Since the start of spring training, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has said that Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome will platoon in center field. The problem with this approach is that Fukudome's problems have very little to do with his ability to hit left-handed pitching.
Fukudome batted .276 against left-handed pitchers last year, with an OBP of .371. Those are better then average numbers. Fukudome's major struggles took place away from the friendly confines, while Reed Johnson thrived on the road.
The 32-year old Fukudome was awful on the road hitting just .222 with an OBP of .325. He showed very little patience on the road struggling against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Things were much different at home for Fukudome, where he hit .297 with a very impressive .397 OBP.
Reed Johnson was much more consistent overall batting .303, but unlike Fukudome Johnson was outstanding the road. The former Blue Jay batted .318 with an OBP of .376 on the road. At home he batted .280 with a less impressive .323 OBP.
I personally think that Johnson should get the bulk of at bats against left-handed pitching home or away. That said, I also think it would behoove Piniella to give Fukudome the bulk of at bats at home and Johnson the bulk of at bats on the road.
For whatever reason, Fukudome seems to be more comfortable at home. Limiting Fukudome's road at bats will make the Cubs a better team.
One things for sure, if the Cubs have the lead in the 9th inning both Fukudome and Johnson should be on the field. Both are better then average defensively.
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