The NPB finally admitted today that the league is not using the same standard baseball that was introduced in 2011.
The Players Association and the NPB met in Sendai today. When the players pointed out that baseballs were seemingly traveling more this year than last year, the NPB explained that they approached Mizuno last summer and asked that they make modifications so that the balls fell closer to the allowed lower limit of the coefficient of restitution. Baseballs used in 2011 and 2012 were reportedly below the lower limit. The new baseballs were introduced this year.
Up until today, the NPB had been denying that changes were made to the baseball despite an increase in home runs. They had also asked Mizuno not to make any mention of the modifications.
UPDATE 6/12 @ 1:51am -
NPB secretary general Kunio Shimoda:
We asked Mizuno to make adjustments last summer. The [Players Association] was concerned that games were not interesting so we took it under consideration. The problem was that the [baseballs] had coefficient of restitutions that were under the allowed lower limits. We did not make an announcement because we wanted to start this season with the 2013 baseball and use up our stock of balls from last year by using them during intra-squad and exhibition games. The balls may be carrying more, but still not as much in comparison to what was used before the standard ball. I have nothing else to add today.
Source: Sponichi 6/11/2013
Players Association chairman Motohiro Shima:
It is obvious just by playing -- more players are hitting home runs, more players are batting .300, and ERAs are going up. This is affecting players that have performance bonuses based on the year the [standard ball] was introduced. The work environment has change. We do not plan on filing any forms, but the NPB will most likely make an announcement over the next couple days. Both sides need to want to improve Japan's pro yakyu.
Source: Sanspo 6/11/2013
UPDATE 6/12 @ 3:22pm -
The media gathered at the NPB offices this morning but commissioner Ryozo Kato did not show up. The NPB has yet to schedule any sort of a press conference. Mizuno
Better quotes from Shimoda:
Have you looked into the baseball this year?
We have already checked twice. Today, the newest numbers from June came in... 0.415 and 0.416 (the required range is between 0.41 and 0.44). We randomly selected twelve baseballs from stadiums and took the averages. There are differences between each ball. Last year the differences were all over the place and there were some that fell below the required range. For this year, we did some fine-tuning and asked Mizuno [to make baseballs] that were closer to the lower limit. [When did you approach Mizuno?] There would not have been enough time if we asked during the winter. We asked last summer.
Were you planning to announce the change?
No. [Would you have if it did not become a problem?] Well. We are aiming to make the most minimal ball. Nothing has changed in terms of our desire to stay close to the lower limit.
The Players Association is suggesting that this changes the work environment.
There are claims the ball travels more, but the ball is still not traveling as much as it was before the [original] standard ball was introduced.
The lower limit for baseballs is 0.4134. According to NPB tests that were conducted once every two months last year, there were times when the average was around 0.408. The NPB discussed the issue with commissioner Kato, but did not inform the twelve teams what they were doing. The NPB also apparently did not make any announcements because they wanted to use up their remaining stock of 2012 baseballs during intra-squad and exhibition games.
Source: Daily Sports 6/12/2013
The range for baseballs is between 0.4134 and 0.4374. Baseballs in this range will reportedly travel about 109.4 meters under the following conditions: pitched ball is thrown at 144km/h, the bat is swung at 126km/h, and the ball connects with the bat at an angle of twenty-seven degrees. Baseballs from before 2011 traveled about 110.4 meters under the same conditions.
The NPB tested baseballs about once every two months last season. For each test, they collected twelve baseballs from six stadiums.
UPDATE 6/12 @ 9:28pm -
The NPB held a press conference at around 8:00pm tonight. Kato apologized for the distractions and said there was never any intention to hide the change. He also added that he only learned of the change on Tuesday, which runs counter to what Shimoda said to reporters on Tuesday.
Kato does not consider this a scandalous event and is not planning to resign because of it.
Source: Sanspo 6/12/2013
UPDATE 6/12 @ 9:38pm -
The quote from the press conference about Kato's knowledge of the ball:
There was no intention to hide the truth. However, I apologize for the confusion. ... I did not know about this until yesterday. I do not think this is a scandalous problem. Had I known about this, I would have announced it.
Source: Nikkan Sports 6/12/2013
UPDATE 6/12 @ 11:13pm -
A slightly different quote about Kato's knowledge of the ball:
I do not think this is a scandalous problem. I learned about it yesterday. If I knew this is something that should have been announced, it is something I would have announced. I do feel responsible as the chief officer of the executive office. I would like to push for better internal communication and stronger governance.
Source: Sports Hochi 6/12/2013
UPDATE 6/13 @ 2:07am -
A couple updates:
- Mizuno explained at the press conference that they made changes to the rubber that coats the cork in the center -- they adjusted the amounts of natural rubber and low bounce rubber.
- Through to last year, the goal was to manufacture baseballs that were close to the lower limit of 0.4134. Tests conducted last year revealed that there were baseballs with measurements that came in under the lower limit. The goal this season was the make balls that were between 0.415 and 0.416. This would reportedly result in an increase of about forty centimeters in ball flight under test conditions.
Source: Sanspo 6/12/2013
Sponichi has posted a portion of the press conference:
Did you not know what was going on?
I received no explanation from the executive office. I did not know until yesterday. If I had known about it, an announcement would have been made based on NPB policy.
Did you not suspect anything?
I believed in the player's abilities.
What about a resignation?
I feel bad for what this means to the players and to the fans, but I do not think this was a scandalous problem.
You said that the ball was not changed.
I do believe this merits criticism, but we were not trying to hide anything.
What is the organization's responsibility?
I apologize for the distraction and would like to work on strengthening the executive office.
Source: Sponichi 6/12/2013