September 15, 2013

Japan Professsional Baseball: Balentien sets new single-season home run record: September 15, 2013: Wladimir Balentien of the Yakult Swallows set a new single-season home run record for Japan Professional Baseball, hitting #56 in the first inning off Hanshin pitcher Daiki Enokida for a two-run shot, and then extending his own record with #57, a solo shot (also off Enokida), in the third inning. The former record of 55 had been set by world homerun champion Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants in 1964 and then equalled by Tuffy Rhodes (Kintetsu Buffaloes) in 2001 and Alex Cabrera (Seibu Lions) in 2002.

Since the end of the 1985 season, when the record was first seriously challenged by Randy Bass (Hanshin Tigers), Oh's mark has sometimes been labelled the phoniest record in professional baseball because of the extent to which Japanese pitcher and coaches had gone to prevent foreign players in particular from surpassing it. Unlike Bass, Rhodes and Cabrera, Balentien's chase has not been frustrated by a similar chain of intentional walks as he has closed in on 55. Further, his accomplishment comes with 19 games still remaining on Yakult's schedule, so it will be interesting to see how far he can extend the new record.

posted by billinnagoya to baseball at 08:11 AM - 6 comments


posted by grum@work at 10:08 AM on September 15, 2013

There's some controversy this year around the baseballs being used and the sheer uptick of home runs being allowed.

posted by dfleming at 10:35 AM on September 15, 2013

私は彼がパフォーマンス向上薬を使用しなかったと思います。 僕も。または、報道者の間でも薬物使用の噂もない。

As for the NYT article dfleming linked discussing the lively ball controversy, the article is of course chocked with hyperbole (i.e. check swing hits flying out of parks). More to the point, though, as the article notes near the end, the reported outrage has more to do with the power the Yomiuri Giants have long enjoyed to dictate their will on the leagues than it really is about increased offensive production. Nor have any of the sports writers here pursued that line of critque to cast a shadow over Balentien's challenge to the record. I would imagine they realize any advantages Balentien MAY have received from the new ball are offset by the livelier "compressed" bats that were legal in Oh's day (and which Oh used) and the shorter fences in the ballparks of that era.

posted by billinnagoya at 07:14 AM on September 16, 2013

...offset by the livelier "compressed" bats that were legal in Oh's day...

You have anything more on this? Google search didn't turn up much.

posted by tron7 at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2013

Thanks Grum - honestly, I read it in about three articles this year (I don't read much about Japan's leagues), but really hadn't a clue whether or not it was actually a thing in Japan or not.

posted by dfleming at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2013

You have anything more on this? Google search didn't turn up much.

I first came across reference to it quite a few years ago in one of Robert Whiting's books on Japanese baseball (The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, You Gotta Have Wa, The Samurai Way of Baseball), but which one I don't remember off hand. Whiting mentions it often, such as this 2008 three-part column for the Japan Times, or this 2007 column for the New York Times. Jack Gallagher, executive sports editor for the Japan Times, also talks about it in a recent article. Gallagher adds that such bats were finally outlawed by the Japanese leagues in 1982--two years after Oh retired.

posted by billinnagoya at 06:33 PM on September 16, 2013

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.