Not a single soul among those who follow Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League are interested in hearing the pained moans of a Rakuten Monkeys fan. After a decade of absolute dominance as the Lamigo Monkeys, the team that is lovingly known as the Peach Apes fell on hard times over the last season and a half. When you spend all your time ignoring the lack of quality pitching on your team or in your system and a few of your star hitters sputter even a little bit, that’s going to happen. Yet, as I type this the Monkeys find themselves in a battle for the second half CPBL crown. There are a lot of reasons, mainly the renewed play of their stars, for their mini-resurgence, but one player has stood out from the rest; Chen Chun-hsiu.
The stocky first baseman is having a heck of a 2021 season. Chun-hsiu is mostly doing what he has always done, only with a few slight tweaks. So far this season in 290 plate appearances he is slashing .380/.441/.527 with seven home runs and 13 doubles. Those numbers are good enough for a 189 WRC+ and that should tell you plenty about how he has managed to be a dominant force in the CPBL this season.
The two numbers that stand out for Chun-hsiu this year are his BB% of 10.1 and K% of 12.9. The K% isn’t jaw-dropping, but it is in the upper half of the league and it speaks to the slugger’s ability to make contact and to shorten his swing. That hasn’t always been the case with Chun-hsiu as he carried a big swing and miss reputation coming into 2021. That BB% though, is a number to twirl around in your head a bit. It’s right near the top of the league and keep in mind this is the CPBL we are talking about here. Taiwan’s premier league isn’t exactly where hitters go to take a free pass, they go to mash. Chun-hsiu is mashing, but he’s also having better at-bats through his better eye and the results are clear to see.
Monkeys fans can be hesitant about Chun-hsiu’s success this year. While he’s always been a very good player he’s never been quite this dominant. His .420 BABIP is far and away tops in the league and that could mean regression is coming sooner rather than later. While Chun-hsiu is slugging the ball just fine he’s on pace to fall well below his usual home run numbers. However, there appears to be a correlation between him bopping the ball over the fence less and maintaining a more patient approach at the plate. Fewer home runs for more times on base, pick your poison Monkeys fans.
I’m of the mind that there likely will be some regression to Chun-hsiu’s numbers. That being said, there’s nothing to indicate he won’t maintain his status as one of the best hitters in the league this year and possible Most Valuable Player front runner, especially if the Monkeys can slide into that second-half title. Chun-hsiu has sacrificed some home runs for more gap-to-gap power and better patience at the dish. The results have propelled the Monkeys from also-rans back into contention. No matter what happens the rest of the season, Chun-hsiu has given Monkeys fans reason to cheer again, and then some.
Lead photo courtesy of Lin Jingmin – ET Today