A reader of Cubs.com wrote in and asked "How much longer is manager Lou Piniella willing to give Fukudome to get his offense going before he opts to replace him in right field? I understand the Cubs are trying to give him as much time as he needs, given the investment and initial hype Fukudome brought to the city, but it appears that he has had plenty of time and nothing has changed. I used to be optimistic when Fukudome came to the plate, now I'm not."
I have to say that I agree, but the problem I'm finding is that by switching out Fukudome for someone like Mark DeRosa in right field, you're significantly weakening your defensive ability in the outfield. It would be different if Soriano wasn't playing the outfield like he has been this year (have you noticed that the assists are down?). Here are some splits for Fukudome coming into Monday's solid effort that I think help his case for staying in the lineup.
With runners in scoring position, he's hitting: .291 / .400 / .496 with 44 RBI. That's more than acceptable to me.
In late and close situations, he's hitting: .291 / .326 / .380. While not overwhelming, that's acceptable given what many feel about him on the whole.
Finally, he does have an on base % over .360, which when you think about it on the whole means that if he can shorten that stroke just a little and cut down on the strikeouts, he should see that average go up. When he puts the ball in play, he has a .318 average.
He hit a pinch hit home run Sunday and went 3-for-4 yesterday with 3 RBI. I'm hoping this is the turning point and that it's coming at the best possible time in our run. I'm not giving up on him just yet.
Joe Aiello can be reached for comment at www.viewfromthebleachers.com or firstname.lastname@example.org