On Batting Kosuke 5th: Nice Job, Lou
There's only so many things a manager has control over.
He's gotta keep an eye on his starting pitcher, and he's gotta know which reliever to go to when it's time to make a change. He's the one that pulls the trigger on pinch hitters, and he'd better know the lefty/righty splits when he makes the change.
And every day, he sets the lineup for his team's offensive attack.
The Cubs have always had a few quirks regarding their approach to the lineup. Most notably, the "leadoff hitter" debate had (until very recently) gone on and on among Cub fans (e.g., "Drop Soriano!", or, "We need Brian Roberts!").
The Cubs have also struggled, for a few years now, to find a left-handed hitting RBI producer for the middle of their order. To that end, you know you have a problem when you allow a 36-year old Jermoy Burnitz to play right field for your major league team.
However, after two and a half years of unrest among the Wrigley Faithful, I think it's safe to say that Lou has settled upon the Absolutely, Positively Correct Lineup against right handed hitters.
If there's one thing about lineups that every baseball fan can agree on, it's this: when you set your lineup correctly, your 1 and 2 hitters will get on base in front of your 3-through-6 guys, who will slug in some RBIs for your team. On that note, here are the slugging percentages for the Cubs' three bona fide RBI guys (A-Ram, Lee and Soriano), in order, with a fourth mystery hitter included in the rankings.
- A. Ramirez, .543
- D. Lee, .539
- Player X, .461
- A. Soriano, .443
Player X is Kosuke Fukudome, and for the foreseeable future, the Cubs' left-handed RBI producer. On Sunday, Lou made the last needed change to improve an otherwise optimal Cub lineup by moving Kosuke into the 5th spot, and pushing Milton Bradley up to the 2-hole.
Fuk hasn't always been the clear choice for the 5-hole on this team. He started well in 2009, posting solid numbers in April and May, before seriously slumping in June (his slash line for that month was .169/.266/.241). At that point, the question was whether Kosuke should pay at all, not where he should hit.
Since then, however, the Fukster has been on fire. As proof of his deserving a regular spot in the Cub lineup, he recently broke his habit of posting declining numbers in each subsequent month of the season.
Furthermore, he did so in glorious fashion. His July slash: .307/.392/.534. Wonderful.
Kosuke's .461 slugging percentage is roughly 60 points higher than that of the man he's replacing, the famously infamous Milton Bradley. But Bradley isn't beat in every category; despite a .230 average against righties, as of today MB is sporting an overall on-base percentage of .401, which is very nice (and 53 points higher than Ryan "Sluggo" Theriot's).
Rest assured, Cubdom. Even as the team struggles through a stretch of tough games, made more painful by the Cardinals' feasting on weak opponents, at least we've got the right lineup in place. Finally.