|Chinatrust Brothers manager Cory Snyder has found a role for every player on his roster in 2017.|
Photo: The Oliver Photo
Although the Chinatrust Brothers will finish second in the CPBL standings for the 2017 first half-season, there is a lot of optimism and momentum for Cory Snyder’s club heading into the mid-season break. The team got off to a rocky 2-7 start and didn't reach the .500 mark until its 28th game. But once the team found its form, it really played some great baseball down the stretch and has compiled a 16-9-3 record since it was 14-14 back on May 5.
There are a few aspects of the Brothers’ success that deserve praise, for example, their league-leading offense and their starters’ ability to go deep into games. But the production they have received from some unlikely sources, perhaps, is the greatest contribution.
Like most teams this year, the Chinatrust Brothers have faced a number of lengthy injuries to key players; despite these absences, they have adopted a “next man up” philosophy that has defined them as a club.
No. 58 Tseng Tao-Jung (3B/LF)
When team leader and clean-up hitter Lin Chih-Sheng was sidelined on May 3 due to a lower-body injury, it created a massive hole in the lineup as well as a void at third base. Enter Tseng Tao-Jung.
In his first at-bat after taking over the starting duties for the injured Lin, Tseng doubled in two runs in what would be the first of five straight wins for the men in yellow. Since then, Tseng has perhaps been one of the most explosive hitters in the entire league—not bad for a 10th-round pick in the 2015 CPBL draft.
Although Tseng doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify (3.1 PA x team games played), he leads the entire league in many “per plate appearance” categories. The 26-year-old infielder/outfielder is launching a long ball every 9.5 at-bats. That hyperbolic frequency has put Tseng into the league’s power elite as he sits third in home runs with 13, even though he has almost 80 fewer plate appearances than the leaders.
It really is amazing that people aren’t talking about him more in discussions with the league's other stars like Wang Po-Jung and Chiang Chih-Hsien.
Can you identify the player who makes about one-seventh of the other two’s monthly salaries? Hint: it's not B or C
Wang is on his way to another MVP season, but Tseng Tao-Jung is creating offense at the same rate as the Lamigo star. Wang leads the league in weighted runs created, or wRC, (a metric that is considered the best offensive indicator) by a wide margin. However, if you look at weighted runs created on a level playing field, i.e. per plate appearance instead of collectively, you see that Tseng and Wang have near identical wRC/PA at 0.24 and 0.25 respectively (Chiang Chih-Hsien, for comparison, has a 0.21 wRC/PA). This is all coming from a player who was probably penciled in for pinch-hitting duties and a handful of starts at the beginning of the season.
For amusement’s sake, let’s assume 500 plate appearances for Tseng with his current offensive output and predict what a full season would look like.
500 PA, 145 H, 87 R, 45 HR, 129 RBI, 16 SB, 174/58 K/BB
No. 1 Chen Tzu-Hao (CF/RF)
Heading into 2017, 21-year-old Chen Tzu-Hao was fourth on the outfield depth chart behind veterans Chang Chih-Hao, Chang Cheng-Wei and Chou Ssu-Chi. Even after posting a .350/.410/.554 slash line in 2016, the high-school drafted lefty wasn't guaranteed everyday playing time in 2017. Manager Cory Snyder found Chen some early playing time and a Chang Chih-Hao injury really opened the door for what might be the biggest breakout story of the league this year.
|21-year-old Chen Tzu-Hao has quickly emerged as one of the most dangerous hitters in Taiwan.|
All Chen has done this year is lead the league in slugging (.678) while pushing teammate Chiang Chih-Hsien for the league lead in home runs with 16, one for every 13.2 at-bats. Take note that this is a 21-year-old who was drafted at 17 and made his first-team debut at 18. Only the previously mentioned Tseng Tao-Jung is collecting more bases per at-bat than the young outfielder. This kid is a stud and it isn't inconceivable that Chen could be a future star of the CPBL.
When Chang “Hollywood” Chih-Hao returns from injury, the Brothers could possibly have the best lineup the CPBL has ever seen and Chen will be a key contributor for the club as it looks to reach the Taiwan Series. With his easy swing and ability to hit for power from line to line, Brothers fans will be seeing a lot of Chen Tzu-Hao in the next decade and beyond.
No. 26 Huang Chun-Sheng (C)
Since taking over the starting catching role on May 23, the 28-year-old Huang has helped the Brothers go on a 9-4-1 stretch. Over that period, the Chinatrust club has averaged seven runs a game while giving up a mere four.
Huang has also done a great job with the rotation as his starters have recorded nine quality starts and have a 5-2 record. But it is his work with the lumber that separates the 2010 seventh-round pick from his competition.
So far this year, the heavyset backstop is 20-for-51 for a .397 average. The right-handed hitter has also knocked in 13 runs in 16 games (14 starts). That is huge production coming from a guy who looked like his path to the first team was blocked by Cheng Ta-Hung and Chen Chia-Chu. Huang is also making just NT$83,000 a month (the average for 28-year-olds is NT$118,000 a month), a real bargain compared to Cheng who is pocketing NT$460,000 a month while slashing .169/.258/.205 in 31 contests.
No. 39 Chan Tzu-Hsien (OF) and No. 2 Pan Ting-Hsiang (MI)
Despite amassing just over 100 plate appearances combined, a couple of former second-round draft picks have proven as valuable role players over the last month.
With starting right fielder Chang Cheng-Wei out with an injury, Chan Tzu-Hsien has slid into the starting role and has produced respectable numbers for a 23-year-old rookie. He is 5-for-17 since his promotion which includes a 3-for-5 night on June 20 that saw him swat three home runs.
Infielder Pan Ting-Hsiang has carved himself a role on an offensively loaded Brothers infield. It isn't often your backup shortstop/second baseman hits for a .360 average and can swipe bags, too.
*stats were calculated prior to Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Lamigo Monkeys.
Tseng Tao-Jung: 1-for-4, 2 R, 2 SB, BB
Chen Tzu-Hao: 2-for-5, 2 SB
Huang Chun-Sheng: 1-for-3, 2 RBI, BB
Chan Tzu-Hsien: 1-for-4, 2 RBI, HR (4)