2005 Taguchi > 2008 Fukudome

“C’mon! Fukudome was so bad, even Taguchi was better!”

“What in the world are you talking about?”

Ah, the Holidays are a wonderful time of year, when families all over the country re-assemble, reminisce and yes, sometimes resurrect past skirmishes.

Such is the case in our household here in 2008. My oldest son Ian returned home first of our gang to officially begin the consumption of mass quantities of food and seize the opportunity to catch up on his laundry. While waiting for the dryer, our conversation most predictably gravitated to the state of the game of baseball.

As the discussion narrowed to the prospect of Mark Cuban’s apparently futile attempt to purchase the Chicago Cubs, Ian tweaked my nose over the likelihood that a Cuban regime would escalate growth in the National League Central salary structure to a level even more uncomfortable for the St. Louis Cardinals to compete.

Of course, we both knew that Cuban’s recent indictment for alleged insider trading eliminated the less than 1% chance Bud Selig and his cronies would have let an unpredictable and deep-pocketed hands-on adversary like Cuban crash their exclusive country club, anyway.

Still, Ian’s point was that even BC, Before Cuban, the Cubs had grown their payroll to an amount considerably higher than their NL Central counterparts, most notably including the Cardinals.

My reply was that the Cubbies need a higher payroll since they have handicapped themselves by wasting millions on fool’s gold, the likes of former Cardinals starting pitcher Jason Marquis and the high-profile outfielder imported from Japan last winter, Kosuke Fukudome.

Marquis, too undependable to even hold down the fifth starter’s role for the Chicagoans, same as in St. Louis, is slated to earn just under $10 million this coming season.

That’s pocket change compared to the amount the then-shiny-new Japanese import Fukudome was presented last winter – a whopping $48 million over four years, including $11.5 million in 2009.

What those two duds are paid more than closes the financial gap between the Cardinals and Cubs.

As I was making that point, a light bulb moment occurred.

Speculating that the Cubs’ had been hoping to acquire their own Ichiro, I noted they got much less that they bargained for – unless you count an unbelievably unjustified All-Star Game selection and an unearned sixth place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, that is.

Fuk may be waiting a long time for a ring
Fuk may wait a long time for a ring

In fact, with some wind in my debating sails, I continued by push my point by making a rash assertion that the Cubs’ received less production from Fukudome than the Cardinals did from their own Japanese import, So Taguchi, in his best season in the US.

“Say what?”

Turns out, when normalizing the at-bats from the light-hitting Taguchi’s 2005 season with St. Louis, his first as a full-time major leaguer and the one in which he received the most at-bats, with Fukudome’s initial season in MLB, I was absolutely right.

This despite the fact that Fukudome is eight years younger and So’s best campaign was at the age of 35, in his decline phase physically.

Taguchi 2005 0.288 396 45 114 8 53 11 0.322 0.412 2
Taguchi 2005 n* 0.288 501 57 144 10 66 14 0.322 0.412 3
Fukudome 2008 0.257 501 79 129 10 58 12 0.359 0.379 6

* normalized

leader in BOLD

In summary, had Taguchi maintained his 2005 pace through 501 at-bats, the number Fukudome received last season, So would have had a higher batting average, more RBI, more stolen bases, a higher slugging percentage and half the errors in the field as the Cubs “star”.

“Yee, hah!”

Fukudome did score more frequently and amassed a better on-base mark, but that is it. Those represent the only two major statistical areas in 2008 where the overpriced, overrated Cubbie actually performed better than the 2005 version of Taguchi.

While the Cub made $8 million in 2008, So pulled down a whopping $550,000 back in 2005. In other words, in his top season, Taguchi made less than 7% than did Fukudome last year.

One final point. Taguchi’s Cardinals club took the World Series the very next year while Fukudome’s Cubs have now been waiting 101 years for the same. Based on his “rookie” season, it certainly doesn’t look like Fukudome is going to play any positive factor in reversing that trend over the final three years of his current contract, either.

Hey, Taguchi is again a free agent. Maybe his agent should call Jim Hendry to see how badly the Baby Bears general manager wants a new centerfielder?