Mike Loree: The Best Pitcher You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

Mike Loree just won his 77th CPBL game, moving him past Jonathan Hurst for second most by a foreign pitcher in the Taiwanese league’s history.  Although he still has to win another 31 games to catch all-time foreign leader Ozzy Martinez, an argument can be made that Loree is already the best foreign pitcher in the CPBL’s 30 year history.

It isn’t easy to have a long career in the CPBL, in part because it’s an in-between league, a little better than the Atlantic League and the summer Mexican League, from both of which the CPBL draws many of its foreign players, but not as good as South Korea’s KBO or Japan’s NPB.

Like the KBO and NPB, turnover among foreigners in the CPBL is high.  Many foreign pitchers are already 30 when they start their CPBL careers, so they tend to get old fast.  Also, the CPBL currently has only four teams, which means that starting pitchers face each other team’s line-up eight to 12 times a season.  In other words, by the end of a pitcher’s first full season, all of the league’s hitters know the pitcher intimately.

On the other hand, if a pitcher dominates in the CPBL, the odds are good a KBO or NPB team will come calling.  That just happened with Henry Sosa, who because of tax problems in South Korea and a trend in the KBO this past off-season to weed out older, highly paid foreign players in favor of younger, lesser paid foreign players, started this year in the CPBL.  After 12 starts, he was leading the CPBL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and the SK Wyverns came and bought out his rights, so Sosa is back the KBO, and Mike Loree is back to being the CPBL’s undisputed best starter.

Mike Loree has been able to stick in the CPBL for so long because he doesn’t have conventionally great stuff.  He did get a shot in the KBO in 2014, but he only lasted one season at the minor league level for the expansion KT Wiz, because the team elected to bring back another foreign pitcher who hadn’t pitched as well but had better stuff.

What has made Loree so successful in the CPBL, I believe, is his ability to pitch.  His best pitch is a forkball, which really falls off the table and burrows into home plate.  He mixes that pitch mainly with a fastball in the 88 to 90 mph range, which he commands extremely effectively, as well as a couple of other pitches he uses to keep the hitters guessing.

No matter how many times CPBL hitters have seen Loree’s forkball, they still can’t lay off it, and they’re usually well out in front of it.  Like a good change-up, it makes Loree’s fastball much better.  In watching highlights of Loree’s stikeout pitches in games when he’s pitching well, he gets a lot of called strikes on fastballs an inch or two off the plate away, because he throws to the catcher’s target, and, I suspect, Loree well knows which CPBL umpires will give him that call.

For a pitcher who can out-think the hitters and keep them guessing, playing in a small league can actually benefit a pitcher like Loree.  Loree knows all the hitters and umpires in the CPBL like the back of his hand, which gives him a good idea what to throw and when.

With Sosa back in the KBO, the odds are good Loree will finish the season leading the CPBL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, as he did in 2015 and 2017.  Loree is now 34 years old, so there’s no good way to tell just how many more years he’s got in him.  However, he’s settled into a groove in the CPBL that has really allowed him to show just how good he can be, and he’s earning well more (probably between $250,000 and $300,000 this year) than he could make in the MLB minor leagues (assuming he could even get a job there at his age) or in Latin America.  It certainly seems like Mike Loree has found a home in Taiwan and will keep pitching there as long as he can.

As a side note, it’s a good time for CPBL fans to see some of the best pitchers the league’s history right now.  Aside from Loree, all-time CPBL wins leader Pan Wei-Lun is still active and off to one of his best starts in many years.  Pan’s story is typical of a lot of pitchers: he was great when he was young, but heavy workloads took their toll.  He’s now 37 years old, and clearly he still knows how to pitch.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, CPBL, KBO, Minor Leagues

One Comment on “Mike Loree: The Best Pitcher You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of”

  1. Rob Says:

    With no sign of slowing down, Loree definitely have another few more years left in his tank. Amazing career in the CPBL, it’s crazy to see a foreign pitcher can last this long in Taiwan.

    There could be some changes to the CPBL’s foreign players policy. I believe that’s on the agenda in the next teams’ meeting.

    It’s either they are going to increase the number of foreign players to 4 or maybe they will relax the outdated rule by giving team the opportunity to send them up and down the minor.

    Right now, if they deactivate a foreign player, they would have to release them.

    With that policy in place, maybe we will see Loree pitch even longer in Taiwan.

    For Pan, the last few years, guy kept getting hurt with a string of injuries. I think last year, he snapped his foot tender during spring training and the year before that he had a fracture after slipped in the shower.

    Pan is one of those guy we called play the “old man style of baseball”. Most of the time just throwing around 140kph but when needed he can pump it to 145kph. Just relying on his command and experience, letting hitters to put ball in play.

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