MLB Opening Day may be on the shelf until further notice but halfway across the world in Taiwan, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) is gearing up for its opening day on April 11.
The Taiwanese baseball league has the entire baseball betting market to itself to start the spring. Covers is here to help you navigate this relatively unknown - but offensively exciting league - and show how to bet on CPBL odds.
What is the CPBL?
The CPBL is a four-team league composed of mostly local players - many of whom have returned from MLB-affiliated ball - and up to four imported players per squad (mostly pitchers). If you're looking for a league to bet on, Taiwan’s professional baseball league is a perfect league for the betting public.
For starters, with only four clubs, bettors can familiarize themselves quickly with players and trends. Secondly, with defenses and bullpens that are consistently inconsistent and offensive players being the stars of the league, scoring in the CPBL is the norm. That makes for some fun baseball betting action.
With such a low player turnover rate in the CPBL, batters are constantly seeing the same pitchers week in and week out. That aids the hitters in a league and helped produce a whopping average of 11 total runs per game last year. Offensively, think of something just below Triple-A’s Pacific Coast League (PCL) in run production and home runs per game while defensively sometimes you get this:
In short, this is not your grandpa’s league and small-ball tactics are a rare sight. With betting totals reaching Coors Field-like levels of 11.5-13.5 runs, this is an offensive league that can be entertaining with or without a wager.
Betting on the CPBL
The Over is never a wrong bet in the hitter-friendly CPBL which kicks off its season opener on Saturday, April 11, at 5:05 p.m. local time (5:05 am ET) with the Rakuten Monkeys hosting the CTBC Brothers.
When many people think of Asian baseball, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is small ball. However, that thinking is more expressive of Japanese baseball, with South Korea and Taiwan embracing the spectacle and fan-friendly atmosphere of a four-hour, high-scoring, action-packed game.
There are few elite pitchers in the CPBL and if you are looking at a total of 8.5 or even 9.5, you can bet one of the league’s best hurlers will be starting. But if teams can push these top-end starters’ pitch counts up early (especially in the beginning of the season), then value can be found in betting against these pitchers as CPBL bullpens are a rollercoaster and are tough to feel confident in when playing -1.5 runlines.
Starting pitchers are announced one hour before first pitch on the CPBL website on the right-hand side of the screen (under the date - if you don't see pitchers listed, it means they haven't been officially announced yet). If you are looking to predict a starter's turn because you either want to ride or fade him, most CPBL pitchers pitch once a week but most teams will start their pitchers every five days meaning Tuesday’s pitchers could pitch on Sunday, as well.
Every team can put up 15 runs in a game in the CPBL as a combination of defense and bullpen pitching gives bettors endless scenarios, but each teams’ middle of the order can rake. Knowing the lineup can be very advantageous in the live betting markets as each team’s No. 3 through No. 5 hitters can all cash in runs and drive totals. When injuries hit these players, offensive production takes a huge hit and if bettors are able to get accurate injury information, they may be able to find value in odds that haven’t adjusted to the teams’ situations.
It’s better to bet against the CPBL’s defense than to bet with it. It is not uncommon to have six-error games between both clubs. Sometimes you get this:
Some sportsbooks offer in-play betting on CPBL games and will hopefully be offering this potentially profitable service for the 2020 CPBL betting season. The best angle we see in the live betting markets are for totals because things can get out of hand when a team turns the ball over to its bullpen. Even in mop-up duties, teams have no problem running up the score as players are speculated to have in-game bonuses that could keep them swinging for the fences.
With front-end starters getting in just a little work with a brief preseason followed by a long break (two weeks) between their last spring tune-up and the regular season, we don’t expect long outings to begin the year. Using what we know about CPBL bullpens, we could easily see teams dip into their relievers for 12 or more outs a game in April, giving value to Overs and underdogs.
Finding the sharpest lines
Taiwan has a legal government-sponsored sports lottery that handicaps the CPBL season and is actually a large sponsor for the league. If you are looking to compare odds and lines with the book that most likely sets the sharpest lines, head over to the Taiwanese Sports Lottery and compare your numbers to theirs. Keep in mind that this is a government lottery, so expect the vig to vary.
Other factors impacting CPBL betting
The Taiwanese summer is no joke with temperatures hitting close to and over 100 degrees at first pitch, making things uncomfortable for starting pitchers who struggle to get outs early. This can be particularly difficult for new import players who are not climatized to the island’s heat and humidity. Early season weather, however, can be quite cool — especially in the north of the island.
And much like MLB action in Texas in the late summer, that heat and humidity can give the ball extra legs. Balls carry further in that climate, which means an uptick in home runs as the mercury begins to rise – great for those going all in on the Over odds.
With lots of heat also comes a lot of rain, especially in the early parts of the season. The CPBL is known for playing in rain conditions that most other leagues wouldn’t even consider taking the field. Finding betting advantages in the rain is tough but look for live bets on the underdog and take the value in unfamiliar weather conditions.
We’ve added each team’s home stadium address in the team profile, so be sure to check with your favorite weather app before making a wager.
The league has decided they will begin the 2020 season with empty stadiums which will be the polar opposite of what normal CPBL baseball is like. With constant crowd noise and a steady flow of clamoring and cheerleaders, teams will not be used to the quiet atmosphere. Much like other baseball in Asia, Taiwanese baseball is played with very little silence from the fans especially when the home team is up to bat. Because this is such unfamiliar territory, we have no idea how it will affect the players. It will be something to monitor as the season progresses.
Update: Not all stadiums will be completely empty, as the Rakuten Monkeys have announced that they will have "robot mannequins" in some of the seats dressed up as fans. We couldn't make this up if we tried.
Ask any pitcher who has pitched in the CPBL and see what they think of the ball. After scoring dipped between 2009 and 2014, the league introduced a new ball and within two years, home runs were up by 150 percent. The ball isn’t leaving the park at the 2016 rate of 2.48 home runs per game, but teams still hit 2.14 home runs a contest in 2019 which is close to MLB rates in 2018.
At the root of all this launching is a ball that sits on the high end of COR (coefficient of restitution). COR measures the elasticity of the ball when it hits a bat. Add in the Taiwanese humidity and tight strike zones and you get a concoction that lets batters rip pitches.
Rakuten Monkeys (formerly Lamigo Monkeys)
Home stadium: Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium (Zhongli District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan)
2019 record: 63-55-2 — 6.66 runs for/g, 5.72 runs against/g
The Monkeys have dominated Taiwanese baseball over the last six years having won five CPBL championships but will play the 2020 season under new ownership. Rakuten Inc. purchased the winning club from La New International Corp. in September of last year in a deal reportedly in the $17-22 million range. The Monkeys are powered by the league’s best offense that scored 6.7 runs per game a year ago.
The bats are definitely needed as the defending champs had the second-worst team ERA at 5.11 in 2019. The Monkeys are the league’s most exciting team to bet on as hitters No. 1 through No. 9 can produce, making runlines and Overs the preferred betting choice for CPBL action seekers. Don’t forget to load up on Rakuten when they face the Lions as the Monkeys went a ridiculous 27-12-1 SU versus the 7-Eleven club last year - by far the biggest head-to-head winning percentage in the league.
CTBC Brothers (formerly Chinatrust Brothers)
Home stadium: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Beitun District, Taichung City, Taiwan)
2019 record: 62-56-2; 5.6 runs for/g, 5.3 runs against/g
The CTBC Brothers won the second-half season in 2019 but fell to the always-dominant Lamigo Monkeys (now Rakuten Monkeys) 4-1 in the Taiwanese baseball championship. Even the CPBL’s finals are high-scoring affairs with an average of 17.2 runs scored per game in the 2019 Taiwan Series.
With the league’s tightest defense (.980 FPCT) and second-best team ERA (4.58), the Brothers still averaged 10.1 combined runs per game last season. Also, who doesn’t want to lay some money down on a team whose 2019 slogan was “Brothers Got Balls” — for real:
Each season the four CPBL teams produce some incredible slogans & artwork to promote their players.— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) April 1, 2020
Click on each team photo to see the 2019 art... 🔥 pic.twitter.com/XQt3lsCphQ
Home stadium: Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium (Xinzhuang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan)
2019 record: 63-55-2 — 5.10 runs for/g, 4.68 runs against/g
The Fubon Guardians had the best winning percentage a year ago but failed to top the table in either the first or second-half seasons. The team based out of Xinzhuang in New Taipei City had the league’s best ERA last season (4.66) and scored the second-fewest runs per game at 5.1 per contest, making Fubon the best bet for those types of people who enjoy betting on baseball Unders. Whoever they are.
Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions
Home stadium: Tainan Municipal Baseball Stadium (South District, Tainan City, Taiwan)
2019 record: 48-70-2 — 4.52 runs for/g, 6.46 runs against/g
Bringing up the rear and deservedly so are the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, who finished in the basement of the CPBL standings in 2019 with a record of 48-70-2 — the only team with a losing record over the 120-game two-half season.
The Lions struggled in every aspect of the game, allowing the most runs per game (6.46) while scoring the fewest runs per game (4.52) thanks in part to a six-year low in team OPS at .710 last season.
For good measure, the Tainan-based team also led the league in errors by a comfortable margin which contributed to 13 percent of their total runs allowed being unearned. Getting their star shortstop, Chen Chieh-Hsien, back from injury this year will be a big boost for the Lions as the career .368 BA leadoff man missed 100 games last year.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League schedule is split into two halves with each half-season consisting of 60 games. After the first 60 games are completed, the team atop the table punches its ticket to the Taiwan Series (Taiwan’s World Series) and the four teams reset their records and start all over for the second-half season.
Each team plays five games in the week with just one game on the schedule for Tuesdays and Thursdays but two games a day on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The weekday games are played at 6:30 p.m. local time which is 6:30 am ET while the weekend games begin at 5:00 p.m. local time. On Mondays, all four teams are off.
CPBL players you might know
The defending champs, the Rakuten Monkeys, added a big arm for their rotation this offseason as they brought in 28-year-old Justin Nicolino, who made 33 starts with the Miami Marlins from 2015-17. Nicolina will battle for one of the three foreign eligible roster spots with fellow pitchers Lisalverto Bonilla (TEX, CIN), Ryan Carpenter (DET) and Elih Villanueva.
The frugal Uni Lions start the year with returning ace Josh Roenicke (CIN, COL, MIA, and MIN) and have added pitchers Donn Roach (SD, CHI and SEA) and Ryan Feierabend (SEA, TEX and TOR). Feierabend is a pitcher to get excited about for fans as he mixes in a knuckleball from the south side.
It will be interesting to see how his floater deals with the heat and humidity of Taiwan and against a group of batters who have predominantly never hit against a professional knuckleball - known as a “butterfly pitch” in Mandarin.
The CTBC Brothers have also invested heavily into their foreign pitching this season acquiring former Seattle Mariners starter Ariel Miranda and seven-year big leaguer Esmil Rogers (NYY, TOR, CLE, and COL). Neither has thrown a regular-season pitch in Taiwan.
Locally, the most recognizable name is Guardians center fielder Lin Che-Hsuan who spent a lot of time in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Lin is by far the best defensive outfielder in the league.
CPBL players to watch
The middle of the Monkeys’ order consists of four guys who rank in the Top 5 in OPS, wOBA and runs created (wRC). Chu Yu-Hsien is the reigning MVP after leading the league in home runs (30) and total bases (277) in 2019 and has the attention of international scouts. Chu is surrounded by 2018 MVP and former Cleveland Indians prospect Chen Chun-Hsiu (league leader in wRC+), former MVP Lin Hung-Yu (1.001 OPS) and 24-year-old Lin Li (league leader in OPS). This lineup is stacked.
The Fubon Guardians had the lowest runs against last year thanks to great pitching, especially at the front end of their rotation with Henry Sosa and Mike Loree. Sosa registered an unheard of 1.56 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in his 12 starts and went 4-8 Over/Under in those games. Loree finished the season 12-9 SU and has had a winning percentage of .644 in his last four seasons in Taiwan.
On the offensive side, the Guardians’ are paced by former Triple-A player Chiang Chih-Hsien, former Boston Red Sox prospect outfielder Lin Che-Hsuan and three-time CPBL MVP winner first baseman Lin Yi-Chuan.
The Lions are led by a pair of young offensive stars in outfielder/DH Su Chih-Chieh and shortstop Chen Chieh-Hsien. Su led the team with 27 home runs last season which was 16 more than the next Lion and 19 more than third place. Chen sets the table at the top of the order and could flirt with a .400 BA this year.
Offensively, the CTBC Brothers are a mix of power and speed with Lin Chih-Sheng, Chang Chih-Hao, and Chan Tzu-Hsien tying for the team lead in homers with 26 each while the team also led the league in stolen bases.
Where can I bet on the CPBL?
Last year, it would have been just a select few sportsbooks with CPBL betting markets. Circumstances are different in 2020, however, and we expect most online sportsbooks to have at least the main baseball betting markets available. You can be sure Bet365 will be offering markets (they have in past years), while PointsBet has also announced that it will be offering CPBL action.
Check out our top online sportsbooks in your region — chances are it will be offering CPBL lines this year.
What level of baseball is the CPBL?
“The level of hitting and pitching would be Double-A caliber without all the velocity you’d see stateside,” former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Scott Richmond explains when asked about the local talent compared to ball in America.
Richmond, a CPBL Championship back in 2016 with the Eda Rhinos (now the Fubon Guardians), also added that teams have done a great job since he left Taiwanese baseball four years ago in getting better pitching from outside the country.
“The defense is a step down from that (Double-A) and probably closer to Single-A ball,” the well-traveled and accomplished Richmond added. “The CPBL is still a competitive league despite only four teams.”
How can I watch or stream the CPBL?
Local broadcasts of the CPBL are well produced and have very entertaining color and play-by-play announcers. People interested in streaming the games can check out CPBLSTATS.com for the best CPBL coverage and streaming help on the planet. CPBLSTATS also has the most comprehensive player stats for the CPBL (though you’ll need a Mandarin translator to read the names).
Update: Eleven Sports Taiwan has said it will stream some games live on Twitter and will reportedly feature English commentary.
Josh Inglis is a former member of the CPBL accredited media during his 10+ years living in Taiwan. Find him on Twitter for any CPBL-related questions @inglis_josh4.