NPB commissioner

Japanese baseball officials admit to altering the baseball to increase offense


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.

Matt Harvey missed a mandatory workout today

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Just when Matt Harvey drama seemed to be subsiding, Matt Harvey drama begins anew.

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets starter missed a mandatory workout today at Citi Field. Sandy Alderson had no information about why Harvey was gone and Harvey was not excused by the team. Alderson gave no comment.

Just a few minutes ago Harvey showed up and upon getting in front of reporters issued a brief statement with little elaboration:


Because this is New York, you know darn well there will be more to this. We’ll update when it comes out.

Dan Jennings asked to return as the Marlins GM

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Dan Jennings‘ tenure as the Marlins manager has not been great and the team is now actively looking for his replacement. But his old job is there waiting for him if he wants it, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald: Jennings has been asked to come back as the team’s general manager.

Or maybe “asked” is not correct. Team President David Samson said “there’s no decision” for Jennings to make and that he’s still “a signed member” of the team’s front office, reporting to baseball operations president Michael Hill.

Reports last month suggested that Jennings would take a wait-and-see approach regarding returning to the Marlins front office, with hopes of possibly landing a GM job in another organization with greater control than he’s had and will have with the multi-headed Marlins management team. The Mariners, for one, were a team Jennings was said to have his eye on. But that job has been filled and it would not seem like such opportunities have presented themselves to him.

So: it would seem a good bet that Jennings is back upstairs with the Marlins soon. Because the Marlins fully expect him to be.