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Commissioner Kato denies Balentien’s homers related to altered ball

Kyodo

Embattled Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato says the baseball secretly altered by the Japanese league this season has nothing to do with the record-chasing 52 home runs hit by Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien.

“I doubt the ball really has anything to do with it. He is hitting that many because he has become used to (Japanese pitchers),” Kato told reporters Monday.

This season, Japanese baseball has seen a marked increase in the number of home runs hit using the livelier ball.

Balentien last Friday hit his 52nd home run of the season, moving to within three of NPB’s record of 55. There are still 28 games remaining for him to break the record.

“To be hitting over 50 homers at the end of August is amazing,” said Kato. “I hope he (Balentien) avoids injury and plays in all of the remaining games and increases the overall number of home runs.”

Japan’s single-season record of 55 was set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and has been equaled twice, by American Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Venezuelan Alex Cabrera the following season. Each time, the mark was achieved in a 140-game season.

A third-party panel investigating why NPB altered its baseballs in secret is set to produce a report on the scandal at the end of September.

  • Steve Novosel

    It absolutely has nothing to do with it. He’s hit 17 more than anyone else – if it were a juiced ball issue everybody would be hitting a ridiculous amount.

    Really, the number of home runs is only markedly increased over the past two years, when the ball was especially dead. There’s been fewer homers hit than in, say, 2010.

  • Clint Hulsey

    It should be noted, that home runs are still not where they were before the ball change before 2011:

    2013 Central League: 2.2 % of Plate Appearances

    2012: 1.4 %

    2011: 1.5 %

    2010: 2.6 %

    When Oh did it in 64, 2.3% of all PAs ended in homers, 3.1 % when Rhodes did it in 2001, 2.8 % in 2002 for Cabrera’s season.

    (Thanks to Baseball Reference’s recent advancements in NPB stats for making this data easy to find).

  • Gonzaimon

    So at least the pitchers will have to pitch to him, not like those whimps in Fukuoka. They wouldn’t pitch to Tuffy Rhodes the last game of the season, because Oh was their manager. They couldn’t face the challenge and Oh didn’t force the issue. It was pathetic. Did pitchers in the Major League stop pitching to Ichiro when he approached his hits in a season record?