Chu Yu-Hsien celebrates setting the half-season home run record with the Lamigo Monkeys

A Hot Start in Taiwan

It’s too early in the season for advanced stats to have any sort of meaning. Six games are nowhere near large enough of a sample size for us to look to WRC+ or wOBA or any of the other advanced metrics we regularly use to better breakdown Chinese Professional Baseball League players. We do have raw stats and we have history. That’s all one needs to know that Chu Yu-Hsien’s start to the 2020 season is not an aberration.

For those who are new to the CPBL, Yu-Hsien stepped into the vacuum left by Wang Po-Jung’s 2019 departure to Nippon Professional Baseball and instantly became a star. Well, he became a bigger star, because prior to 2019 he had already established himself as one of the best players in the league. From 2016 to 2018 he put up a WRC+ of 159, 150, and 122. He showed great power, great bat-to-ball skills, and played a competent left/right field. 

The one thorn in Yu-Hsien’s side was his health. He missed a lot of time due to various injuries. This included the entirety of the 2017 playoffs. Watching Yu-Hsien play it was clear that he was among the best the league had to offer, but with two of his seasons significantly shortened due to injury and an entire playoffs missed there remained questions about just how good the youngster really could be. The then Lamigo Monkeys losing Po-Jung should have been a tremendous loss. In reality, it was, but they still went on to win the 2019 Taiwan Series. Yu-Hsien erasing any doubts about his durability and talent level was a big reason why.

The 6’2 first baseman/outfielder was on fire throughout 2019. He came out of the gate trying to show that the Monkeys could whether the storm of losing perhaps the greatest player in the history of the CPBL. By the time the season ended Yu-Hsien stood as the 2019 CPBL Most Valuable Player. He ended the regular season with a slash line of .347/.394/.605 in 507 plate appearances. Yu-Hsien hit 30 home runs and 26 doubles in a season that saw him finish with a WRC+ of 153.

At 29 years old Yu-Hsien is no spring chicken, but he’s not exactly old either. He’s an elite athlete coming into the prime of his career when the eyes of the world are upon him. In the first week of CPBL action, Yu-Hsien has been just as hot as he was throughout all of 2019. He’s been lacing home runs all over the place and driving the ball hard when he’s not sending it over the wall. He’s had a three-home-run-game and looked every bit the great player he’s been all along.

In a baseball starved land, Yu-Hsien has stood out as a star. If 2019 proved anything it’s that the now Rakuten Monkey is more than ready to take on a starring role. He faces stiff competition from some of his own teammates, like super infielder Lin Li who is my pick for best player in the CPBL, and at the onset, Yu-Hsien is doing his best to leave said competition in the dust. Hop on board the Chu Yu-Hsien train folks, cause he’s gonna provide one heck of a fun baseball experience.

Lead photo courtesy of Chen Chih-chu – Taipei Times

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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