Lansford and Loree Dominate in Taiwan
For three seasons on Long Island, Jared Lansford was one of the most reliable arms on the Ducks pitching staff. In his first two, he was a dominant force in the back end of the bullpen. Then in 2014, he transitioned to the starting rotation and found success in that role as well. After winning two championships with the Flock, the California native received the opportunity to pitch overseas this past season, joining the Lamigo Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan.
Several former Ducks have gone on to play with Lamigo. One of the most notable pitchers to do so was Mike Loree. The right-hander won the Atlantic League’s Pitching Triple Crown in 2011, leading the circuit with 14 wins (compared to five losses), a 1.98 ERA and 131 strikeouts. He began 2012 with Long Island as well before earning a contract with Lamigo and heading to the Far East. Since that point, he has won a championship with the Monkeys and has played for other teams in both Taiwan and Korea. This year, he was a member of the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
Both pitchers were able to use their previous Atlantic League experience to put together strong seasons once again in 2015. The two were among the best in the league, ranking in the Top 5 of almost every pitching category. Here is a breakdown of their total stats and where they ranked, according to the league’s website:
What’s even more impressive? The league was absolutely dominated by offense. Three of the four teams posted batting averages over .300. In addition, no team had a combined ERA of less than 5.00. Lansford’s Monkeys compiled a league-high 5.25 ERA, and Loree’s Rhinos came in at 5.10. Each team had over 600 runs scored in 120 games, with both the Monkeys and Rhinos averaging close to 6.5 runs per game. Despite all of that, Lansford and Loree still were able to put together outstanding numbers.
Despite coming up just short to Loree in about each statistical category, it was Lansford who earned the ultimate prize. His Monkeys were able to earn their second consecutive league championship by defeating Brother Elephants four games to three in the CPBL Taiwan Series. The righty allowed just one earned run in five innings while striking out six in Game Three, and he threw five innings of relief in Game Six, yielding just one unearned run and earning the win. In that game, he entered trailing by a run in the game and down 3-2 in the series. Although he was not on the mound for the clinching victory, he had a front row seat to watch former Major Leaguer Pat Misch make history. The southpaw, who spent six seasons in the big leagues including three with the Mets (2009-11), tossed a no-hitter in Game Seven to seal the deal. It was the first-ever no-hitter in the championship finals.
Here is some video of Lansford pitching in the Championship Series:
On Friday, we had the chance to catch up with Jared to discuss his experiences overseas in 2015:
How special was the experience of winning a championship in Taiwan?
“It was a great year! I had a really good time over there. In my personal opinion, we had the best team going into the playoffs. All year, we played really well as a team. Once we won the first half, it seemed like we kind of let up a bit. It’s like it can be in the Atlantic League where you win the first half and there’s less sense of urgency at the start of the second half. We didn’t play as well as we should have, but when it came to playoff time, we were playing the way we needed to. In Taiwan, you have pretty much the same guys the entire year, so you develop relationships with those guys. Being able to start the year there and finish it with the same guys, it was a unique experience for me and I really enjoyed it.”
Were you and your teammates stunned by Misch’s performance to win the title in Game Seven?
“It was unbelievable what he did in the postseason. He threw four games out of seven in the championship series. He started the first game, started the fourth game, pitched out of relief in the sixth game, and then on zero days rest, threw a complete game no-hitter in the seventh game. It was something you couldn’t even imagine. We were hoping he would just go three innings, let alone throw a no-hitter. He’s the greatest guy, and he deserved it. He became an instant celebrity over there.”
What were some of the challenges you faced playing baseball in Taiwan?
“It’s just a longer season. We started in February and then ended in late October. Even though you only play five days out of the week, the season just seems like it takes a long time, especially when you only have four teams in the league. You’re constantly playing the same team over and over again. I probably ended up facing two teams 12 times each. You have to evolve a little bit and change your game up a bit so that you keep guys guessing.”
How difficult was the opposition that you faced while on the mound?
“It was tough because these guys can hit. The hitters over there are unbelievable. They put almost every ball you throw in play and are very tough to strike out. With some of these guys, you wonder what they’re doing there. Our 3-4-5 hitters, maybe even our sixth hitter too, you wonder why these guys aren’t playing in the States. These guys are hitting .370, .380 with 30 home runs and 125 RBI in 120 games. It’s unbelievable. There are some guys that deserve to be playing in the States, and if not there, in Korea or Japan. It’s pretty incredible how good the hitting is.”
What do you think was the key in being able to turn in strong numbers?
“Once you face the same hitters and the same teams over and over again, one of those times they’re bound to get you. That’s when your numbers start to get a little inflated when it comes to the ERA portion of it. Other than that, it’s just about staying steady. We had a good hitting team, so if you are able to give your team a chance to face their bullpen, at least match or go a little longer than their starter, you have a good chance of winning the game.”
Was it difficult to adjust to the different culture in Taiwan?
“On the culture side of things, I loved the people over there. The players, the fans and everyone I met over there were the nicest people. It was nice and comforting knowing that you didn’t have to worry about that part of it. Everything over there was taken care of, and everyone was willing to help if we needed help.”
Do you feel like the being a starter with the Ducks in 2014 helped prepare you for this past season?
“I wouldn’t have had the opportunity in Taiwan if the Ducks didn’t give me the chance to start last year. I’m really grateful to them for doing that. It seemed to work out for both of us. I had a good year with the Ducks last year, and then I got the opportunity to go over in Taiwan this year. Just having the amount of innings built up that I did with the Ducks the year before, I felt strong going into the season this year and ended up throwing more innings than I did last year.”
Did having a former teammate of yours there in Mike Loree help ease the transition?
“I knew Mike a little bit with the Ducks. I don’t think he was there for that long when I was there, but we were friends. When I got the opportunity to go over to Taiwan, I called him to ask him a bunch of questions and felt out what it was like over there. I got some information about how it was for us and for my wife, since I know he brought his wife out there before. I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of out there, and if there was anything I needed to have a heads up for. Once we got there, we hung out a lot. We would go to dinner with each other, and every time one of us was in town, we’d try to meet up. There were some other guys I played with before like Andy Sisco, [former Blue Crabs pitcher] Gaby Hernandez, Shaun Garceau, Bobby Blevins, but having him the whole year was nice. We were together at the All-Star Game too, so we hung out during that entire break and that was fun.”
You showcased talents off the field as well by singing to the fans. What was that experience like?
“They love their karaoke over there. I’m no stranger to karaoke myself. There’s a song that we take the field to, and it’s a song that only we play. You hear it every day, and so one day I finally asked one of our translators to help me get to know a little piece of it. It took me a little while to learn because Chinese is really tough. We had an Army party a little later on in the season, and players have the option to do karaoke in front of the fans. I was told that no foreign player had ever done it, so that motivated me a little more to do it. Pat and I actually ‘karaoke’d’ in front of the fans, and then they asked for an encore. I was pretty much the only one that had anything to offer them because they didn’t know any of the American songs that we knew. One of the translators suggested that I sing that song, and the fans loved it. They loved that I tried. I got a lot of comments after from the fans that they really liked it.”
Do you plan on playing with the Monkeys again in 2016?
“I don’t know. I think I’m going to feel it out a little bit and see what my options are. I think the option to go back might be there if I decide that’s what I want to do. I’ve been in contact with them already, but there is nothing ironed out. I just told them that I was going to take a little time to figure things out with my agent and my family and see what I want to do. I guess we’ll see here in the next month or so.”
Finally, after spending three consecutive seasons on Long Island, how much did you miss playing with the Ducks this past season?
“There are a lot of people that I really missed. [Team Trainer] Dottie [Pitchford], the coaching staff, [Coordinator/Fitness Specialist] Tony [Amin], the players, I miss all of those guys. I got the chance to talk to a couple of them during the year. I miss that whole fan base over there too. They were so much fun to play in front of, and I had some fun years there. Who knows what the future will hold? Hopefully I see all those guys again sometime.”
Posted on November 6, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged 2015, Atlantic League, Chinese Professional Baseball League, Jared Lansford, Mike Loree, Pat Misch, Taiwan. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.