Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Where does Fukudome fit best?

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Cubs manager Lou Piniella is considering and reconsidering where to bat Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukudome, even after saying last week he thought the lefty hitter would bat fifth to break up an almost all right-handed lineup. The most intriguing possibility is putting Fukudome in the No. 3 spot -- where he spent most of his time batting in Japan -- and moving Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to the 4-5 spots.

Lee, who had a very informal discussion with hitting coach Gerald Perry about the possibility, said he has no problem moving down in the order. And Fukudome said he hasn't heard anything about it, but that it won't make any difference to him -- or his hitting approach -- in either spot.

This is probably just the beginning of what could be a very fluid issue for at least the next couple of weeks, with games not scheduled to start until a week from now and the possibility still looming that the Cubs might make a trade for a hitter who could fit into the top half of the order.

``I think Lou probably has 100 lineups in his head, just like last year,'' Lee said this morning.

Fukudome had a .397 career on-base percentage in Japan. If the roster stays as is, he would be one of only two left-handed hitters in the order (along with the center fielder who would bat eighth). So where should he bat? And how does the uncertainty of leadoff man Alfonso Soriano's recovering quadriceps impact the answer to that question? The Cubs have five weeks to come up with the right answer.

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13 Comments

i really don't care where fuku bats it really doesnt matter in this lineup. but i did have a problem with lou this morning on mike and mike. He said he was going to bat pie in the 8 hole which i really disagree with. he would never see decent pitches with the pitcher behind him. more importantly, if pie gets a decent amount of at bats this year he is a lock to steal at least 30 bases. in the 8 spot, he would never get to run with the pitcher on deck for fear of leading off the next inning with the pitcher. this would greatly take away his base stealing ability.if he batted in the seven slot, he could run wild with a decent 8 hole hitter like theriot or soto. Then if he got caught stealing, u would always lead off the next inning with the 8 spot.
also- go out and get a lead-off man so soriano can slide down into a run producing slot in the line-up. roberts or figgins, doesnt matter.

Without question you take a look at Fukudome batting third. Should he put up numbers approaching what he did in Japan, he would make a dynamite #3 hitter. Lee will have more opportunities for rbi's, as will Ramirez.

3RD IS EXACTLY WHERE i PUT HIM LAST WEEK IN A POLL ONLINE.

ROBERTS---IF WE GET HIM IF NOT ITS PIE OR SORIANO
THERIOT
FUKY
LEE
RAMIREZ
SORIAN

I think we need to be sure Fukudome can hit MLB pitching if he's in the 3 spot. We all love his OBP, which screams of plate discipline -- something sorely lacking Cubs' hitters. And he should be good for plenty of doubles. I'm wondering if he might be a nice 2 hitter. Have Roberts or Theriot leadoff, then Fuku, then Lee, Ramirez and Soriano.

But can we all agree to ban Soriano from the leadoff spot? No discipline; no strike zone; way too many strikeouts. And as for Pie, he needs to earn his spot before we worry about his spot in the order. He needs more at-bats, yes, but I don't think him being so buddy-buddy with Soriano is going to help develop his hitting. Probably the worst thing for him actually.

Third for Kosuke is a terrible idea, simply because he's an unknown factor in the Cubs equation. He's got great stats all around from Japan, but how it will translate remains to be seen. If he's third, then he's getting more at bats than those behind him, almost certainly, and we bet the bank on his ability to drive in runs in the first inning every game, which is a crucial moment for setting the rhythm and getting the jump on the opposition (just take a look at the Cubs' recent numbers when scoring first versus second).

We need Aramis to be placed better, ideally fourth, because then if anyone of the first three gets on, he's got a shot at one or more RBI, the stat that makes him our top hitter and MVP every year. If he's fourth, behind Soriano, Theriot and Fukudome, that's a bit better, but not good enough: again, only the first three are guaranteed to bat, and Soriano's OBP is very low, so it's all on Fukudome. Maybe he's up to it right off the bat (pun intended), but maybe he's not. The best lineup, provided we don't get Roberts (in which case it's Roberts, Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, Kosuke, Soriano, Soto, Pie), is Theriot, Kosuke, Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, DeRosa, Soto and Pie. Soriano is one of the worst leadoff men around, OBP being the key stat, in which he barely cracks the top 100 in the league. This lineup gets it done, though not as well as the Roberts one.

That one would be balanced even better. I do think, also, that right/left alternation is way overrated and overemphasized by managers and commentators: a good hitter is a good hitter, and replacing a great right hander with a merely good lefty is a mistake. Also, if you have righties who can use all fields and give you plate coverage and discipline, this neutralizes the imbalance; and we do: Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, DeRo, all these guys can spray it. Anyway, Kosuke should be 2, behind Theriot, or 5, if people insist on Soriano leading off, with Theriot, Lee and Ramirez between.

Oh yeah one more thing: Pie is our center fielder. End of story. This Fuld nonsense has to stop. His defense is inferior and so is his bat--for weeks last year all we heard was Len Kasper rooting for his first hit, when Pie's first few games were total dynamite before he ran into a little trouble. Has to be Pie. Push Ramirez down, let Soriano leadoff, put Fuld in there--there's your recipe for a major disaster this year, and for an inconsistent offense like we've been subjected to every year since 2003.

Who crowned Pie permanent CF? Pie is the center fielder IF HE EARNS IT. Fuld will also get a shot, and even Cedeno is in the mix. Pinella will adjust the lineup as necessary to get the most production, as he should. The player who performs best will take the field. THAT'S the "end of story."

Same thing with Fukodome. Pinella makes one comment about batting him third, and every amateur, wanna-be manager starts posting their own lineup card. If he has trouble adjusting to MLB pitching, Lou can change the lineup, can't he?

The reason clubs have spring training is to resolve the questions raised in this blog and the comments on it. Speculation is perhaps fun but fairly meaningless. Let Lou and spring performance figure it out. One could always bat Pie ninth, because most of the Cub pitchers can hit a curveball a lot better than he can. To steal a base, you first have to get a hit,A-Dub, something Pie has not really done very often.

It bothered me when I Soriano hit leadoff because Piniella said "he feels more comfortable there", and now when I read that Fukudome could hit third, I see the same reasoning.

I'm still a big Lou fan, but I thought the manager that let the players run the team was let go after 2006.

Your best hitter should hit third. Period. Every intelligent baseball mind knows it. Fukudome projects as a .290-15-80 guy with an excellent OBP and great defense. Bat him second so he's on base when the big bashers come up.

Let Theriot lead off. Lee and Ramirez can arm wrestle to see who bats third, and the loser hits fourth. Soriano is perfectly suited to hit fifth. Then DeRosa, Soto, and Pie/Murton in any order.

well..i think sori needs to be lower in the batting order, he's a fly ball hitter. if we have those guys on base..Theriot, Derosa, Fuk, Lee Aram, Sori, Soto and or Pie.. Sori can even put his fly balls to use for a sac fly..u cant get a sac fly when there is no one on base..lol..Putting Fuk 3rd in the order reminds me of that gr8 indians team from back in the day when they had lofton lead off visquel in the two and robbie alomar in the 3 hole..alomar has sum pop but not ur proto typical 3 hitter...when those guys would get on base they had ramirez thome and rexson behind them..and we have our version in lee ram and sori..but i rather have Theriot and derosa as the 1 and 2..derosa can hit to all fields he handles the bat well and hes a patient hitter..

I agree with T.J. about Pie. You have got to let your young players play when you have one that shows promise. Pie has a huge upside and he should be given every opportunity to succeed. Cub fans always complain about managers not playing the young guys but after 10 at-bats if the guy is not hitting .400 everyone wants to throw him away. Some guys take a little longer to get settled and you don't give up on 23 year-old center fielders with speed who hit .350 in triple A.

Note to Lou - don't bat Pie in the eight hole if you want him to make it. That's the worst spot for a young hitter trying to learn the strike zone. He will get a steady diet of off-speed junk in the dirt and he won't get many opportunities to steal batting in front of the pitcher

I would like to see some cosideration for Lee in the 2 hole with his good average, high doubles totals, good speed and the little dip we saw in his power last year. That would allow you some flexibility in how you arrange Soriano, The Dome, and A Ram in the 3-4-5 spots. I would also think Kosuke could be good in the 2 spot but then you dont break up all that right handed power. Of course this will never happen but La Russa likes to use a solid power threat like Duncan in there 2 hole down in STL and of course Yankees have been able to throw in a solid hitter in their 2. I just think the two spot is overlooked and undervalued. A guy like Lee could consistintly knock in or advance the leadoff man or get on to set up the 3-4 and 5.

How about looking for someone to take Soriano off our hands? Don't get me wrong. The guy is fun to watch but from a baseball perspective. I always thought pitching, defense, and OBP% wins games.

The last time I checked, Soriano does not pitch and we all know about his inconsistent defense and OBP%. One recommendation is building a package around Soriano and attempt to pry away Crawford from the recent happy spending Tampa Bay Rays!

In addition, I would be aggressive in bringing Roberts to the north side; especially with the unknown health status of DeRosa.

“Dream” 2008 Opening Day Lineup

S - Roberts
L - Fukudome
R - Lee
R - Ramirez
L - Crawford
R - Soto
L - Pie
R – Theriot

Wow! I see an everyday lineup with defense up the middle, speed on the corners, and a bunch of guys who can manufacture runs. Go Cubs

First of all there are several different abilities which determine what makes a good lead off man. While several of you mention and consider OBP to be the mitigating factor in the argument. Soriano does not take many walks, while leading him off also assures that he will see the most at bats on any given day as compared to all other teammates. Do any of you consider that a setback? You want to score in the first inning? What better way to do it than a lead off home run only then to face a good hitter with a good eye in Theriot. Third is best suited for a player with the abilities of Fukudome. Lee is coming off one of his worst seasons as of late and may need to move down. As for Pie I think batting him ninth with the pitcher batting eigth is the best way to go there. JMO.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on February 22, 2008 12:35 PM.

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