As the season reaches its first-quarter mark, it is time to take a look at how each team has fared, up to yesterday, and the factors involved in their respective successes and failures.
Leading off the standings are the Lamigo Monkeys, whose 20-9 record is second to none among the four clubs in the league thanks to the solid hitting of sluggers Lin Chih-sheng, Lin Hong-yu and Chung Cheng-yo, whose 75 combined RBIs for their team are by far the most among any three players in the league.
In addition to their success at the plate, the Monkeys are also dominating on the mound, with starters Adrian Burnside and Ken Ray snatching up five and four wins respectively with an ERA of 1.26 that virtually guarantees a quality start every time they take the mound.
Lurking not too far behind the Monkeys are the second-place Uni-President Lions, who sit at 19-10-1. They represent the only legitimate threat to the Monkeys with staff ace Pan “Du Du” Wei-luen, who became the fastest to reach the 200-start plateau on Tuesday night in just his ninth season, leading a deep, experienced and solid pitching staff.
Doing the Lions’ share of the damage at the plate have been Chen Yong-chi, Chang “OEO” Tai-shan and Kao Guo-ching, whose 63 combined RBIs make them one of the most feared slugging trios in the league.
Chen is playing in his first professional season in Taiwan after a seven-year stint in the minors in the US, while Chang is making a strong case with his bat for why he opted to extend his playing career with the Lions instead of serving as a player-coach as per his former club, the Sinon Bulls, had requested.
Sitting in third with a disappointing 12-18 record are the defending champs, the Brother Elephants, who during the offseason lost two of their three foreign starters from last season’s title run, and are struggling with Orlando Roman and his 3.l7 ERA as the lone spotlight leading a generous staff with no other hurlers with an ERA under 4.
With the pitchers allowing more than five earned runs per game thus far, not even iconic players such as Peng “Chia Chia” Cheng-min, Chen Guan-ren and Chou Si-chi have been able to make up for the run deficits with their big bats.
Finally, the Sinon Bulls find themselves a dozen games behind the Monkeys in the standings with an 8-22-1 record.
While most would attribute the Bulls’ disastrous start to their decision to go with an all-local pitching staff under the guidance of rookie pitching coach Tsai Tsong-nan, skipper Liu Rong-hua has taken on most of the criticism for a decision the Sinon front office has made.
Injuries to three of the 11 pitchers during the first two weeks of the season only made things worse for the Bulls, as they played games with as few as six pitchers for an entire week in the early going to start off the year with a 3-9 mark.