The 2017 Asia Winter Baseball League concluded this past Sunday with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) East claiming this year’s title. After finishing fourth (8-9 record) in league play, NPB East defeated first-place JABA (Japan Amateur Baseball Association, 11-2-4) 2-0 during the semifinals on Saturday and took care of KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) 4-1 in Sunday’s final.
Our very own Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) team finished a very respectable second place (11-1-5) during league play but fell short 6-2 in a semifinal match-up against KBO (8-2-7) and 4-3 in the consolation game versus JABA.
NPB West (5-1-11) defeated the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC, 4-2-11) team 2-1 to finish fifth.
All in all, the fifth installment of the Asia Winter Baseball League was a huge success, drawing positive reviews from other managers and leagues for both organization and competition level. This serves as a tribute to the CPBL as they undoubtedly look to continue the growth of the winter league in years to come.
After fielding a stronger team this year, the CPBL gave local fans reason to cheer as they finished league play without a loss in nine consecutive games and were competitive every time they took the field. The team, led by Lamigo Monkeys third-base coach Lin Cheng-Hsien, made valuable strides as several players positioned themselves for larger roles with their teams during the upcoming season.
Chinatrust Brothers’ infielder Wang Wei-Chen led the league in batting average (.397) and hits (27) and is primed for a breakout year after being thrust into regular action late last season. Lamigo Monkeys’ third-basemen Liang Chia-Jung also had himself a fine winter by batting .365 with 23 hits, good for third in both categories, to go along with 15 RBI (second in league). After being in-and-out of the lineup last year, Liang helped his own cause as he looks to establish himself as a regular.
However, the real strength of this year’s CPBL squad was on the mound, proving once again that pitching wins games. The team as a whole had a shiny 3.20 ERA, limiting opponents to only five long balls in 19 games. The staff was led by Lamigo Monkeys’ 2017 seventh-round pick Huang Zhi-Peng, who started four games and pitched to the tune of a 1.08 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, two wins, and 26 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. The rest of the starters more than held their own. Fellow Monkey Hung Sheng-Chin led the staff with three wins, compiling a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 innings hurled. Fubon Guardians lefty Chen Shih-Peng started three games and finished with a 2.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. A pair of Uni Lions pitchers, Hung Hsin-Chi and Chiang Chen-Yen, rounded out the starting core. Hung didn’t record a win but had a respectable 3.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP across 21.1 innings pitched while Chiang owned an impressive 2.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP along with two wins in 17 innings thrown.
The relief corps was a bit shakier with Monkeys Chu Chun-Hsiang (3.52 ERA, 1.30 ERA, four saves) and Brothers Wang Hung-Cheng (1.86 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, four saves) standing out.
So as 2017 rolls into 2018, we’ve seen our last professional game of the year. But January 14 and 15 are just around the corner when all four CPBL teams will kick-off spring training. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!