When Pitch Counts Are Absolutely Necessary.

The Little League World Series is coming round in a few months or so (at least I think so, I was reminded of this by the occasional “Earn Your Stripes” Frosted Flakes ads that seem to be popping up at the WWL’s web site now and then as a reminder; I remember ads likea good little consumer.) With that ABC/ESPN promoted spectacle in mind, an NYT article on a new regulated pitch count for Little League is timely, as qualifying for Williamsport isn’t all that far away Little League International has now restricted counts at the younger levels to 75 pitches, and 85 at the higher levels, in order to preserve the throwing arms of pitchers that are still growing.

The old rules restricted pitchers to six innings (the length of a routine game) in one week or in one game. The new guidelines are adjusted by age, limiting 9- and 10-year-old players to 75 pitches a game regardless of the number of innings, while 11- and 12-year-olds are held to 85 pitches. The scale increases to 105 pitches for the oldest pitchers in Little League.

Also, there are now rest requirements between outings so that most players are prohibited from pitching for three days after throwing more than 61 pitches or two days after throwing 41 to 60 pitches. A two-year Little League pitch-count pilot program, and the advice of noted sports medicine specialists, helped Little League arrive at the parameters of the new regulations.

Useful as a general rule, but the problem is, as usual, that Little League games aren’t the only ones the older players get involved in. Like every other sport that feeds a talent pipeline, there are travel and AAU-style teams, and they’re not affected by these regulations. However, managers are taking them into account, but the whims, are of course, left to the parents:

Little League said it hoped its new rules would put pressure on travel teams, but that could be difficult because the weekend tournaments are not governed by a single organizing body. In the end, limiting the number of pitches thrown in a given week or season is likely to be left up to parents.

Hopefully it turns out well enough. We’ve had enough sports parent horror stories, and get more of them on a daily basis, to see the possibilities in this, and it will change the actual kids we see pitching in the LLWS, since there will have to be more than the usual two starters that seem to rotate for each team that makes it to the Series. It may actually even out more of the games; a mandated rule for health that would accidentally bring parity (not like rotating new kids in to the teams, plus the fact that each region usually has a champion from a different city or state each year doesn’t hurt either.)

I’m still wondering why these kids even throw curves.  I have a few co-workers with kids in Little League — many of them have coaches that won’t let the kids throw anything other than fastballs and change-ups for arm reasons, but every year I see some 12-year old with a curve or a knuckler (which probably isn’t as harmful, but still).

Pitching Change Intended to Save Young Pitchers Arms [New York Times]

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9 Responses

  1. […] Can you believe we have to remind adults not to blow out the arms of 12-year-olds? […]

  2. What’s interesting is that the dominant pitchers are now throwing more innings with the new pitch count limitations than they did with the old innings limitation. That said, the innings limit was higher in tournament play, so the conclusions in the article may pan out to be true. It certainly hasn’t worked out that way in regular season league play.

  3. […] When Pitch Counts Are Absolutely Necessary. The Little League World Series is coming round in a few months or so (at least I think so, I was reminded of this by […] […]

  4. What’s a Little League anyway? Is that where little children hit baseballs so they catch them them easily? I want to see that… seeing cute little kids playing it would be funny.

  5. You are right; there should be a better system. But Little League has a point. With kids playing in more than one league, only parents can regulate pitch counts. It’s just a shame that so many parents are either hyper-competitive or completely oblivious.

  6. God bless the parents who sit on their hands and watch as their little boys and girls play by the rules in mediocrity while the young pheenoms spark and then fizzle.

  7. Kaida,
    I think you’re referring to Tee-Ball.

    As for the pitch counts, I think it’s a good idea. If you’re going to have restrictions, pitch count is a better indicator than innings. And I think the tiered rest requirements have been good to see in previous years.

  8. Forgot to mention also, that I saw Danny Almonte pitching unaffiliated minor league baseball the other day. Try Googling it.

  9. It’s a good effort by the leagues, but as you pointed out the real problem these days as I see it is that parents have their kids playing for 2-3 teams, have a pitching coach, and also make them throw on the side. Then they sit and wonder why their kids need Tommy John surgery before they finish high school.

    It’s totally screwed up, but I think the problem might be with the frequency these parents make their kids throw, not necessarily their pitch counts in games.

    But still, at least someone appears to care. Too bad its not the parents themselves.

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