Kosuke Fukudome went from holding the keys to Chicago to the All Star Game to the bench to the dog house. After all that, Lou plans on hitting him second and playing centerfield in a platoon with Reed Johnson.
First, the good news. Kosuke took seven walks during the WBC, pushing his tourney OBP to .407. Only three hitters took more free passes (Adam Dunn led with nine). I think we're done with the good news now. Fukudome's batting average and slugging were both .200 - four hits, four singles, 20 at bats.
Fukuduome led all WBC hitters* in whiff rate (.467, tourney average was .206, second place was 50 points back, third place another 50 back from there). Plus, only six hitters had a lower swing rate - not necessarily a bad thing, but not good in Kosuke's case. Looking at Fukudome's numbers by pitch type may show what's going on.
50 40 pitch minimum in PITCHf/x data - only covers games in MLB parks, there is missing data (innings 1-3 of the final, for example)
What's He Swinging At?
Kosuke saw a variety of pitches during tournament play. Mostly, he saw four-seam fastballs (22) and sliders (21), but he also got a couple splitters, change-ups, three curveballs and eight sinkers. I'll start with the two main pitches, and then start rolling in the rest. I'm not splitting by pitcher hand, maybe later....
Pitch Fukudome Swing/Whiff Tourney Swing/Whiff
Four-seam fastball .227/.400** .425/.155
Slider .333/.571** .422/.317
**About those whiff rates. That's five swings, two whiffs on the fastballs. Seven and four on the sliders. Not a meaningful sample. But it is what happened.
Fukudome was almost twice as likely to take a fastball than the average hitter. He took more sliders than the average, which is good. He still managed to swing at more sliders than fastballs.
If I start rolling Fukudome's pitches together, I can bump up some sample sizes without losing too much. Splitters lumped with change-ups, sliders lumped with curveballs, two- and four-seam fastballs go together and we're closer. With just four "changes" total now, let's just go with fastballs (four- and two-seam) and off-speed pitches (changes + splitters + curves + sliders) as our two groups.
With most of the weight being provided, still, by four-seamers and sliders, not much changes. I'm not providing tourney #'s for comparison here - that will be in a future article.
group # Swing Whiff
Off-speed 28 0.393 0.536
Fastballs 34 0.294 0.435
All 62 0.339 0.476
Is he swinging at bad pitches?
Across the tourney, all pitch types included, the average hitter swung at 24.3% of balls out of the zone, but watched 39.2% of strikes. Fukudome's "Chase" and "Watch" rates were .129 (or 12.9%) and .452, respectively. Great, he went fishing far less than most (12 players had lower Chase rates during the WBC out of 54 qualifying hitters). He took more pitches in the zone than most, too (14th). At first blush, that isn't too alarming, but it's a little confusing the way I just described it, so let me try another way.
Watch rate is just the inverse of "swing rate in the zone". You want a higher swing rate in the zone than out of the zone. Across the WBC players, the average ratio of swing rate in the zone to swing rate out of the zone was 2.4999 - in other words, hitters were 2.5x more likely to swing at a strike than a ball. Fukudome is actually 4.3x more likely - which is great! But, how does one explain the whiff rates when he's swinging at strikes?!?
Fukudome took a lot of pitches and whiffed on a lot of pitches during the WBC. His whiff rate on fastballs (on an even smaller amount of swings than the already limited sample), is frightfully high. Oddly, Fukudome offered at more off-speed and breaking pitches than he did fastballs. He did not chase bad pitches, but this did not seem to help him make any more contact.
- Fukudome was very patient at the plate
- Fukudome rarely swung at pitches out of the zone
- Fukudome swung at more breaking and off-speed pitches than fastballs
- No one whiffed at a higher rate than Fukudome in the WBC
- Not only was Fukudome unable to hit breaking pitches, he appears as an extreme outlier in fastball whiff rates over a small sample
I think that's a fair description of Fukudome's WBC experience. But what does it mean? The sample, and the context, limit the utility of the findings. They do fit into a larger context and may provide value there.
Next week, in this space, I'll compare Fukudome's WBC performance to his 2008 plate discipline and pitch selection. You can find plenty of that here and here and here - but not broken out by pitch type.