The Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions signed RHP Donn Roach to a one-year, unknown dollar amount contract (Chinese Professional Baseball League teams do not always announce the amount they have spent on a free agent.)
The desire for foreign pitchers in the CPBL is high. I say this because, well, it’s the only explanation for the Lions signing Roach. It’s not a move that makes much sense at all if the playing dynamics of the CPBL are taken into account. Still, the Lions have signed Roach and I think it’s important that Lions fans know what they are in for with the well-traveled righty.
The number one thing to know about Roach is that he does not walk very many batters. A career BB/9 of 2.6 is a damn fine number, one that Lions fan should like. Roach doesn’t walk many batters because he is always in and around the zone. He’s not a nibbler, the approach of Roach is not that of a pitcher working the edges of the zone. The former major leaguer pounds the zone, pumping strike after strike right over the plate.
The above would be fine if Roach had the sort of stuff that missed a lot of bats. Unfortunately for the son of Las Vegas, Nevada he doesn’t miss many bats at all. In his professional career, he has a minuscule K/9 of 5.6. The level of play has never mattered for Roach, he simply struggles to get the ball past hitters. It’s not a pitch-mix issue, Roach throws at least four distinct pitches and tends to bring a diverse approach to said pitch-mix. The reason Roach doesn’t get many strikeouts is that his pitches don’t move or drop that much and come in very flat and on a line.
When you add the last two paragraphs together you have a recipe for disaster in the CPBL. An inability to strike guys out and an unending desire to work in the zone means that Roach will give up lots and lots of contact. He sports a career WHIP of 1.398 and that’s not because he’s walking a lot of guys. The majority of that number is contact driven, lots of contact, lots of hard contact. That is going to be an issue with a Lions team that doesn’t field all that well. Perhaps the Lions will have better defense in 2020, but if they bring the same level they did in 2019 expect a lot of ugly baserunners when Roach is on the mound.
I would love to give the Lions the benefit of the doubt and think that they’ve seen something in Roach that no one else has. Having seen plenty of Roach myself I simply can’t give the Lions that benefit. Roach is an extreme contact pitcher in an offense-first league on a team that tends to struggle defensively. More than likely Roach with the Lions is going to be a nightmare scenario, one from which the Lions will quickly discover there’s no way to end other than by releasing Roach.
Lead photo courtesy of Jeff Roberson – Associated Press