The new, home run-supressing NPB ball has brought a Japan-wide "year of the pitcher". Five NPB's 12 teams have team ERAs under 3.00, led by Nippon Ham's amazing 2.02 mark. But the thing that's jumped out at me is number of guys with unbelievable K:BB ratios. Check these out:
- (pitcher – K:BB, IP)
- Yu Darvish – 106:10, 92 IP
- Masahiro Tanaka – 96:7, 91.1 IP
- Yoshihisa Naruse – 81:6, 83 IP
- Masaru Takeda – 45:3, 74 IP
- Yoshihisa Hirano – 42:2, 32.1 IP
- Dennis Sarfate – 40:4, 26.2 IP
- Takuya Asao – 29:2, 29 IP
Those are just the guys with ratios of 10:1 or better. There are number of others with ratios in the 4:1 or 5:1 range.
So what's going on here? These guys were all very good already, but they didn't all take this type of step forward at once. My guess is that the new ball has enabled pitchers to attack the strike zone more aggressively, with less fear of surrendering a home run. That's just an untested theory at this point though.