Comparing one player to another based on a shared heritage or ethnicity is lazy sportswriting at its finest. As a lazy sportswriter, I need to stay extra vigilant to avoid this trope. Luckily baseball is a rather, er, monochrome these days so I can deftly dodge that bullet with ease.
Except when it comes to Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs right fielder is off to a great start, drawing copious walks and singling his way to a .327 average without any power to speak of. He plays a strong right field where his accurate arm and reputation controls the running game.
Gee, if only I could think of a comparable outfielder….
Comparing any carbon-based lifeform to Ichiro! just isn’t fair. How can mere mortal Fukudome be expected to measure up to a national treasure and icon? The best he can do is match his offensive profile.
Of all outfielders with 100 plate appearances in 2011, Kosuke Fukudome holds the second lowest ISO. Directly behind him? Ichiro! Neither man owns a single home run and they have but 11 doubles between them. Japanese singles hitters unite!
Both players use all fields well: Fukudome has 6 hits and a .333 average to left while Ichiro! continues his assault on the record books with 15 hits the other way. Fukudome’s ability to draw walks is legendary, nearly the top of the league at 16% while Ichiro is slightly above average at 8.2%. He makes up for it by being a generational baseball singularity.
One other striking similarity: their pay packets. Both men make an extraordinary amount of money for smooth fielding outfielders with non-existent power. Ichiro makes a cool $17 million a year while Fokudome will earn $13.5 mil in the final year of his substantial deal.
I really, really tried. Other than their walk rates, they really are the same player this year. Both are effective players providing league-average numbers. Ichiro is off to a slower start than expected while Kosuke rides a bloated BABIP to glory. One will likely decline before the year is out, the other will wake up on October 2 with 200 hits and not remember a single one. Then he’ll go to Cooperstown.