Category Archives: History

articles about Japanese baseball history

Japan’s collision course

On Sunday, the Hawks-Marines game ended in a tie after a ninth-inning play in which a run scored at the plate after the catcher’s tag was applied because the ball inadvertently came out of the catcher’s glove, but had this been six or seven years ago, it might not have mattered because of Japan’s difficult experience with enforcing and not enforcing the obstruction rule at home plate.

In Japan, catchers once didn’t even need to tag the runner. Until 2015, they could block the plate entirely without the ball, catch it and curl up around it. When the runner touched the catcher’s body, the balled-up catcher might roll a few meters from the play, produce the ball, and the ump would call the runner out – even if the ball arrived after the runner and the catcher made no attempt to apply a tag.

Once NPB adopted an MLB-style collision rule in 2016, a fielder with the ball in hand was not allowed to breath on the base line if a runner on third even thought about coming home, because the ump would call him safe and even signal him to leave third base and proceed to the plate–on review of course–since virtually no umpire in the history of Japanese pro baseball has ever ruled a runner safe for obstruction.

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Japan’s pitch-clock allergy

For decades, Nippon Professional Baseball has been urging players to pick up the pace in order to counteract the small-ball anal-retentive slow pace that its overlords have come to embrace. So when MLB adopted a pitch timer, Japan became interested.

Despite the promise of faster games, the idea of pitch timers in Japanese baseball would slash a gaping hole in the control-oriented micro-managed baseball Japan espouses. The more NPB looked at what MLB was up to, the stronger its allergic reaction to a pitch timer in Japan became.

But this week, the pitch timer is back in the news from a couple of different angles that tell us a lot about Japanese baseball.

Last year, Japan’s rules committee, which is largely influenced – but not controlled by — Nippon Professional Baseball, declined to adopt a pitch timer, the excuse given was that it was not necessary, because the only thing needed to make games snappily played was adherence to the 30-second rule giving the pitcher and batter that much time between plate appearances.

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