Jun 12, 2013, 9:24 AM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Andrelton Simmons just isn’t fair.
Jul 21, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
X-rays on the hands of Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig came back negative.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT
Jeter has been that for so, so long. Who’s next?
Jul 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
You could do worse. Like, say, stand pat with the Royals’ offense.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
He could be throwing pitches in anger in September.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
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.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Some Colby on Colby crime in Toronto on Saturday. And none of it made a lick of sense.
Jul 21, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Imagine a story like that happening today (and not involving Miguel Olivo).
Jul 21, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT
The third installment in what I feel is the coolest set of baseball prints ever is now out.
Jul 21, 2014, 1:48 PM EDT
The Giants make a low-risk bet on a possibly still high upside veteran.
- Cliff Lee struggles in first start back from disabled list 0
- On the 10th anniversary of his MLB debut, let’s appreciate David Wright 29
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 33
- Odrisamer Despaigne loses his no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning 8
- Brandon Belt headed to disabled list with concussion 5
- Cardinals are interested in David Price, but “would want a financial commitment” from him 47
- Blue Jays, Giants “taking their best shot” at Chase Utley 19
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 27
- Baseball is dying, you guys (148)
- Luke Scott released from Korean team after calling coach a “liar” and a “coward” (108)
- Watch Derek Jeter tell Joe Buck to get the heck out of the clubhouse (91)
- Adam Wainwright follows the rules and pays the price (90)
- The Astros did not sign number one overall pick Brady Aiken. This is a big deal. (90)