Mister-Baseball.com is counting down with short team-by-team previews until the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5th.
On day four of our preview series before the World Baseball Classic, we are looking today at Taiwan. They are the number three among the Asian teams, but they will have a tough task in Pool A. Two of the tournament favorites are in the same group and in difference Taiwan can’t rely on Major League stars.
In their opener on March 6th at the Tokyo Dome, Chinese Taipei faces Olympic champion South Korea. With a loss a possibility their likely opponent in game two would be China, which plays Japan in the first match. This matchup would favor Taiwan, though China beat them in Beijing in extra innings. In a decisive third game they would face the loser of Japan versus South Korea.
Recent Tournament History
As mentioned before, Chinese Taipei was one of eight teams in the Olympics last August, finishing in fifth place with a 2-5 record after beating Canada and the Netherlands in the round robin phase. They also had Cuba on the edge, losing just 0-1 and had another nail biter against South Korea (8-9).
Team Taiwan came to Beijing through the Final Olympic Qualifying tournament last March, which took place in their home country. In this event they lost only two of seven games. Several months before, they hosted the Baseball World Cup. After a third-place in group A behind Team USA and Japan, they lost the quarter final against Cuba and finished in eighth place in the event.
Back in 2006 in the inaugural version of the World Baseball Classic, Taiwan lost the first two games against Korea (0-2) and Japan (3-14) before beating China 12-3.
Thanks to numerous participations and good results in International Baseball tournaments, the team is currently ranked in fifth place in the IBAF World Rankings behind Cuba, USA, Japan and Korea.
Taiwan – Team USA West Australia 2-9
Taiwan – Perth Heat 7-9
Taiwan – Perth Heat 1-1
Australia – Taiwan 1-4
Australia – Taiwan 9-8
Australia – Taiwan 9-3
Australia – Taiwan 4-5
Australia – Taiwan 9-3
Australia – Taiwan 7-6
Monday, March 2:
Taiwan – Yomiuri Giants
Tuesday, March 3:
Taiwan – Saitama Seibu Lions
(if the team advances into the second round of the WBC, they would play two more exhibition games in Arizona)
Taiwan trained in Australia the past few weeks and is now on their way to Japan.
The most-known Taiwanese Baseball player is probably starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang of the New York Yankees. However due to a foot injury, which cut his 2008 season short, he isn’t available to play for his home country in the World Baseball Classic. He was the third Major Leaguer from Taiwan after Chin-Feng Chen (Dodgers) and Chin-Hui Tsao (Rockies/Dodgers/Royals). Other current Major Leaguers from Taiwan besides Wang are reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and shortstop Chin-Lung Hu, who are both on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However from the mentioned names, only pitcher Tsao is on the provisional roster of the team. The squad consists mostly of players from the Japanese pro leagues, the Chinese Baseball Professional League in Taiwan and the American Minor Leagues. Pitchers Hung-Wen Chen (CHC), Chi-Hung Cheng (PIT), Chen Lee (CLE), Chia-Jen Lo (HOU), Ching Lung Lo (COL) and Sung-Wei Tseng (CLE), infielders Chih-Hsieh Chiang (BOS) and Yen-Wen Kuo (CIN), and outfielders Che-Hsuan Lin (BOS) and Kuo Hui Lo (SEA) are currently playing for MLB affiliates on all levels.
The 50-year-old Chih-Hsien Yeh replaced I-Chung Hong as manager for the Taiwanese National Team following the Olympics last August. Yeh coached the team in several tournaments since the 1994 Baseball World Cup. He was a former National Team infielder in the 1980ies.
Despite being one of the top ten teams in International Baseball the chances for Taiwan in the upcoming WBC are pretty slim. There are two reasons for this pessimistic guess: Japan and Korea. These two teams are heavily favored in Pool A and the whole tournament with their strong and deep rosters. Taiwan tries to erase these doubts with one of the most extensive training camps before the WBC. But will it be enough?
Photo: © IBAF, www.ibaf.org