The honeymoon is over, the Cubs right fielder, Kosuke Fukodome is here to stay.
He's funny, left-handed, great in the field, and has a proven track record across the ocean. He also leads the team in walks. But he stopped taking them, and the Cubs recent woes are caused by impatience.
When Jim Hendry shelled out 48 big ones to land Kosuke Fukudome, he had no idea that one player could turn a free-swinging offense (the same guys who laid down for three October games against upcoming Arizona) into a walk-happy, on base leading powerhouse.
Teams and analysts all rave about the Cubs lineup, producers of the second most runs scored in baseball, behind perennial powerhouse Texas. One through eight, there's no easy out in Chicago's lineup -- until now.
The Cubs have scored four runs in their past three contests. Getting shut down by Tim Lincecum is no surprise, the Giants youngster is a freak-phenom. However, the mightiest of NL offenses should not struggle with journeyman starters like Wandy Rodriguez and Brian Moehler. The pitching has been consistent, and the bullpen remains mostly untested. The offense, especially on the road, is the problem.
Fine, don't take walks, Aramis Ramirez has done it for years, making himself the fearsome hitter who ALWAYS gets pitched to. This team HAS to walk, or they will not win. No player will hit .400 on this Cubs team, but they can reach base at a .400 clip.
Ryan Theriot's recent plan has been to rip the cover off the ball, doing his best Mike Fontenot in July 2007 impersonation -- Theriot's clipping along at a .386 average in July -- but even Theriot has walked a ton this year, bring his OBP up near .400.
Strangely enough, Fukudome's recent struggles at the plate have coincided with the team's sputtering engine. As his average has fallen, so has his patience; the only thing not falling are the balls he puts in play.
And while Kosuke has faltered at the bat and on the bases, the Cubs in general have taken fewer pitches. Back to back losses to a sub-.500 team in Houston, and the common denominators are : One run scored on a solo Home Run and zero walks.
Fontenot, Jim Edmonds, and Reed Johnson are all plate patient hitters who take pitches and work at bats; the key is for the every day players to step up and not swing. When Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Ramirez, and Mark DeRosa can reach first without putting the ball in play, the Cubs will win consistently again.
Just so we're clear, when this happens in the next four games, and they start to win, I don't want everyone to be fooled by the media into thinking it's because Alfonso Soriano returns from the DL. Soriano will definitely give an offensive boost, and help our solo HR totals, but it is unlikely he will help our on base percentages.