Jake Brigham of the Wei Chuan Dragons went 10-6 during the 2023 CPBL regular season with a 2.51 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Chinese Professional Baseball playoffs will begin on Saturday, October 28.
The three organizations that qualified for the postseason are the Wei Chuan Dragons (62-5-53), Uni-President-7-Eleven Lions (62-3-55), and the Rakuten Monkeys (60-4-56).
Game one of the 2023 CPBL playoff series between the Uni-President-7 Eleven Lions and the Rakuten Monkeys will be on Saturday, October 28, at 5:05 a.m. ET. The contest will occur at Tainan Municipal Baseball Stadium, home of the Uni-Lions.
The 2023 Taiwan Series will begin on Saturday, November 4 at 5:05 a.m. ET at Hsinchu Baseball Stadium, home of the Wei Chuan Dragons.
Wei Chuan Dragons (62-5-53)
In the CPBL, the half-season winner with the highest winning percentage receives an automatic berth in the Taiwan Series. The Wei Chuan Dragons had a .526 winning percentage in the first half of the season and a .552 winning percentage in the second half, the best in the league. They will have ample time to rest and practice before the first Taiwan Series game on Saturday, November 4.
The Dragons rejoined the CPBL in 2021 and have made the playoffs for a second consecutive season. They have won four Taiwan Series championships, most recently in 1999. The current Dragons’ hitting coach, Chang Tai-Shan, was a three-time champion with the team as a player and is thrilled to win another half-season title. “After 26 years, I finally get to share this moment with all the young Dragons players,” Chang told CPBLStats.com.
On offense, the one player either the Rakuten Monkeys or Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions will have to watch out for is Kungkuan Gilejegiljaw. The 29-year-old led the team with 23 home runs and was the only hitter to finish the season with an OPS (.881) above .800.
The Dragons’ top starting pitcher this season was Drew Gagnon, who has prior playing experience in Major League Baseball with the New York Mets. In his third season with the Dragons, Gagnon posted a 3.00 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 183 innings pitched. Gagnon’s teammate Jake Brigham also had a successful season, recording a 10-6 win-loss record and 2.51 ERA in 22 starts.
As the half-season champions, the Wei Chuan Dragons will await the playoff series winner between the Rakuten Monkeys and Uni-President-7-Eleven Lions.
Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions (62-3-55) vs. Rakuten Monkeys (60-4–56)
The Uni-Lions had the best record during the first half of the season, but finished fourth during the second half, so they will face off against the team that didn’t win a half-season with the highest winning percentage, the Rakuten Monkeys. The winner of the five-game playoff series will advance to the 2023 Taiwan Series.
The Uni-Lions return to the playoffs after failing to qualify during the 2022 season. They have won 10 Taiwan Series championships, most recently in 2020. As a team, they hit only 53 home runs during the regular season, and outfielders Ko Lin-An and Su Chih-Chieh combined for 26 of them.
Starting pitcher Keyvius Sampson was more than solid in 21 games this season for the Uni-Lions, pitching to a 3.11 ERA and striking out 9.4 per nine innings. In the bullpen, Liu Ta-Hsuan gave up just nine earned runs in 41.2 innings, good for a 1.94 ERA.
The Uni-Lions will start the playoffs with a 1-0 series lead. The home and away split format is 1-1-2 in favor of the half-season winner, the Uni-Lions.
The Uni-Lions opponent, the Rakuten Monkeys, finished with the second-best record in the second half of the season and took advantage of a poor Fubon Guardians team, posting a 10-1-4 record against them in the second half.
The Monkeys have won seven Taiwan Series championships, most recently in 2019. This season is the second consecutive year they have made the postseason.
On offense, Rakuten’s third baseman Jung Chia-Liang led all qualified CPBL hitters with a .338 batting average. Catcher Fu Chien-Liao finished the regular season with the most RBI in the CPBL with 83.
On the mound, not one starting pitcher recorded over 100 strikeouts. Huang Peng-Tzu led the team with 72 in 145.1 innings.
Rakuten has a difficult road before them to advance to the Taiwan Series. They must win three of the following four games against the Uni-Lions and start the series on the road.