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NPB Commissioner denies that altered baseballs impacted Wladimir Balentien’s home run surge

Sep 2, 2013, 5:30 PM EDT

Wladimir Balentien AP

Remember back in June when NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato was forced to admit that the league had altered the baseballs in order to increase offense? Yeah, well Kato now wants you to know that Wladimir Balentien’s imminent Japanese home run record has nothing to do with the doctored balls:

“I doubt the ball really has anything to do with it. He is hitting that many because he has become used to (Japanese pitchers),” Kato told reporters Monday. This season, Japanese baseball has seen a marked increase in the number of home runs hit using the livelier ball.

Like any other baseball league the NPB and its records are subject to context changes, be it park size, ball composition or what have you. Rogers Maris’ home run record in 1961 was no doubt aided by league expansion. The home run records of the 90s and 2000s were the product of PEDs, expansion, smaller ballparks and — I remain convinced though no one has ever admitted it — a new baseball introduced in 1993.

What I wonder, though, is whether Japanese baseball is covered by writers who, like their American counterparts, pick and choose which objective empirical feats to credit and which to reject. And if Balentien’s legacy in the NPB will suffer as a result.

  1. Conner012367 - Sep 2, 2013 at 5:35 PM

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  2. eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    HR/G, Central League
    2013: 0.848 | 2012: 0.525 | 2011: 0.561 | 2010: 1.001 | 2009: 0.890 | 2008: 0.843 | 2007: 0.947

    HR Leaders 2013, Central League
    Balentien – 52 | Blanco – 35 | Abe – 30 | Two tied at 22

    • eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      The standardized ball was dead. Offense is back to normal levels. Coco is raking.

  3. tfbuckfutter - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Did he just say the ball has nothing to do with Balentien hitting more home runs and then immediately point out that the ball has led to a lot more home runs being hit?

    • MLBlogsbig3bosox - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      No, that’s the writer noting that info right after the quote. He could’ve put it in a separate paragraph though.

  4. Reflex - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I remain unconvinced by the ball conspiracy theories. At what point did the ball supposedly change back? Over the past decade the balance has tilted dramatically towards better pitching again, yet nobody has detected a change in the ball despite the level of scrutiny it receives these days.

    I think its pretty easy to account for the offensive surge in the slate of tiny ballparks that opened in the 90’s, plus expansion, and then add in the slow down as the giant parks of the 2000’s opened often replacing older hitters parks, combined with scouting, development and advanced statistical approaches making up the gap on expansion.

    Add in a little bit of PED impact and I don’t need a ball conspiracy for it to make sense.

    • eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:36 PM

      • Reflex - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:50 PM

        I’m having some trouble with assumptions in this. First off while he calls out 1993 as the dramatic increase, in reality its fairly in line with what came before, it only appears so dramatic because 1992 was an off year offensively. While it is higher than most seasons, there are two exceeding it in the previous decade and several within .2% of it. According to the chart, 1994, a year not under suspicion for juicing the ball, is where the real offensive rise occurred and was sustained from.

        Secondly, tossing out expansion parks and players is only part of the equation for determining expansions effects. There was also a expansion draft, which significantly weakened every other team’s farm system(twice in a decade). Diluted rosters decreased available talent to every team in the league, even the non-expansion teams.

        And finally, he is tossing out expansion parks. But he is not accounting for(unless I missed it) the slate of new parks that were built in the 90’s, which I pointed out in another post. All but one park built during the 90’s were strong hitters parks, and several of them are extreme hitters parks. Often they replaced rather cavernous pitchers parks, and they certainly contributed to the offensive rise.

        I also do not agree to his approach seeming to be that if he can disqualify the things he thinks are most likely, it means juiced ball. There is little evidence of a juiced ball, and even more importantly, much like PED’s, would such a small change have such a dramatic impact on offense? Its possible it could but I’d want to see proof, and I’d want to see how it has *more* impact than bigger/stronger hitters which basically accomplishes the same thing(more power driving the ball further). For the supposed change in the ball to have had such a dramatic effect, one would think the players would have noticed or that the evidence would be more obvious. If the change was very minor, then one has to account for how it made up so much of a leap without regular annual production variation being enough to have the same impact.

      • eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:09 PM

        The players did notice it. From a quick google search:

      • eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:11 PM

        If you think there is no evidence of a juiced ball, there is this:

        (BPro article shared on Deadspin, that I found via SABR’s site)

      • Reflex - Sep 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        The first article is from 1993, which as I noted was *not* an outlier offensively compared to the previous decade. Perhaps Sosa did feel it was juiced, but Sosa was also a rising power threat in general entering his prime. As long as you stick to 1993, the conclusions seem pretty faulty since that year was only slightly above average.

        And secondly, yes I do know there is research on this. I have not said it is impossible there was a change. I have only said there are a number of other factors, several of which I listed and which you have not bothered to address, that make far more sense for the degree of impact on the game. You replace a third of the parks in the game with strong hitters parks, you dilute the pitching talent league wide, and then you are surprised that offense rises dramatically.

        Conspiracy theories bother me in general, it is lazy thinking and it pushes people towards a single solution mindset when in reality a multitude of factors was likely involved. It is possible that the ball did change. It is also possible it did not, or that the changes had negligible(or even negative) effects.

    • eightyraw - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      HR per contact rates have not significantly changed. The decline in offense can be primarily attributed to the rise in Ks. What points to the ball being made less lively?

  5. Glenn - Sep 2, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Again, Bill James wrote about this a number of years ago (MLB homers, PEDs, and other effects) quite well. PEDs don’t account for every change in power and Craig mentions a few of them.

    While we’re on the topic, something more than statistical chance happened in 1987 MLB, too.

  6. thebadguyswon - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Japanese baseball. …who cares? And before you PC nuts come running, how many Japanese league games have you watched this year again?

    • tfbuckfutter - Sep 2, 2013 at 9:31 PM

      Let us also stop taking note of minor league happenings, including top prospect news.

      Because I have watched 0 minor league games this year. So the news is irrelevant.

    • stevemarines - Sep 2, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      How many NPB games have I watched this year? At least 90, probably 100 or more.

      • thebadguyswon - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:45 PM


    • Reflex - Sep 2, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      I care.

      • thebadguyswon - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:40 PM

        Good for you. I like the major leagues. And Japan is not the majors. Not by a longshot.

      • Reflex - Sep 7, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        So why are you commenting on articles about the NPB? Nobody forces you to read about something you don’t care about.

  7. vanmorrissey - Sep 2, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    Agree with your last statement Craig. At the time everyone was wondering if the balls were made differently, wound tighter, to induce more hitting. Often overlooked, but like the facts you point out.

  8. stevemarines - Sep 2, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    It clearly doesn’t have anything to do with it. Everybody is not hitting a ton more homers, just Balentien.

    • jwbiii - Sep 3, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      See eightyraw’s comment above.

      • stevemarines - Sep 4, 2013 at 2:36 AM

        As I said – only Coco is hitting an absurd number of homers. And nobody is hitting a ton of homers in the PL.

  9. provguard - Sep 3, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    Sounds like back in the McGwire/Sosa days???

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