, but that's mostly fueled on putting the ball in play to the tune of 99 basehits, far and away tops on the team and among the top three in baseball.

Checking a stat called pitches per plate appearance, the Cubs have two in the top 20:

• Fukudome ranks second in the NL to the Dodgers' Jamey Carroll, at 4.27.

• Pena ranks 20th, at 3.99

The Cubs are well-represented at the bottom end of the pitches-per-plate-appearance scale, too:

• Aramis Ramirez is 75th and next to last among qualifiers, according to ESPN.com, at 3.31. Ramirez had a career on-base percentage of .340 (.355 as a Cub) entering this season, but his OBP stands at .325 entering the weekend series at Kansas City.

• Castro ranks 69th, at 3.51 pitches per plate appearance. We're going to cut him some slack because he's only 21 years old and leading Cubs regulars with a .322 batting average.

So why is this so important? Back in 2008, when the Cubs went to the playoffs for the last time, they led the National League in walks, OBP, runs scored and, most important, wins.

This year, they're ninth in runs, ninth in OBP and dead last in walks by a wide margin.

Couple that with their pitchers being last in ERA, and you have a team on pace to lose 96 games.

The other day at U.S. Cellular Field, I asked manager Mike Quade if he wishes the patient approaches of Pena and Fukudome would rub off on youngsters such as Castro and Darwin Barney (3.75 pitches per plate appearance).

Quade chalked up those good approaches to experience.

"The one thing you can't lose sight of is those are two veteran players," Quade said of Fukudome and Pena. "It's taken them years to acquire this. Fuke's done an unbelievable job. The first three years, he's always been good at this. But he's as good as I've seen him this year. That's three more years under his belt of committing to a leadoff situation and seeing pitches and being an on-base percentage guy.

"I saw Carlos as a younger player, and he always had some built-in discipline, and he's gotten much better. It takes time to acquire that, and it's a delicate balance. You don't want passive people. You'd like a guy aggressive. Cassie (Castro) is a good example. He's real aggressive in the (strike) zone. I think it's going to take him time to be as disciplined as you might like if that's what experience is all about.

"Very rarely do you see a kid come up here at 21-22, and Barney is in the same boat. These guys all understand that needs to be a part of their game, but it just doesn't happen over a short period of time normally. It'll come. Around the league, if you look at guys who really grind out at-bats, most of them are veteran guys that have learned to do so."

Starlin power:

If you're looking for a reason to keep watching the Cubs, it's Starlin Castro.

Even though Carlos Pena was busy hitting 3 home runs in three games against the White Sox, Castro was the most fun to watch.

Wednesday night, he extended his hitting streak to seven by going 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. During his streak, he is 14-for-28. He now has 30 multihit games.

Although he was charged with a throwing error Wednesday, giving him 16 errors for the season, Castro is improving slowly but steadily in the field.

If the Cubs get only one representative to the All-Star Game, it should be Castro.

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