There was a time when Pan Wei-Lun was one of the most dominant pitchers in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Over the course of his seventeen-year career, all spent with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, he has managed an ERA of 3.22. Knowing that he has now had four seasons with an ERA above the 4.50 mark should key you into how dominant he once was. Those dominant days are gone, but in 2019 the 37-year-old is pitching better than he has in some time.
Don’t let a rocky last two starts fool you when it comes to Wei-Lun. Prior to his June 9th showdown with the Fubon Guardians, his ERA stood at 3.09. That game plus a 2 inning, six earned run performance in his following start against the Lamigo Monkeys has ballooned his ERA to 4.27. Maybe that is where Wei-Lun is headed back to, the mediocrity that has come to define the last few years of his career. I’m not so sure that is the case, and based on his overall numbers I don’t think those starts are anything more than some minor regression.
Before the disastrous Monkeys start Wei-Lun had a WHIP of 1.20 and an ERA+ of 121. His K% of 9.54 remains very concerning, but he is at the very least augmenting that with lessened contact and a minuscule BB% of 2.29. His FIP of 4.18 is on the high side, but it is lower than he has produced the past few years. The lack of hard contact further shows up in Wei-Lun having only allowed 6 home runs on the year so far.
At his age Wei-Lun isn’t able to put the ball past hitters like he once could, so he has to rely instead on his ability to induce contact. The key for Wei-Lun is getting the right kind of contact. For the most part this year We-Lun has been getting that contact as batters aren’t hitting the ball hard off of him and when they do it’s been towards his fielders. His BABIP of .290 is near the top of the league, and though that low of a number may not be sustainable for him it is reasonable to think that he could limit its rise if he keeps pitching the way he had been before his last two starts.
Wei-Lun is an interesting case of decent results not supported by his peripherals. He very well may be outpitching his peripherals or those peripherals may be about ready to catch up to him. One thing to keep in mind is that with Wei-Lun’s many years of experience he is the sort of pitcher who is prone to streaks where his results will beat out his peripherals. That’s not always the case, but as long as certain numbers stay in the positive range for the former Ace there’s no reason to think he can’t keep producing in a plus manner until the end of the season.
The time to close the book on Wei-Lun’s career is almost near, but this year at least he is performing at a level that has pushed Father Time away for a little bit. With the injuries to the Lions rotation and the underperformance of now released foreign pitcher signing Austin Bibens-Dirkx, the Lions needed someone to step up in a big way. Wei-Lun did just that and at this point as long as he remains an average to slightly above average pitcher the rest of the way he will have given the Lions more than they could have hoped for from their once upon a time star.
Lead photo courtesy of Lin Zhengyi – Liberty Times