It may sound disingenuous for me to complain about numbers in baseball, because, well it’s baseball. But the complicated math that is a religion in Japanese baseball media began to vex us for the first time this season on Friday when Sponichi Annex reported that the DeNA BayStars lost their ability to win the Central League pennant under their own power.
This is a thing in Japan. It’s called the “jiriki-V”–although in proper Japanese, the roman letter “V” is pronounced like one would say the word “Vooee” quickly. “Jiriki” means self-powered, and “V” stands for victory. So when a team’s chances of having a jiriki-V end, someone has to write a story about it. A few hours after it was calculated, every news agency worth it’s salt reported that even winning all their remaining 101 games would not guarantee a championship.
Want to know even more bad math magic? Check out Japanese Baseball Lingo.
The BayStars have been eliminated from nothing, but losing their chances of a jiriki-V after 42 games equalled the second fewest games in franchise history needed to achieve that feared outcome.
The Sponichi Annex story informed us that the team also lost its jiriki-V mojo after 42 games in 1976 and again in 1989. The franchise record is held by the 1955 Yochiku club — formed from the merger of the Shochiku Robins and the Taiyo Whales — that went 31-99 and posted Japanese pro baseball’s second worst record since before the war.
But because the 1955 team didn’t lose its clear road to victory until May 16 — there used to be tons of rainouts because the fields aren’t what they are now — meaning this BayStars team could actually be considered the worst in history in one respect.