At just thirty-two years old it’s hard to think of Chiang Chih-Hsien as an older player but that’s exactly what he is now. That doesn’t mean he’s not good, though he clearly has clearly regressed hard in one specific area that we will get to a little later. Overall though, Chih-Hsien may be a few years removed from when he was a contender for best player in the Chinese Professional Baseball League but he’s still a damn useful player.
In the short season, the Fubon Guardians star is slashing .345/.390/.624 over 91 plate appearances. That’s not just a respectable slash line, it’s a slash line that has netted him an OPS+ of 128. That’s not elite, but it’s the sort of overall production that speaks to the player Chih-Hsien has been for his entire career. The third baseman, and sometimes right fielder, has always had immense power and an ability to drive the ball. This season has been no different and Chih-Hsien has proved one of the few bright spots on a Guardians team that is yet again underperforming.
The power stroke is key to Chih-Hsien’s success. He has 6 home runs so far this year to go along with 5 doubles. The doubles are down due to, how shall I put this, Chih-Hsien running at about the same speed as your seventy-year-old grandpa. Even during his prime years, Chih-Hsien wasn’t a speedster, but he could turn the occasional single into a double or make smart baserunning decisions that would help his team. Now, he’s pretty much a single or home run guy. He simply lacks the ability to run anywhere near well enough to stretch any singles into doubles these days.
The former Chinatrust Brother has never taken many walks and 2020 is no different. There’s only a .045 difference between his batting average and his on-base percentage. That’s a trend that has been pretty consistent throughout his career, but now he’s walking even less. His inability to walk is a big reason why his WRC+ sits at a decidedly average 100 as of today. That’s not really a knock on Chih-Hsien’s production, he is in the Guardians lineup to hit a lot of home runs and that is exactly what he is doing.
I don’t want to give the impression that Chih-Hsien isn’t an important player for the Guardians. He decidedly is, and he’s healthy which is mainly what the Guardians wanted to see happen this season. Chih-Hsien is going to continue to get his base knocks and drive the ball over the fence. As long as he does that, he can end the season with average peripheral stats and the Guardians will still be happy with what he brought to the table.
The one area where Chih-Hsien continues to amaze is with his glove. He doesn’t amaze in a good way, he never has in fact. Watching Chih-Hsien play third base is like watching a turtle trying to catch rocks while their feet are in quicksand. That may sound extreme, but go watch a few innings of Chi-Hsien at the hot corner and you’ll wonder how he gets to any grounders. People have always been hard on Chih-Hsien for his fielding woes, I have always defended him as an average fielder at worst. Those days are long gone and in a league with a fielding problem, Chih-Hsien is among the worst.
There’s a place in baseball for aging veterans who are kept around because they can still pack a wallop in their swing. The days of Chih-Hsien being a Most Valuable Player contender are over but his swing still packs a heck of a wallop. The Guardians need him to keep finding the other side of the fence for as long as his injury-riddled body will let him. I won’t lie, watching Chih-Hsien slug his way to the end of his playing days doesn’t sound bad at all.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Fubon Guardians