Skip to content

Japanese baseball officials admit to altering the baseball to increase offense

Jun 12, 2013, 9:24 AM EDT

NPB commissioner

Home runs and batting average have increased sharply in the NPB this season, and after months of denying that the ball had been altered in any way, Japanese baseball officials are admitting that they tinkered with it in order to “make the game more exciting” and increase offense:

Players and fans had repeatedly quizzed Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) bosses after seeing a 40 percent rise in the number of balls that were slugged out of the park so far this season.

In April NPB said the specifications of their ball — each of which bears the signature of its commissioner Ryozo Kato — “have not been changed”, a statement that was repeated several times since.

But on Tuesday NPB came clean, saying they had asked manufacturer Mizuno to “adjust” the ball to give it greater bounce off the bat and demanded the company keep quiet about the switch.

Altering baseballs is not unprecedented in baseball history, of course. In 1930 offense made the so-called Steroid Era look like 1982 or something. Half the teams scored 900 runs or more and the average hitter in the American League — just the AVERAGE ones — hit .303/.360/.448. That winter baseball deadened the balls a bit, with the AL altering the stitching and the NL doing both that and adding a cover to its balls. Offense went down significantly in 1931, more so for the NL.

1987 is widely suspected to be another year in which the ball was altered. Baseball has never admitted to doing anything, but the season was an offensive aberration and unlike other eras of changing offense it was an outlier, with the next and previous years looking pretty similar and no other explanation that makes a lick of sense.

I strongly suspect that the baseballs were altered again in the 1990s. There were multiple explanations for increased offense at that time, including double expansion, much smaller parks, smaller strike zones, different hitting approaches and, of course, performance enhancing drugs, but I’ve always thought that the baseball had something to do with it too. Not that anyone ever wants to blame anything other than steroids.

But I think this NPB story shows that it doesn’t take much for offense to increase significantly. Sometimes just a change in the ball. Which league officials are inclined to deny.

Latest Posts
  1. Shin-Soo Choo regrets playing through ankle injury

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Shin-Soo Choo AP AP

    The Rangers had high hopes when they signed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract over the winter, but a lingering injury to his left ankle is a major reason why his first season with Texas has been a bust.

  2. Cliff Lee struggles in first start back from disabled list

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT

    Cliff Lee AP AP

    Plenty of scouts were in attendance tonight for Cliff Lee’s first start in the majors in over two months. They likely didn’t come away impressed.

  3. Jason Vargas could rejoin the Royals’ rotation as soon as Sunday

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT

    Jason Vargas AP AP

    Royals left-hander Jason Vargas underwent an appendectomy less than two weeks ago, but he could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Sunday against the Indians.

  4. VIDEO: Andrelton Simmons did something ridiculous again

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    Andrelton Simmons

    Andrelton Simmons just isn’t fair.

  5. Josh Beckett will return from disabled list to start Tuesday

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT

    Josh Beckett Getty Getty Images

    Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett is dealing with a left hip impingement, but he made it through a bullpen session Saturday with no issues and has been cleared to return Tuesday.

  6. Dodgers get good news on Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    X-rays on the hands of Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig came back negative.

  7. Angels sign John Buck to minor league contract

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT

    John Buck Getty Getty Images

    Veteran catcher John Buck was given his release by the Mariners earlier this month, but he didn’t stay out of a job for long.

  8. Report: Tommy Milone has asked the Athletics to trade him

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    Tommy Milone Getty Getty Images

    After a demotion to Triple-A earlier this month, Tommy Milone has asked the Athletics to trade him. He appears unlikely to get his wish.

  9. Who is the next Face of Baseball?

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    jeter-reuiters Reuters

    Jeter has been that for so, so long. Who’s next?

  10. Rockies place Justin Morneau on the disabled list

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Justin Morneau Rockies AP

    Justin Morneau was finally healthy and productive again after three injury wrecked years in Minnesota, to the point that he nearly made the All-Star team as a “Final Vote” candidate and was chosen for the Home Run Derby. But now he’s hurt again.

  11. The Royals are thinking about trading for Alex Rios

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Alex Rios AP AP

    You could do worse. Like, say, stand pat with the Royals’ offense.

  12. Mark Teixeira out 3-4 days with strained lat muscle

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    Mark Teixeira AP

    Yankees first baseman will be out of the lineup for at least the next 3-4 days with a strained lat muscle, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

  13. Blue Jays designate ex-closer Sergio Santos for assignment

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT

    Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher Santos reacts after giving up a run to the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto Reuters

    Sergio Santos saved 30 games for the White Sox in 2011 and then that offseason the Blue Jays acquired him to take over as their closer, but he’s been injured and ineffective since then and today Toronto designated him for assignment.

  14. Michael Wacha’s MRI was encouraging

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Michael Wacha Getty Getty Images

    He could be throwing pitches in anger in September.

  15. Kurt Suzuki’s contract extension talks with the Twins didn’t get very far

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Kurt Suzuki Twins AP

    After four terrible seasons Kurt Suzuki had to settle for a one-year, $2.75 million deal this offseason, but now he’s having a career-year for the Twins and made his first All-Star team at age 30.

  16. Braves activate Evan Gattis, send Christian Bethancourt back to Triple-A

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    evan gattis getty Getty Images

    Evan Gattis is off the disabled list after missing the past four weeks with a bulging disk in his back and to make room for his return the Braves demoted fill-in catcher Christian Bethancourt to Triple-A.

  17. HBT Daily: The dumbest invocation of the unwritten rules in baseball history

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 2.54.10 PM AP

    Some Colby on Colby crime in Toronto on Saturday. And none of it made a lick of sense.

  18. On this day in 1988: Twins teammates brawled on a lawn

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    gladden and lombardozzi

    Imagine a story like that happening today (and not involving Miguel Olivo).

  19. The coolest baseball poster you’ll see today

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT

    Fielding Print

    The third installment in what I feel is the coolest set of baseball prints ever is now out.

  20. Report: Dan Uggla to sign with the Giants

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:48 PM EDT

    Dan Uggla AP AP

    The Giants make a low-risk bet on a possibly still high upside veteran.

Featured video

Colby-on-Colby crime in Toronto
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3389)
  2. C. Lee (2452)
  3. M. Trout (2256)
  4. H. Ramirez (2245)
  5. D. Price (1998)
  1. Y. Puig (1990)
  2. J. Segura (1974)
  3. B. Belt (1941)
  4. T. Tulowitzki (1909)
  5. D. Uggla (1893)