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Hitachi

Hitachi Research Institute

President Column

Commentary by our President, Hitoshi Shirai

President Column #17: Monster Legends

 The era of IoT has arrived and it is becoming possible to measure and analyze various kinds of data in real time using a sensor and other devices. The availability of data allows us to compare various matters. Conversely, in earlier times when data was not available, our imaginations expanded and various “legends” were born.

 The Hitachi Research Institute (HRI) has conducted research exchanges for many years with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Located in Boston, Massachusetts on the east coast of the United States, the Fletcher School is a leading institute in the academic study of U.S. politics, government, and international affairs. In the early spring of 2007, I had the opportunity to have a meal with a professor from the Fletcher School who was visiting HRI. Boston also happens to be the home of the Red Sox, a distinguished baseball team in Major League Baseball (MLB). This professor was a big fan of the Red Sox and the minute we met, he started talking about them excitedly. “This year a fantastic pitcher from Japan is coming to join the Red Sox. I don’t quite remember his real name but everyone in Boston is already calling him Dice-K. He is supposed to throw a wicked pitch called the “gyroball.” Daisuke Matsuzaka is the real name of Dice-K, who was also dubbed the “monster of the Heisei Era.” He joined the Red Sox that year with a six-year contract worth $52 million (approximately 6.0 billion yen at the time). Daisuke’s career took off after his team won the championship of the National High School Baseball Championship in the summer tournament at the Koshien Stadium while he was a student of Yokohama High School. He later set numerous records while playing for the Seibu Lions, a Japanese professional baseball team. His nickname Dice-K is a play on words based on the pronunciation of his real name “Daisuke” and “K,” which stands for a strikeout in a baseball scorebook. Perhaps “K” also stood for expectations of Matsuzaka to score many strikeouts, and “Dice” for the team’s gamble in investing more than $100 million dollars in total including funds paid to secure exclusive negotiation rights to sign Matsuzaka on to the team.

 If we go back to the year 1973, during the spring tournament of the National Invitation High School Baseball, there was a pitcher who was drawing nationwide attention even before the opening of the tournament. He scored no-hitters eight times (including two perfect games) during the prefectural qualifying rounds. Even during other games, he established a reputation for never allowing more than one or two hits at any game he played. While still a high school student, he was already dubbed the “Monster of the Showa Era.” The real name of this particular “monster” was Suguru Egawa. He also made his debut at Koshien during the summer tournament as the ace pitcher for Sakushin Gakuin School in Tochigi Prefecture. In the first game right after the opening ceremony, Egawa’s school took on Hokuyo High School, a local Osaka school that boasted the highest team batting average out of the 30 participating teams. The live radio coverage at the time clearly showed that even the radio announcer, who was supposed to cover the game in a calm and collected manner, was clearly excited. It was only natural. The first inning finished after only 15 balls were pitched and three players were struck out without a single ball ever coming into contact with a bat. In the second inning, the fifth batter on the 23rd ball that was pitched finally hit the ball, but it ended up a foul ball. Nevertheless, the very fact that a ball actually made contact with the bat caused the entire Koshien Stadium to erupt in reverberating cheers that were audible from the radio. Just for the record, there was another reason why Egawa was called the “monster.” He was naturally endowed with a set of large ears, and it is said that his physical appearance resembled that of a comic book character called “Kaibutsukun” created by Fujiko Fujio A.

  Anyone who looks back at the history of Japanese professional baseball will find “monster legends” about a host of powerful pitchers including some that date back to the prewar era. So, who is the greatest “monster” pitcher in the history of Japanese professional baseball? Could it be Egawa, Matsuzaka, or Shohei Ohtani, who currently plays for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters? Underlying the development of a “monster legend” is the reality that the comparison of players over generations is next to impossible due to a lack of data. It was not until 1976 that the speed gun was introduced in Japan, and it was 1979 before ball speed was first demonstrated during television broadcasting of a baseball game. Moreover, it was not until 1980 that the speed of a ball using a speed gun was shown for the first time at Koshien Stadium, the center of high school baseball. We often hear some express the view that the strength of a pitcher cannot be measured by the speed of a pitched ball alone. These people claim that a pitcher’s strength has more to do with the weight or the spin of the pitched ball. If this is true, comparison of the “monsters” of earlier eras is all the more difficult.

  If we can take measurements and collect data, we will be able to formulate countermeasures in response by analyzing the measurements and data. We will also be able to estimate how much time and money are required for such measures. Romantic stories like “monster legends” may be lost in the process, but the establishment of such a process will become extremely important in the economic society of the future. In China, the Ministry of Environmental Protection under the umbrella of the State Council of the central government recently launched a full-fledged initiative that requires local governments to measure pollution conditions in rivers, lakes and soil. Once the collected data clarifies the pollution conditions, local governments will be able to consider the extent to which they can clean up the pollution based on a given budget.

  At present, HRI is advocating an MRV revolution in today’s social systems. “MRV” is an acronym for “measure, report, and verify.” In society today, the measurement and collection of data remain inadequate not only in the area of the environment but also in areas of finance and compliance, for example. On occasion, this inadequacy leads to serious consequences. If we can move ahead with the development of systems through the effective use of technology, we will find that there are still many areas where we can reduce risk and enhance efficiency.

(Literary reference)
“A Pitch for the Truth” by Masashi Matsui (Take Shobo, 2009)