We’re almost deep enough into the latest Chinese Professional Baseball League season for there to have been enough games played to actually write meaningfully about the season. We’re not quite there yet though and I figured what way to scratch that always-present CPBL itch than with an article about an all-time CPBL great. Not just any great in Taiwanese baseball mind you, but a hitter so consistent, respected, and well-liked that he earned the nickname, Mr. CPBL.
Peng Cheng-min spent his entire career in Taiwan. For 19 seasons he was a fixture in black and gold, first for the Brothers Elephants then for the Chinatrust Brothers. He started his career as a designated hitter, then switched to right field, before eventually spending the majority of his playing days at first base. Cheng-min was always a capable fielder, though capable is the keyword there. He was never an amazing fielder, in right or at first, but he got the job done. Mostly, Cheng-min was a good enough fielder that the focus on him could stay where it belonged, his hitting.
By the time he retired Cheng-min had amassed a career slash line of .334/.432/.488 in 7,672 plate appearances. He finished his career with 2,139 hits, 203 home runs, 170 WRC+ (for the regular season), and 1,075 walks to 1,144 strikeouts. Those last two numbers deserve a little bit of focus because in every possible way Cheng-min was not the prototypical CPBL hitter. The league itself has always been centered on offense, and that has resulted in high batting averages with low walk totals. Cheng-min was able to walk almost as much as he struck out, he got on base at an amazing clip, and it wasn’t just because of his bat-to-ball skills.
Those skills were most readily on display during a 2004 campaign that saw him hit .376/.493/.595 in 425 plate appearances. He contributed 18 home runs and walked 69 times while only striking out 64 times. His BB% of 16.2 was easily tops in the league, as was his wOBA of .489 and WRC+ of 225. 2004 was also notable for Cheng-min because his Elephants were the best team in the league for the whole season but they did not finish with the best winning record in either half and thus missed the playoffs. 2005 would see the CPBL adopt a new playoff format to ensure a team like the 2004 Elephants wasn’t kept out of the playoffs.
When it came to the playoffs Cheng-min was a regular. He won four Taiwan Series titles during his 19 years with his teams making the playoffs in 11 of those years. It’s easy to get the title of Mr. CPBL if you are great every regular season and a fixture of the playoffs year in and year out.
Cheng-min never played in a Major League Baseball game, heck, he never appeared in a game for an affiliated team period. He still had an amazing career, one of the best in the history of Taiwan and one of the most accomplished in the history of professional baseball. Heck, again, the guy earned the nickname Mr. CPBL, which basically tells you all you need to know about how great he was for the entirety of his career. The history of professional baseball is littered with folks like Cheng-min and like the rest of them, his amazing career deserves some time in the spotlight too.
Lead photo courtesy of Liao Yao-tung – Taipei Times