What do you do when your league is sucked into a 1968 time warp, and everyone stops hitting? Monkey with the ball, of course. That's what happened in Japan, which has been in a league-wide offensive slump for the last two years. There was just one little thing about the new ball: It was kept a secret.
But on Tuesday the NPB came clean, saying it had asked manufacturer Mizuno to "adjust" the ball to give it greater bounce off the bat and had demanded the company keep quiet about the switch.
"Our understanding was that it would be a matter of fine-tuning," said NPB secretary general Kunio Shimoda.
Juuust a little fine-tuning. But it's not totally out of control. Through Tuesday, the Central League is hitting .248/.317/.362 and had a 3.66 ERA. Last year, the league hit .244/.310/.338 and had a 2.86 ERA. More dingers and more runs, but it isn't exactly 1999 Coors Field around the NPB.
In case you were wondering, Matt Murton is hitting .350/.400/.496 with six homers, and Wladimir Balentien might be on pace to be the league's MVP. You were not wondering.