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Japan’s dead ball is likely a mistake

Thirty-eight percent of NPB’s home runs have disappeared, and anyone who tells you the ball isn’t the major factor, or that the reason is “the pitchers are better” is probably basing it on the games they watch without a broad sense of what the data is.

The wonderful thing about data is that if one gets enough of it, patterns can sometimes emerge that are not visible to even the most rigorous observer.

As Matt Murton said in 2013, when Japan’s previously soft mushy balls began flying better, “if it’s something that’s happening more or less across the board in both leagues, it’s not individual players doing something different.”

My podcast partner John E. Gibson (@JBWPodcast) has said he hasn’t seen balls that were really squared up and elevated dying, while he has seen balls that didn’t look like they had been struck that well go out. I saw a few of those this past week.

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The numbers behind this year’s dead ball

When the players union met with Nippon Professional Baseball in a working group meeting over the union demands, the surprise for the union was NPB having nothing to say about the baseball, how nothing had been done to change it.

Home runs through Sunday’s games in NPB are down 59 percent, not from last year, not just from last year from March to May, but from the previous three years prior to June. This isn’t something that happens by accident.

That only proves that NPB has been studying MLB’s ball manipulation. When home runs and pitcher blisters surged in 2018, astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills discovered that MLB — despite denials that its balls had not been changed — was using balls stitched with thicker and stronger yarn — that made them more aerodynamic.

When asked about the balls then, commissioner Rob Manfred said he would never mess with baseballs after NPB’s secret shift in 2013 from a dead ball to a more normal one had cost commissioner Ryuzo Kato his job.

Continue reading The numbers behind this year’s dead ball