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.

Yankee Stadium losing 2,100 seats, gaining party decks and stuff in offseason renovation

Yankee Stadium
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The Yankees just released a statement saying that Yankee Stadium will be undergoing “enhancements” this offseason. The enhancements include:

  • The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse, which is basically one of those “kids run around and climb on crap play areas” not unlike those you see in the middle of shopping malls. Except, of course, it’s baseball-themed. Parents of little ones will likely appreciate that. People without kids will likely watch from afar, horrified, and will check their bags for hand sanitizer before getting anywhere near it. As someone who has been on both sides of that interaction, it’s all good. It’s how it should be for all involved;
  • The MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck which is, not surprisingly, an outdoor gathering space/bar in center field near the batter’s eye;
  • Bullpen landings which are gathering spaces/bars near the bullpens;
  • The AT&T Sports Lounge at Section 134 on the Field Level. It’s a bar with big screen TVs showing the game that is going on just outside the bar; and
  • Budweiser Party Decks at Sections 311 and 328. Which are hopefully explanatory.

Artist’s renderings here.

The park will lose around 2,000 seats to make space for these additions, but will likely make up for that and then some with added revenue from all of the Yankees fans partying on. In decks.

Jon Lester to start Game 1 for the Cubs

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 07:  Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on October 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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No surprise here: the Cubs have just named Jon Lester their Game 1 World Series starter.

Lester has allowed two earned runs in 21 innings over three starts this postseason and was the co-MVP in the NLCS. Lester will face off against Indians ace Corey Kluber.

On the season Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and notched 197 Ks against 52 walks in 202.2 innings.