Johnny: CL has caught up

Former Lotte ace Tomohiro “Johnny” Kuroki sees the Central League having a huge advantage in interleague play this year, Sponichi Annex reported Sunday.

Although the CL teams were outscored last year, the CL won last year’s interleague competition for just the second time since the program started in 2005 and the first time since 2009. The season also ended with the Yakult Swallows beating the Orix Buffaloes in the Japan Series for the league’s first victory since 2012.

“I see the CL having the higher winning percentage this year. I get a sense there is a gap,” Kuroki said. “I think the CL hitters are stronger, it’s not an individual thing, but that all the CL teams appear stronger. There’s no real basis for this, but that’s how it seems to me.”

“CL batters are now better used to the speeds they see from the PL pitchers because more CL pitchers are throwing harder. People have said that was the PL’s edge before but the CL has improved.”

I’m not sold on that, though, because the numbers simply don’t back it up.

Even if CL batters face the same number of fast pitchers, it’s more than just velocity.

According to Delta Graphs, more PL pitchers throw harder fastballs, throw more effective fastballs and throw more of them. Another difference I’ve mentioned in the past is the PL trend toward throwing more strikes.

The tables below, with figures gleaned from Delta Graphs, present the medians of pitchers’ medians the past two seasons of four-seam velocity and percentage thrown, the median of all pitches in the zone, and the median run value per 100 four-seam fastballs.

2021 pitchers’ medians (60+ IP)
Leaguekph4-seam%zone%4-seam value 100 pitches
2022 pitchers’ medians (20+ IP)
Leaguekph4-seam%zone%4-seam value 100 pitches

There are CL pitchers with electric fastballs, and CL teams that challenge batters more in the strike zone, particularly the Swallows, but both of those things are more common in the PL.

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