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NPB: Takahiro Arai to discuss the 15-second rule with the NPB

by on Feb.17, 2009 @ 12:29 pm, under NPB
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Takahiro Arai, current President of the Japan Pro Baseball Player's Association, intends on meeting with NPB to discuss the 15-second rule. Said Arai, "I think it's important to meet with the people that decided on the rule. ... I'd like to get all this straightened out before opening day. I understand the need to speed games up, but unless everyone's on the same page, it won't work."

...Yokohama Bay Stars Daisuke Miura tossed 200 pitches in his bullpen session yesterday. He would like to try and throw 1,800 pitches before opening day.

...Softbank Hawks Chris Aguila felt discomfort in his right knee and wasn't available for the intra squad game yesterday.

...Masahiro Tanaka struck out 4 of the 10 batters he faced during situational batting practice yesterday. One of those 4 batters also happened to be Ichiro.

"To throw a slider like that on 3-2 tells me he's really confident of that pitch. I think that's going to be an effective pitch for him," said Ichiro.

...The WBC is looking for some kids under 12 that might be interested in throwing the ceremonial first pitch at one of the WBC games set to take place at the Tokyo Dome. Interested parties should check out the official WBC website for more information.

...The Seibu Lions will be playing an exhibition game against Team China on the 27th.

...WBC training camp photos from February 17th (Sanspo).

...Training camp photos from February 17th (Sanspo).

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NPB: Rule 8.04 (orignally the 12-second rule)

by on Feb.15, 2009 @ 12:22 am, under NPB
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I was trying to find some more information on the updated rules but couldn't. I figured the next best thing would be to show what the original rule was. Here is the original Japanese.

8・04
塁に走者がいないとき、投手はボールを受けた後12秒以内に打者に投球しなければならない。投手がこの規則に違反して試合を長引かせた場合には、球審はボールを宣告する。
12秒の計測は、投手がボールを所持し、打者がバッタースボックスに入り、投手に面したときから始まり、ボールが投手の手から離れたときに終わる。
この規則は、無用な試合引き延ばし行為をやめさせ、試合をスピードアップするために定められたものである。従って、審判員は次のことを強調し、それにもかかわらず、投手の明らかな引き延ばし行為があったときには、 遅滞なく球審はボールを宣告する。
(1) 投球を受けた捕手は、すみやかに投手に返球すること。
(2) また、これを受けた投手は、ただちに投手板を踏んで、投球位置につくこと。

For those of you that can't read Japanese, here is my translation:

Rule 8.04
When there are no runners on base, the pitcher must throw the ball within 12 seconds of getting the ball. If a pitcher is caught violating this rule to delay the game (or literally, "prolong the game"), the umpire will call an automatic ball.

The count-off for 12 seconds will begin once the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the batter's box facing the pitcher. The count-off will end when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.

This rule is intended to eliminate unnecessary deeds and to help speed up the game.

To this end, the umpiring crew should immediately call a ball and emphasize the following if a pitcher is obviously trying to delay the game.

- Catchers should return the ball to the pitcher wihout hesitation

- Pitchers should immediately get ready to throw the ball

How does the update differ from this?

For one, time limit has gone up from 12-seconds to 15-seconds. But don't let that fool you, because the definition of how the 15-seconds is counted off has also changed.

The updated rule apparently states that it's 15-seconds from the moment the catcher returns the ball to the pitcher, to the moment when the pitcher releases the ball.

In order to keep batters honest, the updated rule also supposedly includes a clause that stipulates batter's not being able to step outside of the batter's box without permission from the ump. And that if a batter does step out without permission and the pitcher throws a strike, it becomes official.

It's really too bad that I can't find any official documents reflecting the changes in the rule (I've only managed to find newspaper reports and personal blog posts). If anything, I think this goes a long way to showing just how poorly orchestrated this rule change has been.

I also checked the official NPB site's Q&A section to see if they maybe covered some of the rule changes there, but zippo. The section on NPB rules also reveals nothing.

Unless I'm just not searching in the right places, I think the NPB really dropped the ball here. After the Darvish blow-up and then the Masahiro Tanaka mix-up, it would seem they'd do a little more to try and educate the public as to what's going on (while doing the same for the players and coaches as well).

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NPB: More 15-second rule shenanigans

by on Feb.12, 2009 @ 8:51 am, under NPB
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There are a couple of kinks that still need to be ironed out with regards to the 15-second rule. Today's call against Masahiro Tanaka is a perfect example.

Tanaka was called on the 15-second rule in a practice game earlier today. Nothing really special about that, except how it was called. Seconds earlier, the home plate ump was wiping off the dirt on home plate, ticking seconds off the clock. Time out was never called and Tanaka's 15-seconds were up.


Tanaka appealing the 15-second call...

Tanaka immediately appealed the call, but all the home plate ump could do was say that he would take the suggestion into consideration. "The home plate ump should have called a time out. That was our fault," said Pacific League Chief Umpire Yoshio Maekawa when asked about the call after the game.

...The NPB has been fielding calls from fans regarding the 15-second rule. It appears as though many feel the rule isn't being fair to pitchers.

A representative with the NPB said, "I think the main problem is that no one has explained all the rules."

For example:

  • The rule is not in effect when runners are on base.
  • Batters are not allowed to step out of the box without reason. If a batter does step out without reason and the pitcher throws a strike, that strike will be official.
  • And above all else, the rule is meant to help speed up the game.

The NPB rep added, "The rule is to be used at the discretion of the umps."

...Masahiro Tanaka appears to have picked up a new pitch while playing catch with Hisashi Iwakuma and tossing a WBC-regulate ball around.

"Woah! Ma-kun has a magic pitch. Amazing. It's a new pitch," said Iwakuma after failing to catch the ball thrown to him.

The new pitch appears to be a forkball of some sort that drops off the table a lot more quickly.

(Thanks for the heads up Shin!)

...Training camp photos from February 12th.

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NPB: Fujikawa gets caught on the 15-second rule

by on Feb.11, 2009 @ 8:43 am, under NPB
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The 15-second rule was called against Kyuji Fujikawa today during a practice game between the Hanshin Tigers and Ham Fighters earlier today. Fujikawa entered the game in the second retired the first batter he face. But with the count 2-0 against the number 5 hitter Jason Botts, the plate ump called ball 3. Fujikawa ended up walking Botts and giving up a hit to the next hitter. But he was able to retire the next two batters to get out of a 1-out, 2-on jam.


Fujikawa a little surprised at the 15-second rule getting called

...Aarom Baldiris (Hanshin Tigers) was diagnosed with tendinitis in the left wrist. Wonder if the crazy bat tossing practice had anything to do with it.

Baldiris began feeling pain in the wrist during practice on the 10th and was taken to a hospital for tests on the 11th. He'll be joining the Ni-gun training group while he recuperates. He'll focus primarily on running and throwing and won't be allowed to swing a bat for at least a week.

...Tetsuya Utsumi (Yomiuri Giants) tossed 207 pitches in his bullpen session earlier today.

...More on Atsuya Furuta's visit to Seibu training camp: he caught Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi in the bullpen today.


Furuta with his Swallows' gear on at Seibu training camp

"Both of them have some great pitches. I've seen a lot of curves in my career, but Kishi has one of the best," said Furuta.

(There are a few more images of Furuta at the link up above.)

...Training camp photos from February 11th (Sanspo).

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NPB: Ham Fighters manager to Darvish, "Don’t worry about the 15-second rule"

by on Feb.11, 2009 @ 12:01 am, under NPB
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Masataka Nashida, manager of the Ham Fighters, is telling Yu Darvish to forget about the 15-second rule and simply pitch as he normally does.

"If you worry too much about the 15-second rule, you'll never be able to shake off pitches. He needs to be able to throw the pitches he wants to. If the umpire calls a ball because of that, so what," said Nashida.

...The Yakult Swallows have their eyes on 16-year-old high school pitching prospect, John Clayton. His training grounds are located about 5 minutes away from Yakult training grains and the Swallows are taking advantage of this.

A scout for the Swallows, Keiichi Sakai, has observed Clayton practicing and said, "He's got a balanced form and good control. He has good action in his body and I'm really looking forward to his development."

Clayton can throw a 146km/h fastball and runs the 50m in 6.1 seconds.

...Bobby Valentine promised to provide whatever support he can to help Japan win consecutive WBC Championships. Said Valentine, "If they need some information on US players, I'll give them whatever I have. I just want to help out."

...Yuuki Saito will be wearing the number 11 for Waseda University this season. Incidentally, the number 11 has generally been reserved for the staff ace.

...Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara headed off to their respective training grounds in the States and left their comments.

Kawakami: "I'm feeling a little home sick for Japan and a little unease [about the transition]. ... The last thing I want to do is quit. I'm going to make whatever adjustments I need to and make sure I'm ready for camp."

Uehara: "It's a long trip [to Ft. Lauderdale]. It's February and it feels a little strange that I'm not in Miyazaki with the Giants."

...The "Seibu Dome" name will most likely remain the Seibu Dome in 2009. Seibu management has not been able to find a willing (and appropriate) partner to sell Seibu Dome's naming rights to.

"If there's was a deserving company... But we're in a tough economic crisis right now. I have a feeling the Seibu Dome name will remain as is this year," said team owner Takashi Gotoh.

...Atsuya Furuta dropped by Seibu Lions camp today and apparently caught a few pitchers in the bullpen.

...The future of the Nissan baseball team is unknown. Citing financial reasons as the cause, the Nissan baseball team has been informed that operations will be shut down at the end of December.

The Nissan track & field team and ping pong team have also been given their notices -- both will remain in operation until the end of March.

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NPB: Darvish still steaming, other players chip in, the commissioner responds

by on Feb.09, 2009 @ 9:43 pm, under NPB
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Yu Darvish is still upset. Even before practice sessions could start today, he started spilling his feelings. "It's not like they even asked us if this is alright. Instead they basically tell us, here, this is the new rule! Baseball is a thinking sport; take that away and it's not half as fun anymore. I'd like to hear what other pitchers are thinking," said Darvish.

Hisashi Iwakuma was also asked what he felt: "I think Darvish is right. Games are already being shortened. If you want to shorten them more, just expand the strike zone. Our jobs are on the line here."

Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura added: "The rule is simply nonsense. Baseball was orginally a sport without a time limit. The fans pay good money to come to games, they should want to stay at the ballpark as long as possible."

Masahiro Tanaka also chipped in: "Pitching is all about rhythm and timing."

The commissioner, Ryozo Kato, responded by saying, "Games in the majors are about 2 hours and 40 minutes long. ... I'm not trying to make games difficult. I just want to make sure fans are disappointed by 'watered-down' baseball. ... These are professionals, they'll get used to it. I have no intention of pulling the rule back before it's even tried."

...The Giants are really working their rookie, Taishi Ohta. He stayed behind an extra hour for special fielding work yesterday. Ohta has already dropped 2kg (~4.4 pounds) since the start of training camp.


Ohta taking extra ground balls

...From a brief Sanspo Q&A with Yoshinori Sato:

On your first BP session:
I was a little more unbalanced during my bullpen sessions, but now that I had a batter to focus on, I felt like I was able to throw better pitches. I had a pretty good grip on the ball.

On pitching to Norichika Aoki:
It was decided [that I face him] at the last minute so I was surprised. I was able to go after him this year [unlike last year]. I was able to hit the spots more than usual.

On the increased number of pitches:
The worst part is the uneveness (I wish it was more consistent). I still can't put all my weight on my left left so I need to be careful.

On getting the nod to start against the Tigers during a practice game on the 15th:
More than actual results, I want to work on my pacing in live game situations and ramp up my efforts in time for opening day.

...There is a movement to make Nagoya Kyujo a cultural treasure. The stadium celebrated it's 60th season last year and is currently home to the Ni-gun Dragons.


Source: wiki.jp

You can see more pictures here and here and here.

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NPB: 15-second rule put down by Darvish

by on Feb.09, 2009 @ 1:05 am, under NPB
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Yu Darvish had a bit of a blow-up during "sheet dageki" yesterday. (Sheet dageki is situational hitting practice.)

The NPB announced a new 15-second rule in January that requires pitchers to pitch balls within 15 seconds of getting the ball back from the catcher. Failure to do so results in an automatic ball call. The prior rule called for the pitcher to pitch the ball within 12-seconds of "getting ready to face the batter." The new rule was introduced to help speed games up.

But back to Darvish... During situational practice yesterday, with the count 1-2 against Yoshio Itoi, Darvish shook the catcher off twice. The a field ump called out that he was taking too long and then the plate ump immediately called out ball. Darvish was confused and didn't realize the 15-second rule was being enforced.


A confused Darvish after the 15-second rule was called

"Normally, they don't take the 15-second rule during situational practice. How am I supposed to pitch properly if I have to pitch within 15-seconds of gettting the ball back from the catcher? This isn't baseball," said Darvish.

"I can understand if it's 15-seconds from the set position, but otherwise pitchers need to use the rosin bag, look around to see what the situation is... That means pitchers only have about 3-seconds to decide which pitch to throw. This is our jobs we're talking about here. ... Expanding the strike zone would make things go much faster than this rule" added Darvish.

15-seconds does seem a bit harsh. And I would have to agree with Darvish: expanding the zone would probably speed games up a lot more effectively than rushing pitchers. It'll be interesting to see how this new rule affects play (and stats) over the course of the season. Wonder who the first victim pitcher will be.

BTW: my apologies for not covering the 15-second rule in previous posts. I'm not really sure how I missed that.

...Kohei Hasebe (Rakuten Eagles) tossed 66 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday (with the catcher standing). Hasebe is coming off of left knee surgery (a meniscus injury) and is currently working out of Ni-gun training camp.

"I'm trying to time my schedule to coincide with opening day. I'm feeling better this year than I did last year at this time," said Hasebe.

...Yoshinobu Takahashi (Yomiuri Giants) is on a separate training schedule due to fears that his lower back pains might return. His training schedule is ramping up little by little, but he's still not ready to join the rest of the team in practice.

"I really want to train with the rest of the guys, but it can't be helped at this point," said Takahashi.

...Katsuya Nomura set Masahiro Tanaka's goal for the season (during his 86 pitch bullpen session yesterday): a 15-3 record. Said Nomura, "Reward? If it's a wristwatch, I'll give him whatever he wants of mine."

A wristwatch collector, Tanaka replied, "I'll take a look at his collection and think about which one I want. I really want to do my best to meet his expectations."

...A bleeding finger didn't stop Shinobu Fukuhara (Hanshin Tigers) from tossing 134 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday. Fukuhara cut his right ring finger after tossing about 30+ pitches. After getting the cut, he shouted out, "I have a cut. Bandaid!"

Fukuhara was originally slated to toss 70 pitches in his session. Said Fukuhara, "My fingernail just got caught [on my ring finger]. No big deal. ... I was able to make my pitches. I think I'm progressing at a nice pace. And I'm not hurt."

...Norichika Aoki has said that he's ready to play the infield at the WBC if it came to that.

"Infield? Of course! I even have a glove for that," said Aoki. But not wanting to step on any toes, he added, "I don't want to say too much though because it would be disrespectful of the infielders we already have on the roster."

Aoki obviously won't be playing the infield unless there's an emergency, but it should help the team to know that he's willing (and preparing) to play the infield if needed. Aoki has practiced at second before in the past.

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