Baseball / Japanese Baseball

NPB reduces interleague schedule


Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central and Pacific leagues agreed Monday to switch to an 18-game interleague format next season.

The representatives for NPB’s 12 teams adopted the change from 24 games to 18 as the Pacific League clubs gave in to the Central League demands for a shorter interleague season. The PL had sought to keep the current system, in which each club plays each team from the other league in two sets of two-game series.

The new format will see each team play a three-game home series against three of the other league’s teams, while playing the other three on the road. The following season, home and road interleague matchups will be reversed. The change will see both leagues go from a 144-game season to 143.
Hiroshima Carp official Kiyoaki Suzuki said the focus should be on league play.

“The most important thing is our league games,” said Suzuki. “The best thing to do is to arrange things in order to deal with our league games.”
PL teams have a .526 winning percentage from the 1,440 interleague games played, with the Carp suffering more than any of their CL rivals. Through Monday, the Carp have a .413 interleague winning percentage, compared with .462 against CL teams since 2005.

Interleague began in 2005 and lasted for two seasons as a 36-game format, but the CL pressed for a reduction to 24 games because large numbers of off days were needed to allow for postponed games to be concluded.

The CL, however, had also been unhappy with the frequent travel needed for the 24-game format that began in 2007. The league used the current increase in national team games as leverage in the negotiations, suggesting more top-level international competition requires a more efficient schedule.

“The PL had opposing opinions, but it is a scheduling problem so our course of action requires the combined efforts of all 12 teams,” said Orix’s Yoshio Murayama, who is currently acting as the PL’s chairman of the board.

Although the PL had pressed to introduce interleague competition for years, the CL only accepted it toward the end of the 2004 season. This came as a part of the labor settlement after players struck to protest NPB’s unilateral decision to reduce the number of teams from 12 to 11.

In the settlement, the players association recognized the merger of the PL’s Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix Buffaloes in exchange for the introduction of interleague play and the establishment of a PL expansion franchise that became the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.