What's with Kosuke?
"Somebody HAS to talk about Kosuke," George demands, and here at GROTA, what are we if not crowd pleasers? (Answer: schlubs!)
Kosuke Fukudome has hit 12 home runs this year, a new stateside record for him. What makes that number so remarkable, despite the fact that it's just one higher than his previous mark, is that the Fuk has managed to do it in just over half the number of plate appearances he's received in previous years.
So what's with the power surge? Is it all a Fuk fluke (man, that should have been the title of the article)?
Actually, Kosuke has improved across the board as a hitter this year, for the second year in a row. In 2008, Fuk posted a .257/.359/.379, and while those stats were dragged down by a truly dismal second half (.639 OPS post break), he never managed to surpass the .800 OPS in a month after April. A year later, Kosuke's numbers went up a touch, with a 16-point boost in on-base percentage and a 42-point rise in slugging percentage.
Did Kosuke's peripheral stats change from year to year in that instance? A quick glance at his Fangraphs player page shows that they did. His batting average on balls in play went up five points, but that leaves about 50 points worth of OPS that needs explaining, most of it slugging. What else changed?
As it turns out, Kosuke hit more line drives in 2009, going from a 19.1% line-drive rate to a 24.0% mark. And his ratio of home runs to fly balls increased slightly, from 8.3% to 9.6%.
So what about 2010? Has Kosuke maintained his improved BABIP, line-drive ability, and power ratio on fly balls?
Put simply: no, no, and yes. He has given back four points in BABIP this year; his line-drive rate is down significantly -- all the way to 16.1%; and 14.8% of his fly balls are leaving the park as home runs.
And while you might expected a decreased line-drive rate to hurt Kosuke's average, indeed it has not; the extra homers have actually boosted Fuk's average to the .281 mark so far this year.
So what does all this mean? I would guess two things: first, that the extra rest this season is helping Kosuke maintain his strength later into the year; and second, that the Fukster may have adjusted his swing, aiming for the fences more often as opposed to hitting doubles to the gaps.
Here's some visual evidence that may support the rest claim:
Anybody wanna check out his swing this year compared to last year?
Also the Cubs won yesterday. Look, I turned this into a Game Recap with one sentence! HAH!