In March, the CPBL, Taiwan’s professional baseball league, was the only league in the world to start its baseball season, albeit slightly behind schedule.
And now – the CBPL is ready to wrap up its regular season with just 2 games to go at time of typing – in what is a defining moment for the sport in Taiwan as the outcome will affect the participants in the postseason Taiwan Series.
The CTBC Brothers top the league, 9.5 games ahead of the Rakuten Monkeys, Uni Lions, and Fubon Guardians, and are already guaranteed a spot in the finals.
The other ticket, however, is still up for grabs and is likely to be claimed by either the Fubon Guardians from New Taipei or the UniPresident Lions from Tainan, depending on who wins tonight’s game, instead of the runners-up, the Rakuten Monkeys.
The CPBL’s controversial “half-season” system is the reason for this rather bizarre outcome.
The league evenly divides its 120-game long season into 2 “half-seasons” similar to winter breaks in European football, but these half seasons are calculated separately.
The winners of the 1st and 2nd half seasons will compete for the Taiwan Series title come the autumn.
If both titles / both halves of the season are won by the same team, the whole year’s standing, serving as a reference, will allow the second and third place teams in the four team league (the number will increase to five from 2021) to go toe-to-toe in a play-off before the winner heads into the finals against the team who already won both halves of the season.
At present, all teams in theory still have the possibility of entering the finals.
The Guardians now lead both the Lions and Brothers by 0.5 games in the second half of the season.
A win tonight will secure them the title, and a ticket to the final, regardless of their ranking bottom in the overall season rankings.
This will be a sweet comeback from last year, as they topped the league overall, but ended up with little to show for their efforts.
The situation is even worse for the Lions from Tainan in the south of Taiwan as they need to win both games against the Guardians and the Brothers to advance.
But spare a thought for the Monkeys from Taoyuan.
With no game in hand, they have to passively wait to see if the Brothers can somehow ‘win’ both half seasons and then hope for a best-of-five playoff against the Lions.
The fans have long criticized the unwanted ‘half-season’ system used in Taiwan, but their efforts for reform have gone in vain.
It is quite likely that the complaints will linger.
But the remaining games, for most audiences, are still nerve-racking thrillers – one reason perhaps that the CPBL has been resistant to reform the design, despite receiving so much criticism over the years years.
About the author: This is a guest piece by up and coming journalist Jason Lu – a Taiwanese national and baseball fan currently based in the UK. Look for his profile shortly here at TTT.