Kosuke Fukudome - the best player ever, or only the best Cub?
I was browsing through the Desipio forums last night when I noticed an on-going debate about the craptacularness of Milton Bradley. Pretty much everybody involved was arguing against a participant named Dave B, who feels that Bradley is not living up to his expectations, and furthermore suggested that Kosuke Fukudome has also been an epic disappointment. This resulted in another forum participant to ask why they'd "get on" Fukudome, who's "been great this year."
I like Kosuke myself, and am particularly happy that he's turned things around after an attrocious June. But has he been "great?" I posted his line (before last night's 3 for 3 effort) -- .271 AVG, .387 OBP, .846 OPS, 10 homers, 44 RBI, 6 steals in 14 attempts, .171 AVG v. LHP, and described his performance as being "better than bad but way, way less than 'great.'" That's when the shit-storm happened.
One guy called Pre told me I was "cherry picking his stats" -- apparently unaware that I mentioned both his positives and negatives -- and I responded by saying that I thought Fooky is good, but he has had no success hitting lefties and I don't know if his production so far can really justify his 8-figure contract. Pre's response was to criticize me because he knew I would "back-track" on my original comment and a request that I would "f**k off and die." Stay classy, Pre.
At that point the discussion kind of devolved into how I was a clearly-wrong piece of crap, it's not Kosuke's fault that he hasn't scored or driven in many runs (can't expect a leadoff guy to do the latter, although the majority of his at bats this season come from 3rd in the lineup or later) -- after all, (and I agree with this) Babe Ruth at his peak would probably have struggled to drive in 100 or score 100 in this cesspool of an offense. On top of that, I was told that if Fukudome had 15-20 major league seasons just like this one he would be one of the all-time greats and Hall of Fame worthy. (My fault on that one for suggesting he wouldn't have a chance.)
The proof in Fukudome's greatness comes, apparently, from his numbers in the Runs Created statistic. If Fukudome had a career of seasons just like this one, he would land up there amongst greats like George Brett and Al Kaline.
Runs Created, incidentally, is antiquated according to Fangraphs. They've developed a better means of tracking that stat, called wRC. wRC "is total runs created based of wOBA. It is calculated as (((wOBA – lgwOBA) / wOBAScale) + (lgR/PA)) * PA." Lost already? No worries - wOBA is defined by FanGraphs as the following: "created by Tom Tango, (wOBA) is a version of linear weights that has been weighted to fit an OBP scale. The weights have been properly adjusted by season and for the minor leagues by season and by league."
Above all other things, I have learned, wOBA and wRC should apparently be the best way to determine a player's offensive success. And Fukudome's wRC this year is presently on pace to be 86.6. If he could maintain that rate for 18 seasons, he would -- by the standards of wRC -- be amongst some true giants and some Hall of Fame hitters. When we consider that Fukudome is, generally speaking, seen as being a very good defensive center fielder as well, then it becomes obvious that his standard statistics -- a .277 AVG as of today, 11 homeruns, 27 doubles, 5 triples, a near-.400 OBP and a mid .800's OPS -- do not tell the full story. Fukudome hasn't merely been good this year, he's been great. As have, apparently, the 68 players who've put up higher wRC's than Fooky this season, including 6 guys who also spend their time in center field.
Comparatively, Fukudome is on pace to have a similar wRC to Sammy Sosa, the 1993, 1996, and 1997 editions, and he's on pace to barely surpass the finest season ever had by that offensive juggernaut, Rob Deer. If only Rob could have duplicated his 1987 season 15 to 20 times, then we'd all get to debate the merits of whether or not he should be voted into the Hall of Fame. (We would find him lacking, though, because unlike Fukudome he doesn't have that nearly-Gold-Glove-caliber defensive talent.)
Anyway, I don't want to be a semantics guy, but I do believe there's a significant difference between a player being good and great. Fukudome -- for all our protests when he is unable to so much as hit his own face with an open palm slap -- has been good this year, and at times he's been very good. I was wrong to say that he was merely "better than bad." Still, as Rob wrote earlier, I think many of us had higher expectations about the kind of production he'd deliver. If this is Fukudome's finest season as a Cub, I think many fans will be left feeling disappointed. But still, don't be too critical of him folks. And certainly don't focus on his faults. If you do, ChuckDickens might think you're dense -- and you'd be lucky to get off that easy.
"I was watching a television program before, with a kind of roving moderator who spoke to a seated panel of young women who were having some sort of problem with their boyfriends - apparently, because the boyfriends had all slept with the girlfriends' mothers. And they brought the boyfriends out, and they fought, right there on television. Toby, tell me: these people don't vote, do they?"
-Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, asking questions about individuals extremely similar to those who post on Desipio