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Wladimir Balentien has gone deep again

Aug 28, 2013, 1:36 PM EDT

Wladimir Balentien AP

Yesterday Aaron noted that former Mariner and current Yakult Swallow  Wladimir Balentien was threatening the NPB single season home run record. As an update, know that he has hit a solo home run today/tonight and now has 51, putting him four short of the record 55, held by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.

My question — and anyone with good knowledge of the NPB should chime in — is whether or not he’ll get anything to hit once he gets to 55. A decade ago when Rhodes threatened the record it was widely assumed — and there much evidence showing — that he was stuck on 55 when opponents refused to give him anything to hit, lest a non-Japanese player break the immortal Oh’s record. I’m not sure if Cabrera got that treatment too. Or if, in reality, it was really a major factor in Rhodes not breaking Oh’s record.

I assume that a decade in which several Japanese players have dominated in the United States — and in which people are just generally cool about such things — will mean that Balentien will get pitches down the stretch. And I assume with 32 games left and only four homers to go, he’ll break that record.

  1. esracerx46 - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    I think its also worth noting that the NPB commissioner has admitted to altering the baseball in order to produce more home runs. Something MLB would never openly admit to. I hope he does get the chance to break the record just to give their commissioner what he wanted.

    • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:19 PM

      When the NPB went to a standardized ball in ’11, scoring plummeted. This new ball brings offense back to previous levels.

      Runs per game (per team), Central League, 07-13: 4.11, 3.95, 3.91, 4.32, 3.15, 3.14, 4.02
      Runs per game (per team), Pacific League, 07-13: 3.94, 4.32, 4.35, 4.47, 3.41, 3.37, 4.03

      So it is not really worth noting that the ball is juiced. It just isn’t dead

      • jwbiii - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        The baseballs used in 2011-12 met IBAF specifications. I think it would be fairer to say that the balls used in every other season were juiced.

      • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        First, you are arguing semantics. Secondly, according to NPB reports the ball was indeed dead. Regular tests found balls with coefficients of restitution (COR) below the required minimum. So, no it would not be more fair to label every single season besides ’11 and ’12 as using a juiced ball. That is a ridiculous statement.

      • jwbiii - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Or maybe not.

        When the standardized ball was introduced from the 2011 season, the coefficient of restitution of colliding objects, which measures the ball’s liveliness, was reduced to near the lowest limit of the tolerable range to be closer to the standard for international play.

        http://ajw.asahi.com/article/sports/base_ball/AJ201306120072

      • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:12 PM

        Yes, near the lowest limit. That means dead. And as I said above, tests of the introduced ball the past two years found that they were frequently below the required minimum.

    • dianadfbest - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:27 AM

      my buddy’s half-sister makes $84 an hour on the internet. She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $16747 just working on the internet for a few hours. this page… http://clck.ru/8oZMD

  2. pinkfloydprism - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I really do not think that many people State-side care about this.

    • Reflex - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      So? Most of the articles on this blog day in and day out are not of interest to the vast majority of people stateside…

  3. jm91rs - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    I’m curious if anyone knows what some of the stars of the NPB make? Balentien is an example of a guy that couldn’t quite cut it in MLB and is excelling there. I assume he lives a pretty comfortable life. I’m surprised more of the AAA guys that can’t quite crack the majors don’t go this route. Or even the longtime major leaguers that aren’t ready to hang it up quite yet (or don’t have any money saved for post retirement).

    • carsuke - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      There are foreigners limits on the active roster. NPB clubs fill all the spots. Also, not everybody can have the success Balentien is having. Willy Mo Pena is in the minors, La Hair is a disappointment, etc.

      • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        I think most casual baseball fans would be surprised at the number of ex-MLB players in the NPB. Do any non-NPB fans care about what Esteban German or Lastings Milledge are up to now?

    • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      1. Andruw Jones signed for $3.5mm this offseason
      2. There is a limit on the amount of foreign players allowed per team (currently at 4)

      • jm91rs - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        So they don’t want the best players playing, just as many Japanese born players as possible? I can imagine the outrage if MLB tried something so silly.

      • rbj1 - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        jm91, it’s a very different culture. Wladimir could live there for the rest of his life, he’d never be considered Japanese.

        And MLB at one point didn’t want all the best players playing.

      • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        Yes. The league is a showcase of national talent. This is how most leagues work worldwide.

        The MLB did try something so silly. It didn’t allow players of color.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        In many countries, the professional leagues serve to develop the domestic talent for international competition, rather than to necessarily showcase the best talent.

        The MLS soccer league in America does this as well.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      His original contract with the Swallows in 2010 was 65 million yen for one year, which is about US$660,000. I would assume he makes a bit more after establishing himself there, but I could be wrong.

  4. kylewo - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    In the past no one would throw anything remotely close to anyone threatening the record. Sort of despicably Oh totally supports that. His record is pretty phony.

  5. Chris K - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    It’s funny because Oh is actually a Chinese citizen.

    • eightyraw - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      Sure he is half-Chinese (father) and holds Taiwanese citizenship. But he was born in Japan to a Japanese mother. It’s not like his Chinese citizenship precludes him from being Japanese.

      • straightouttavtown - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:07 PM

        Most Taiwanese are not Chinese. Only 15% of them are Chinese nationalists who fled China after the communist takeover in 1949.

  6. thomas844 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I wonder if he will get a lot of interest from Major League teams again? Or if he will even want to leave Japan to come back to the States and play?

  7. rcdck - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    Rhodes did indeed receive nothing remotely resembling a competitive pitch. I, personally, think Balentien will get more to hit. NPB’s matured, incrementally, at a minimum, within the past ten years.

  8. tmohr - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    Jeez, Craig, do me a solid and give me a little credit for mentioning Rhodes and Cabrera in my comment to Aaron’s post (the very first comment, no less).

    Just for that, I’m gonna drown my sorrows with a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and not save one for you.

  9. jballallen - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    1) Salaries… The Swallows, who have a record of seeing their extremely productive foreign signings moving down the road to the Central League-rival Yomiuri Giants, signed Balentien through 2016 last winter. $950,000 for this season and a total of $7.5 million from 2014 through 2016. Not a huge amount of money by Japan standards.

    2) Balentien is getting pitched around a bit — because he has been red hot — not because of the record. That will change a little after he gets to 55, as no pitcher wants to be known as the one who surrendered a record home run. The Swallows have 32 games left and no one is out of the playoff picture yet, so his walks will be dictated mostly by game situations.

    3) Randy Bass (1985 Hanshin Tigers) , Rhodes and Cabrera all reached 54 in the dying days of the season with games to play against a team managed by Sadaharu Oh. Oh says, and I believe him, that he wouldn’t order his pitchers not to pitch to a batter chasing his record, but they did anyway and the coaches backed that behavior. Oh, however, is fiercely loyal to people doing what they think is right even if he disagrees with them. he did fire the battery coach who in 2001 said it would “It would be distasteful for a foreigner to break Oh’s record.” Oh, however, is no longer managing, and the team he runs as chairman, the Softbank Hawks, plays in the Pacific League.

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