Those of us who have been covering and following the Chinese Professional Baseball League for some time now like to refer to the league as our hidden sports league. The reason being that among larger professional baseball leagues the CPBL has remained somewhat forgotten even for those who cover unaffiliated leagues. The lone exception to this unwritten rule is that people seem to always know about foreign pitchers in the CPBL.
Generally, most people seem to be under the assumption that foreign pitchers come into the league and dominate. That’s an incorrect assumption, but one that I see being made all the time about foreign pitchers who find their way to Taiwan. For every Mike Loree or Aríel Miranda, there are far more pitchers like Austin Biben-Dirkx or Greg Smith. Being a foreign pitcher in the CPBL is a hard road to travel and every year the league seems to rip through foreign pitcher after foreign pitcher while only a few manage to shine. 2020 has proved to be no different.
Donn Roach – Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions
I had my doubts about the Roach signing, to begin with, and for once I have been proven right. Roach has been rocked in every one of his 4 starts. He’s thrown 20.1 innings and has amassed an unseemly 7.13 FIP, 31.1 ERA+, and 2.070 WHIP. He’s walked 7, but he’s also given up 35 hits. The worry with Roach was that he would live in the zone and pay for such a folly. That is exactly what has happened as CPBL hitters have feasted on his subpar offerings that look like beachballs coming through the zone.
Ryan Carpenter – Rakuten Monkeys
Carpenter flew in under the radar and has been a calming presence in the Monkeys rotation. They’ve been missing such a presence since they were the Lamigo Monkeys and Zeke Spruill imploded a couple of seasons back. If not for Miranda, Carpenter would be the best pitcher to enter the CPBL this season and maybe the best pitcher regardless. The Monkeys starter has put together a 3.80 FIP and 159.8 ERA+ with a 1.040 WHIP in 26 innings pitched. His tWAR of 0.8 is second best in the league.
José De Paula – CTBC Brothers
Flashy stuff looks great on a game feed but it doesn’t always translate to the best results. That’s been the story for De Paula throughout his career and it has followed him to the Brothers. De Paula is throwing amazing looking stuff at CPBL hitters. But, he struggles to find the strike zone so much that they can sit back and wait for when he has to straighten everything out in the hopes of a strike and they hack away. The son of Villa Mella has a 6.82 FIP and a 1.500 WHIP in 29.1 innings. Most of what he’s throwing looks amazing, but that doesn’t matter when he’s wild and getting hit hard.
Esmil Rogers – CTBC Brothers
Rogers was supposed to join with Miranda and De Paula to give the Brothers a heck of a good starting rotation. Unfortunately, Rogers has struggled even more than De Paula, leaving Miranda as the lone ranger of the bunch. Rogers has, at times, appeared allergic to throwing strikes. He only appeared in 17.1 innings but with a WHIP of 2.020 and a FIP of 5.67 the Brothers have demoted him to the Future League. Maybe Rogers can use his time in the CFL to get his head straight and trust his stuff more. If he comes back and keeps nibbling like he was before he won’t be long for the league.
Ryan Feierabend – Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions
The Uni-Lions have a track record of not making the best foreign player choices. Their starting rotation of the past few years features more misses than it does hits, but they keep plugging away. Feierabend is getting a shot because he throws a knuckleball. He’s never excelled with it, but it’s not a common pitch in the CPBL and thus the knuckleballer gets a shot in a charged offensive environment. The results have been as expected, Feierabend has had trouble controlling his signature pitch. He’s either right in the zone or nowhere near the zone while lacking enough movement to fool CPBL hitters. A 6.34 FIP and 1.580 WHIP are not going to cut it long term in the CPBL.
Add Miranda to the group and that makes for six of the new foreign starters in the league in 2020. Of those six only two are succeeding while the other four are quickly heading towards finding themselves out of the league altogether. If you think foreign pitchers just show up in Taiwan and dominate, think again.
Lead photo courtesy of Gene Wang – Getty Images