Editor’s Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 CPBL Season Opening Day has now been pushed back to April 11th.
First and foremost, the Fubon Guardians have acquired long time Monkeys coach Hung I-Chung.
There is no questioning his experience or winning pedigree, as he helped the Monkeys win 6 of the last 8 CPBL Championships here in Taiwan. And, since Fubon’s takeover of the EDA Rhinos franchise, the Guardians have failed to reach the Taiwan Series even once.
Can this change in 2020?
Fubon were unlucky last season not to make the play offs. They posted a winning record which was good enough for 2nd in the league but having won neither phase missed out on even a first round series place.
So what can get them to the play offs, and Taiwan Series in 2020?
On The Mound
Fubon’s biggest strength will be their pitching line-up.
They have brought back starter Mike Loree for his 9th CPBL season. They also have Henry Sosa who went 8-0 over 9 games last year before being bought out by KBO side the SK Wyverns.
The club retains Ryan Bollinger, and also sticks with CPBL vet Bryan Woodall who had an uncharacteristically poor season.
Loree and Sosa will both be in the running for best pitcher in the league if on form, and if Woodall even gets close to what he showed in 2018, Fubon will be very difficult to match up against.
And this is without mentioning Chen Shih Peng, Fubon’s best local starter who went 11-8 over 23 games with a 3.48 ERA in 2019.
Fubon’s bullpen meanwhile is a mixed bag. Lin Yi-Hao is one of the league’s best relievers and Chen Hong-Wen was second in saves in 2019, with a 6-0 record over 50 relief appearances.
Aside from these two, of the Fubon pitchers who made 10 or more appearances only Wang Wei Yong and Ou Shu Cheng had ERAs under 5. This bullpen could certainly do with a bit more depth, and for certain players to have better 2020 seasons.
If however the starters perform to expectations, they’ll probably have lighter workloads than other bullpens in the league.
So, what can we expect with the bat then?
The main hitters in 2019 were Lin Yi Chuan, Hu Chin Long and Zhang Zheng Wei – all of whom would be considered veterans even by CPBL standards.
Last year Fubon suffered from injuries such as with Fan Guo Chen. This was a reasonable side with the bat in 2019, but in some games they just didn’t do enough.
The club have the pieces in place, they have a great coach, a solid rotation backed up with a few good bullpen pitchers and some fine batters.
Can they pull it all together though, and at least win a phase, or will they fall just short again?
They have to at least keep pace with, and try to match Rakuten, or it’ll be another season to forget.
Next up for Tom will be a pre-2020 look at Taiwan’s most popular team, the Brother Elephants….watch this space just over a week from now.