Everything You Need to Know About Taiwan’s Baseball Teams

Everything You Need to Know About Taiwan’s Baseball Teams
Photo Credit: Sports Vision
What you need to know

A guide to choosing a team to support for Taiwan's 2020 CPBL season.

Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) was the only professional baseball league to operate in April amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It would be the world’s only running league until the Korean Baseball Organization throws its first pitch on May 5.

The CPBL is offering fans around the world an opportunity to cure their sports-withdrawal by diving in head-first. So, why not pick a team in Taiwan?

First, let’s answer some questions. Then we’ll help you choose a team.

Why is the league called the Chinese Professional Baseball League? Is it in China?

No, it is not. The league is located in Taiwan. China has its own professional baseball league. The reasons for including “China” in the name are historical and political, although there are advocates for changing the name.

Why are there only four teams?

The obvious answer is the smaller size of Taiwan’s baseball market, but this is smaller than in the past. In 1997, the CPBL had seven teams, and a defunct league called Taiwan Major League had four teams. The current limited number of teams has much to do with the league’s history with game-fixing and gambling. The league has expelled players and coaches from the league on multiple occasions for game-fixing, most recently in 2009. Many teams had problems financially recovering from accusations and arrests. The surviving members of the league had to deal with the fallout.

“Both of my parents were huge baseball fans, after what happened, they don’t care about the CPBL,” said Rob Liu, whose parents grew up in Kaohsiung. Liu also abandoned the league for many years after the scandals of the 90s. He came back in the early 2000s to watch his favorite players. His renewed love for the league prompted him to start the largest English-language fansite of the CPBL.

His parents were less forgiving.

“They never watched it again,” he said. “Whenever they saw me watching it on TV, they never stopped mentioning it. They got burned once and they don’t care about it anymore.”

Next season the Wei Chuan Dragons will join the league, giving the CPBL more than four teams for the first time since 2008, when there were six. The Dragons are currently playing in the CPBL’s second-division minor leagues.

How can I watch the games?

In general, you can watch for free and with English commentary. Broadcasting varies by team, so we’ll discuss below.


Rakuten Monkeys
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Photo Credit: Rakuten Monkeys Facebook Page

Location: Taoyuan
Stadium: Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium
Founded: 2003
Taiwan Series Championships: 7
Last championship: 2019

History: The Monkeys were founded in 2003, a result of the CPBL’s merger with the rival Taiwan Major League. The four TML teams were merged into two clubs to join the CPBL. The Monkeys were based in Kaohsiung as the La New Bears. They moved their base to Taoyuan in 2011 and became the Lamigo Monkeys. Japanese corporation Rakuten bought the club prior to the 2020 season and rebranded them as the Rakuten Monkeys.

Players to watch: Chu Yu-hsien (朱育賢), the 2019 MVP, hit .487 in April. The Monkeys also boast of a pair of imposing American pitchers in Justin Nicolino and Ryan Carpenter at the top of their rotation.

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Photo Credit: Sports Vision
Chu Yu-hsien

Style of play: Offensively aggressive. They’ll go after pitchers early and try to create big innings with extra base hits and runners on base. Their starting rotation is capable of throwing gems. But, things get dicey when the Monkeys have to call upon their bullpen. Monkeys games are typically interesting in late innings. They can either tack on runs hell for leather, or squander a safe lead.

How to watch the Monkeys: Their home games are streamed on the Eleven Sports Taiwan Twitter account for overseas fans, and on the Eleven Sports app for fans in Taiwan.

Why be a Rakuten fan? Do you like dynasties? Since moving into new digs in Taoyuan, the Monkeys have played in seven of the last nine Taiwan Series, winning six of them, including the last three in a row.

Take it from a player: “We’re the best, obviously,” Ryan Carpenter said with a laugh. “We’re gonna put up a lot of runs every game. We’ve got good pitching. Obviously, we’re trying to go for the fourth championship in a row here and I think that’s something we’re gonna achieve. So, I think following us will be exciting and something people can tune in to and really enjoy.”


CTBC Brothers
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Photo Credit: CTBC Brothers Facebook Page

Location: Taichung
Stadium: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium
Founded: 1989
Taiwan Series Championships: 7
Last championship: 2010

History lesson: The Brothers played the first game in CPBL history in Taipei Municipal Stadium in 1990. They joined the league after a brief stint as a successful amateur club. The team has always worn its distinctive uniforms and long been known as the elephants. It was purchased by the bank CTBC in 2013 and renamed the Brothers, keeping the popular elephant mascot. They spent the better part of the decade as a touring team since 2000. In 2015, they made Taichung their home base, developing a deeper relationship with the city year after year.

Players to watch: Left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda signed with CTBC this season after two seasons in Japan and three years of Major League Baseball experience under his belt. He signed the largest contract in league history, worth US$600,000 annually. After three starts, he’s in the top three in the league in Wins Above Replacement, Fielding Independent Pitching ERA, and in strikeout percentage. Outfielder Chang Chih-hao (張志豪) is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the league, earning him the sobriquet “Spiderman.”

Style of play: Pitching and defense. The Brothers ended April with a league-best ERA and have surrendered the least amount of runs. They’re able to count on their bullpen more than most teams. The issue will be if they can maintain their power-hitting with the finger injury to Lin Chih-sheng, who was chasing the league’s career home-run record before a play at the plate sidelined him in late April.

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Photo Credit: Sports Vision
Chang Chih-hao

How to watch the Brothers: The Monkeys have yet to broadcast a home game in English, but have recently contracted with ELTA Sports to broadcast their games. Stay tuned to their social media accounts for links to those broadcasts.

Why be a Brothers fan? You’ll always be able to find a Brothers fan in Taiwan. With their long history in both Taipei and as the league’s touring club, Brothers fans are everywhere in Taiwan. They’re also quite successful. The Brothers have played in five of the last six Taiwan Series. They’ve just come up empty in each Series appearance.

Take it from a player: They need your help to get the word out about the CPBL. “I know I have a lot of fans but I still need you guys [fans and the media] to help me with my reputation and promoting the league,” Ariel Miranda said through a pair of interpreters. “I am proud to be here and I feel thankful to have an opportunity to play here,” he said. “We’re still doing the same thing, exercising, training, and working out every day.”


Fubon Guardians
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Photo Credit: Fubon Guardians Facebook

Location: Xinzhuang District, New Taipei City
Stadium: Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium
Founded: 1993
Taiwan Series Championships: 3
Last championship: 2016

History lesson: If any club epitomizes how the corporate culture of Taiwanese baseball leads to team brands and locations in flux, it’s the Fubon Guardians. First known as the Jungo Bears, the club set up its home field in Taichung. Sinon corporation bought the team in 1996 and renamed them the Bulls. They remained in Taichung until 2012 when the E-United group bought the team and moved them to Kaohsiung. The new EDA Rhinos ambitiously brought over former MLB all-stars Manny Ramirez and Freddy Garcia. Fubon Financial bought the team in 2016 and moved them to Xinzhuang, laying heavy emphasis on its status in northern Taiwan. The team is currently the closest team to Taipei City.

Players to watch: The Guardians were able to lure back ace pitcher Henry Sosa back after a 2019 stint in South Korea’s KBO. Sosa hasn’t disappointed in 2020, currently leading the league in pitcher Wins Above Replacement. Chiang Chih-hsien (蔣智賢) mans third base for Fubon and spent nearly a decade in the minor leagues with Boston and Seattle. He has national team experience and brings left-handed power to Fubon’s lineup.

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Photo Credit: Sports Vision
Chiang Chih-hsien

Style of play: The Guardians will rely on Henry Sosa’s power in the rotation and then turn it to a squad of finesse pitchers who like to work around hitters and force bad balls into play. The Guardians have confidence in their strong bullpen on paper despite some early-season hiccups. Offensively, the Guardians aren’t aggressive but look to manufacture runs by being patient, wearing down pitchers, and waiting for mistakes to exploit.

How to watch the Guardians: The Guardians produce their own home-game broadcasts by streaming their games through their Twitter account. Fans in Taiwan can catch the English broadcasts on the Yahoo Taiwan app.

Why be a Guardians fan? The Guardians have one of the most aesthetically appealing color schemes with their mixture of blue and white. They’re also the closest team to the Taipei metropolitan area.

Take it from a player: “We should be a competitor year in and year out,” pitcher Bryan Woodall said. “We’re a first-class organization. Top to bottom everyone does everything they can to give us a chance to win. We’re treated incredibly well. It’s a really special place to be.”


Uni-President Lions
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Photo Credit: Uni-President Lions Official Fan Facebook Page

Location: Tainan
Stadium: Tainan Municipal Baseball Stadium
Founded: 1989
Taiwan Series Championships: 9
Last championship: 2013

History lesson: If the Guardians represent the instability clubs can face in the CPBL, the Uni-President Lions have maintained a more stable identity. Owned by one parent company its entire existence, the Lions enjoyed constant success in its first 25 years of play. The Lions have been a constant presence in Tainan and lead the CPBL in all-time wins, home runs, and Taiwan Series championships. However, over the last several seasons the team has been languishing. The Lions have only played in one Taiwan Series, a loss, in the last six seasons since its last championship and finished with the worst record in the league last season.

Players to watch: Su Chih-chieh (蘇智傑) is a left-handed power hitter for the Lions, who could have a chance to be the CPBL’s home run king if he plays out his career in Taiwan. He has three home runs in April. Kao Kuo-ching (高國慶) is one of the elder statesmen of the Lions who’s been with the club since 2003. He’s started off the 2020 season in a slump, though. A turnaround from the 41-year-old would help a young Lions roster hoping to take the league by surprise.

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Photo Credit: Sports Vision
Su Chih-chieh

Style of play: The young Lions can hit, and are neck and neck with the vaunted Monkeys in runs scored this season. They’ve also conceded more runs than any other team. The Lions will add foreign pitcher Logan Darnell, who first has to complete a visa application and quarantine period. Whether the Lions can hit and field well enough to prop up the pitching staff is the question.

How to watch the Lions: The Lions have been picked up by Eleven Sports and broadcast English commentary on the Eleven Sports Taiwan Twitter account. In Taiwan, you can follow along on the Eleven Sports app.

Why be a Lions fan? This is probably the pick for you if you have a romantic attraction to an erstwhile champion. While the club has a history to be proud of, it’s been hampered lately by its front office’s lack of creativity and complacency. This could also be the club for you if you enjoy slower-paced areas to busy metropolises.

Take it from a player: “We’re the underdog,” pitcher Josh Roenicke said. “We haven’t won in a while. We have fans that love this team, non-stop supporting us. You gotta love an underdog.”

READ NEXT: How a Taiwanese Baseball League Opened Its 2020 Season Despite Covid-19

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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