Hsu Jo-hsi on the mound for the Wei Chuan Dragons

The Future of Taiwan

Thanks to the Taiwanese government, correctly, locking their country down to better handle a spike in Coronavirus cases I find myself with a little more time to catch up on intriguing Chinese Professional Baseball League stories. At the very top of that list is the performance of the young phenom, Hsu Jo-hsi. In a league with a number of great pitchers worth spending the time to discuss the second-year professional (he only threw a total of four innings in his 2020 campaign) has managed to stand out.

Jo-hsi is only twenty years old but he already finds himself thrust into the role of being the future of Taiwanese baseball. The reason for that is simple, homegrown Taiwanese pitchers don’t typically have the arsenal that Jo-hsi brings to bear. His fourseam fastball regularly sits at 92-93 miles per hour and he’s been able to get as high as 96 with max effort. That all by its lonesome makes him a rarity in a league where local pitchers are more known for sitting in the upper 80s to lower 90s. Jo-hsi doesn’t stop there as he also has a well-developed curveball, changeup, and slider that are a world above what we usually see from Taiwanese pitchers.

The fourseam fastball and changeup combo have become his bread and butter. The slider and curveball look more devastating but where Jo-hsi eats hitters alive is in his ability to provide a stark contrast between his four-seamer and his change. Said changeup usually comes in around 84 miles per hour. He’s able to locate it well and his release point and trajectory are right in line with his 93 miles per hour fastball. The end result is hitter after hitter being made to look the fool by his changeup. 

All of the above has led to a nation turning to Jo-hsi. He’s so far removed from what Taiwanese baseball fans are used to in their own pitchers that a lot of expectations have been placed on his shoulders. Those expectations are well-earned though, the right-hander has already drawn interest from Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball team scouts. He looks absolutely dominant on the mound, but there are still questions that the Wei Chuan Dragons hurler needs to answer.

Up to this point, the Dragons have been very cautious in their usage of their phenom. He’s appeared in nine games as a starter but has only thrown 35.0 innings. He’s averaging four innings per start. That’s fine for now, while he is developing and the Dragons aren’t all that good. As time progresses we’ll have to see some improvements in that area from the young righty. In that regard, he has had two recent outings where he was stretched to five innings pitched. As long as the Dragons keep slowly working to stretch Jo-hsi out and improve his ability to last longer in games he should be able to shoulder whatever expectations are heaped on him.

As it stands the Dragons starter finds himself with a 1.54 ERA, 1.40 FIP, 0.910 WHIP, and a 1.4 tWAR for the 2021 season. More impressive than all of those numbers are Jo-hsi’s K% of 34.7. He is far and away the number one pitcher in the CPBL when it comes to striking batters out. At the same time, he’s walking opposing hitters at a 5.8% clip and that is where maturity should come into play. As he learns to pitch more than just throw his K% will likely drop somewhat, but so will his BB%. A fair trade-off and a key progression for Jo-hsi as he continues to make waves in Taiwan and throughout the unaffiliated baseball world. 

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – CPBL Stats

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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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