My 2019 CPBL predictions – “Going all in”

As a Uni-President 7 Eleven Lions fan, it wasn’t entirely expected that we would lose last years Championship Series to Lamigo Monkeys but this season brings hope we can go one step further.

Back in the 2016 draft, the Lions acquired Chen Chieh Hsien and Su Chih Chieh and they made immediate impacts. The Lions had a poor season and this continued until the 2nd half of the 2017 season when the Lions went 34-24 and were beginning to look like a formidable side. With Lamigo winning both phases, the Lions qualified for the playoffs but were eventually defeated 3-1 by Brothers in the 1st round. A sad end but the signs were there.

I expected the Lions to go one better in 2018 but it wasn’t going to be an easy task. Fubon Guardians possessed several Chinatrust Brothers players released after a scandal and of course ace, Bryan Woodall. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew we could go one step further and one step further we did. Fubon Guardians performed well below expectations and finished below 0.500. They were a huge disappointment in a season that I actually predicted them to win the league at a canter. Lamigo Monkeys won both phases with ease… again!

It’s fair to say that the Lions of 2018 completely deserved a Championship Series slot, even before thrashing Fubon 3-1 in the previous round. This was a young Lions side interspersed with seasoned veterans who were clearly the 2nd best CPBL side throughout 2018. Rookies such as Shih Tzu Chien, Chen Chong Yu and Wu Chieh Rui looked solid, along with a breakout season by Chiang Chen-Yen of the 2015 draft.

Losing to Lamigo Monkeys in 6 was nasty but it wasn’t expected but with Wang Po Jung going to Nippon Ham Fighters in the NPB in free agency, it gives renewed hope to this young Lions core.

The thing about the Lions is how the line-up has been rebuilt and there is a lot of young talent. This year the Lions didn’t need to draft any CPBL ready players, and I don’t expect to see many rookies play in 2019.

So obviously, you know what’s coming, my 2019 CPBL prediction. I think over 120 games, Uni Lions will win the 2019 CPBL title. The Lions were 8 games better off last year, and only 8.5 behind Lamigo Monkeys, in the end, I think the Lions will win 1 phase. I think that Fubon Guardians will be better and I don’t think Lamigo Monkeys will have another 70 win season. Brothers will be stuck well under 0.500, winning 45-50 games overall. Uni Lions v Guardians or Monkeys? I’m not going to call that, they are both really good sides.

To be quite honest, with the Monkeys winning 5 titles in 7 years and 4 straight phases, it may seem hard to believe that I think we can win the league. Lamigo Monkeys are the Lions main obstacle but going back to 2018 if there was a 4 game swing the records would have been identical. The Lions have to go to Taoyuan with purpose this year and not fear the Monkeys who have won 40+ at home in the last 2 seasons.

The other issue is consistency. Starting off 14-6 is great but not if you only win 9 out of your last 40, like in 2017. Getting off to a good start is key especially with a lot of early games in Tainan. I think to win the CPBL this year, winning the 1st phase is important. Lamigo Monkeys win the 1st phase, and their players/fans will start to think it’s going to be another year of their dominance.

Injuries are another concern. Several key players went down last year, but I think there is more depth and competition than last year so it shouldn’t be the death of the season if one/two players go down injured. Not having a proper 3rd foreign pitcher really didn’t help either, it put too much emphasis on Roenicke and Verdugo, it will be interesting to see Austin Bibens-Dirkx goes.

The final issue, and it’s beginning to sound like I am doubting the Lions chances, is the bullpen. I don’t feel as if the bullpen is always managed effectively enough and the Lions bullpen has a tendency to let games get silly. It will be interesting to see what happens on that front.

So that’s a rough look at how I think the CPBL, well the Lions season will go. It’s a bit optimistic, but hey ho, in my 5th season supporting the Lions, you can’t complain about my enthusiasm.

Let’s see what happens…!




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