Saturday, December 16, 2006

Loose Ends....

Kuo and Wang

With just about all of the overseas players back home in Taiwan, it's time for some R & R for these guys before gearing up for the upcoming 2007 season. In the pic above, it's good to see Kuo and Wang reunited - too bad Tsao couldn't be there. As noted by a few of you, Tsao is currently a free agent after being non-tendered by the Rockies.

In other small news, it's good to know that the Boston Red Sox continue to work hard at scouting Taiwan's amateur scene. The Red Sox have definitely shown their commitment to scouting and signing some of the best players from the Pacific Rim - especially these past 2 years.

After a weak 2007 CPBL draft and in an effort to hold onto top domestic amateur talent, the CPBL has decided to include high school players in the draft next year.

Interesting note on foreign players being recognized as international athletes. In essence, there won't be any more incidences where players have problems returning (i.e. Chin-Feng Chen with the Dodgers - while trying to win a roster spot in ST) to the US because of a shortage of player visas.

There were a couple of noteworthy MLB acquisitions that could effect the PT of a few Taiwanese prospects/players:
1)The Mariners acquired 2B/DH Jose Vidro from the Nationals. So in addition to Jose Lopez, Yung-Chi Chen moves further down on the organizational 2B depth chart. However, his offensive skills and defensive versatility - 2B/3B work in his favor.
2)With the signing of Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf by the Dodgers over the past month, Kuo's status as a 5th starter is up in the air. He could return back to the bullpen and/or make sporadic starts.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

2006 Recapped

Wow, it's been quite a year for Taiwan baseball. 2006 has given us lots of good memories (and some bad) and for that reason will probably be remembered by baseball fans for quite some time.

Here are some of the highlights of 2006 (in no particular order):
1)Chien-Ming Wang's 19 Major League wins/his 2nd place finish in the AL Cy Young Race/becoming the first Taiwanese pitcher to win a postseason game
2)The country's first gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games
3)Kuo's rise/fall/rise again and return to his status as a starter in the Major Leagues/making an appearance in the postseason as a starter
4)The emergence of Yung-Chi Chen - Mariners farmhand who had a phenomenal year: All-Star in the Cal League - promoted to AA/named to the Futures All Star Game/Intercontinental Cup All-Star/Arguably the MVP of the Taiwanese NT during the Asian Games
5)Winning a bronze at the Intercontinental Cup - beating Japan, South Korea, and Cuba during the tourney
6)Winning a silver medal at the World University Baseball Championships - beating Cuba in the process (one of 4 times this year!!!!)
7)Winning the Pony League Palomino Championships (17-18 year olds)
8)Winning the Asian Youth Championships
9)Despite finishing 5th at the World Junior Baseball Championships - beating both the US and Cuba in the same tourney
10)The LA New Bears defeating the KBO champs and barely losing twice (by 1 run) to the NPB champs in this year's Konami Cup
11)The emergence of Chien-Ming Chiang in the NPB - offsetting the disappointing setbacks to Wei-Yin Chen and Ying-Chieh Lin, the release of Chih-Chia Chang, and the horrible season by Ming-Chieh Hsu
12)The signing of 5 kids by Major League teams: 1)P Sung-Wei Tseng - Indians 2)P Chen-En Hong - Braves 3)OF Wang-Wei Lin - Twins 4)P Po-Yu Lin - White Sox 5)IF Chih-Hsiang Huang - Red Sox
& 4 kids by NPB teams: 1)P Yi-Hao Lin - Giants 2)IF Ping-Yen Lee - Hawks 3)P En-Yu Lin - Eagles 4)P Si-Yo Wu - Marines

3 to Watch out for in 2007:
1)Chih-Hsien Chiang - Red Sox
2)Chung-Shou Yang - Fighers
3)Yi-Hao Lin - Giants

I can't wait to see what's in store for 2007! Happy Holidays!

Yung-Chi Chen....

Baseball America recently released it's 2007 top 10 prospects for the Mariners. Chen was named the # 9 prospect in the system - and tools-wise was selected as the guy with the potential to best hit for average.
After a solid year in the minors, Chen didn't get much time to rest as he joined the NT and participated in the Intercontinental Cup and the Asian Games. On a roster-full of CPBL stars and young prospects at the I-Cup, Chen led the team in BA (.472) and RBI's (9). He also hit a key grand slam against South Korea that began a surprising power-surge that continued through the Asian Games. Chen was the only selected All-Star representative from Taiwan at the I-Cup. At the Asian Games, Chen's hot hitting continued as he was second on the team (# 7 overall) in BA - .450, #2 overall in slugging - 1.050, tops overall in HR's - 3, # 5 overall in RBI's - 7. Here are vids of Chen's 3 HR's at the Asian Games: 1)vs. South Korea 2)vs. South Korea 3) vs. the Philippines
One thing Chen has improved upon throughout this year is his ability to produce runs and hit for power. This was evident as he hit 3rd in the lineup for parts of the last month in AA ball and at the I-Cup and Asian Games. This marked a stark contrast from the WBC where Chen was utilized as a leadoff hitter or during the early part of the minor league season (in A-ball/AA) where he was the #2 hitter in the lineup.
The 23 year old will be one to watch out for next year as he will probably be the next Taiwanese Major Leaguer. Although most project him as a utility IF at the ML's, that is a pretty good return on a guy who signed for only $210,000.

-Bo Sox farm hand Chih-Hsiang Huang bounced back from a rough first season in the US with a nice showing the Fall Instructional League. Huang hit .370, flashing some of that raw potential that the Red Sox were enamored with when they signed him.

-For their gold medal efforts in Doha, each member of the 2006 NT received $92,800 for their winning efforts. Sweetness!

Friday, December 08, 2006

2006 Asian Games: Taiwan V.S. Japan

Video of Lin's game winning hit and the ensuing celebration against Japan!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Come-From-Behind Win!

Mr. Clutch - Lin Driving in the GWRBI

The Best Fans in the World!

Gold Around Their Necks!

As Tsong mentioned in the comments section, the Taiwanese NT had their hands full with the Japanese NT. It took a 2 run rally in the bottom of the 9th inning to eek out a 8-7 win. Hong-Chih Kuo did not pitch for Taiwan. Starting in place of Kuo was Yomiuri Giants rookie Chien-Ming Chiang. Chiang was erratic in his 1.1 innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits. He also had 3 costly walks to go along with 1 WP and 2 K's.
So down 3-0 after 2 innings, Taiwan would score 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning: after C.H. Hsieh doubled, C.L. Hu would drive him in with a single. Hu would advance on an error and score the final run of the inning on a single by Yung-Chi Chen. Japan would tack on 2 more runs in the top of the 6th and 7th innings off of relievers Po-Hsuan Keng and Wei-Lun Pan to make the score 5-2. That set up the big inning in the bottom of the 7th for Taiwan. 3 consecutive singles loaded the bases for Chien-Ming Chang. A WP would allow the lead runner to score and the 2 other base runners to advance 90 feet. C.M. Chang would then drive in both base runners with a single to tie up the game at 5 all. After Yung-Chi Chen singled to advance Chang to 3rd base, C.F. Chen would hit a sac-fly to score Taiwan's 4th run of the inning to put Taiwan up 6-5.
In the top of the 8th, Sung-Wei Tseng came in to relieve Wei-Lun Pan. After inheriting a runner on base, Tseng would then later allow a HR to plate both runners and put Japan up 7-6. Taiwan would fail to score in the bottom of the 8th.
In the top of the 9th, Japan would threaten to score again off Tseng. With runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, Yung-Chi Chen would throw out a runner at the plate for a fielder's choice getting the 2nd out of the inning. Tseng would then allow his 2nd walk of the inning to load the bases before getting the final out of the inning on a lineout.
The bottom of the 9th would set up Chih-Sheng Lin's game-winning heroics. After C.M. Chang walked, Chin-Feng Chen finally got his first hit of the game as he doubled, advancing Chang to 3rd base. Next up, Lin would single driving in both Chang and Chen, giving Taiwan it's 3rd gold medal of the Asian Games!
Again, although it wasn't pretty, Taiwan's offense was clutch when it mattered. The pitching performance was disappointing, but I take my hat off to the Japanese team for a great showing and performance.

Box Score

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Comparing the Power of CS Yang and CF Chen

Watching vid highlights of CS Yang at the plate has me reminiscing to the earlier days of Chin-Feng Chen. The power generated by both guys at the plate is impressive when you look at their vids. Check out this video of CFC in 1997 when he was 20 years old, cracking a HR against China (I do believe he used an aluminum bat during that game/tourney). The following year, CFC had a breakout year on the international stage when he crushed 5 HR's (to lead the entire tourney) at the Baseball World Cup (click on 1998 link) - that led to him being scouted and signed by the LA Dodgers in 1999.

The impressive thing about CS Yang is that despite being only 19 years old, he is already flashing good power using a wood bat in this year's international tourneys. After only one year in the minors, Yang's power has translated well to the pro game (after having prolific power numbers in HS using an aluminum bat). Being selected to the NT in 2006 for the WBC, the I-Cup, and the Asian Games is a testament to the talent and potential of Yang. In fact, a friend informed me that MLB scouts at the Intercontinental Cup (scouting the Cubans) were extremely impressed by Yang - stating that he could have been a first round pick in the MLB draft (if only he was American).

See Yang's HR vs Japan 11/19/06 in the Intercontinental Cup and HR vs. the Netherlands 11/13/06 also in the Intercontinental Cup.
For more vids please check out this sweet site: Although it is a Chinese language site, it is easily navigatable (use the mouse over technique) and has many highlights of Taiwanese star ballplayers.

Making It Official....

The Rakuten Eagles officially announced the signing of En-Yu Lin today. The Daily Yomiuri reports that Lin received a 2 year deal with a 50 million yen (~$435,000) sign on bonus. That amount is much lower than what was anticipated earlier in the year.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Slim Pickings - 2007 CPBL Draft....

The CPBL draft took place today and a total of 11 amateur players were drafted by the teams involved. In comparison to last year's draft (with CFC and TJ Yeh), the 2007 draft lacked the big names. Oddly enough, the Macoto Cobras and President Lions did not participate in the draft.

Chen (R) - #1 Pick

#1 pick in action - playing the hot corner

With the first pick in the draft, the Brother Elephants selected 24 year old IF Chiang-Ho Chen - a former NT member that participated in the 2005 Baseball World Cup.
Pitcher Chien-Hung Kuo (known for his 88 mph fastball) was picked #2 by the C.T. Whales. The Sinon Bulls took pitcher Yan-Ming Chen with the #3 pick. Pitcher Che-Hsiung Lin rounded out the first round as the #4 pick by the LA New Bears.

Other picks:
2nd Round:
C Chia-Wei Lin - Elephants
C Jen-Chieh Wu - Whales
Chia-Yu Lin - Bulls
P Yu-Liang Cheng - Bears

3rd Round:
Chun-Lin Yeh - Bears

4th Round:
P Chia-Hua Liu - Bears

5th Round:
OF Jen-Chieh Hsu - Whales

A Closer Look at Team Japan....

The Japanese NT has been impressive in the Asian Games considering the amateur status of their players. The 2 big guns for Japan on offense are Hisayoshi Chono and Yasuyuki Saigo who lead the team in RBI's. Chono and Saigo were also on the Japanese NT that played recently in the Intercontinental Cup in Taiwan. In the 2 games against Taiwan, Chono did not make much of an impression as he DNP in the preliminary matchup and was 0- 2 in the bronze medal game. Saigo on the other hand cracked a HR off of En-Yu Lin in the preliminary game going 2-4 while he was 1-4 in the 3rd place game. As good as these 2 guys have been for Japan, Yung-Chi Chen and Chin-Feng Chen have been even more impressive. Advantage: Taiwan

As for the pitching staff, the 2 biggest names are Satoshi Komatsu and Kentaro Takasaki, both of whom were the prepicks (top picks) of NPB teams (for Orix and Yokohama respectively) in the recent college/industrial league draft. Komatsu and Takasaki both pitched against South Korea on December 2nd and will probably be used against Taiwan. However when you match up these 2 against Hong-Chih Kuo and Chien-Ming Chiang, the pitching advantage has to go to Taiwan.

While star power has a lot to do with who wins the game, it's the little things (fielding, baserunning, etc.) that also help to determine the final outcome. Based on all of these factors, I think Taiwan's chances of winning a gold medal are very good.

15-0 Win vs. RP

As expected, the Taiwanese NT easily defeated the RP NT in a mercy-shortened 5 inning affair. The Taiwanese offense got untracked, cranking out 15 runs on 17 hits. Yung-Chi Chen slugged his tourney-leading 3rd HR of the Games while Chih-Sheng Lin added a roundtripper as well. Essentially all of the big guns for Taiwan had multiple hits as Hu, YC Chen, CF Chen, CS Lin, and WC Lin combined to go 11-18 with 9 RBI's driven in. Taiwan started amateur Ko-Chien Lin, who earned the win by throwing 4 shutout innings.
Box Score
In the other game of the day, Japan defeated Thailand 6-0 to set up the showdown on Thursday with Taiwan. On paper, Taiwan holds the advantage over Japan in several statistical categories as it leads the tourney in team slugging, batting, pitching, and fielding. Hopefully, the NT will be able to live up to it's advanced billing and win a rare gold medal for Taiwan.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Narrow Win Versus Cross-Straits Rival....

Tseng - Winning Pitcher

Taiwan pulled out a tight 4-2 win over China on Monday. China, who was crushed a day earlier by Japan 16-0, managed to keep things fairly even with the Taiwanese team. Taiwan would score first in the 2nd inning on a solo HR by Tai-Shan Chang. China would strike back and tie things up on a sac-fly in the top of the 3rd. Taiwan would then retake the lead in the bottom of the inning by adding 2 more runs thanks to a Yung-Chi Chen triple and a WP/error committed by the Chinese squad. Sung-Wei Tseng, who pitched a great game - throwing 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits to go along with 8 K's and 2 walks, gave up a solo HR in the 7th inning to make things interesting. Leading by only one, C.F. Chen would blast a clutch leadoff solo blast in the 8th inning to give us a lil more breathing room and give us our final score 4-2.

The 2-run win continues a disturbing recent trend where the Chinese NT continues to give the Taiwanese NT a much closer game than anticipated. I will assume that we shake off this game and handily beat the RP NT tomorrow. That sets up the showdown with Japan for the gold medal on Thursday. The Japanese team, despite their amateur/industrial league status, is talented as evidenced by several members of the team being selected fairly high in the recent NPB draft. Matchup wise, if Kuo is available to pitch on Thursday, then the game should be a low scoring affair for the most part. The wild card will be the Japanese pitching staff - if they can hold down our hitters, then the winner of this game is anyone's guess.

Box Score

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tsao Sighting....

Despite speculation and rumors that the Rockies would drop Tsao from the 40 man roster, as of today, Tsao is still a member of the 40 man list. Activated off of the DL on November 1st, Tsao is currently home in Taiwan. Obviously from the pic above, Tsao has been cleared to throw again. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for a full recovery.

Two Down...Three to Go....

Tarzan 4-4


Taiwan beat an outclassed Thai NT 16-0 on Saturday. In a 5 inning mercy-shortened game, the Taiwanese NT cranked out 21 hits while it's pitching staff combined on a no-hitter. Y.P. Lin earned the win while Chin-Feng Chen, F.M. Chen, and C.M. Chang all cranked out HR's. Leading the way for Taiwan's offense was CPBL veteran slugger Tai-Shan Chang, who was 4-4 with 3 RBI's.
Box Score
Taiwan's next game is versus China on Monday. The biggest news of the day was South Korea's 10-7 loss to the Japanese NT. If the favorites continue to win, then the battle for gold will take place on December 7th between Taiwan and Japan.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Joining the Marines...

The Lotte Marines officially announced the signing of LA New Bears Pitcher Si-Yo Wu to a 2 year deal on Friday. Wu received a reported 40 million yen (~$344,000 US) sign on bonus. With the migration of top NPB players to the US, the NPB will be forced to look elsewhere to sign "cheap" foreign talent. Expect the raid on top Taiwanese players in the CPBL to continue in the future.