IN 2009, LITTLE LEAGUE TRIES TO FIX THE PITCH-COUNT RULE (AGAIN) AND COMES UP SHORT (AGAIN)

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Last May, an article was written here (Kallas Remarks, 5/8/08) which went into a detailed history of the pitch-count rule and how Little League overrode its doctors’ recommendations of 75 pitcher per game and 100 pitches per week (for 11-12 year-old pitchers) to allow many more pitches to be thrown.  In 2008, Little League made a small effort for a minor correction – they now require, during the regular season, a game of rest so a star pitcher could not do what he did in 2007 – pitch consecutive games on only three days rest.  They, however, made NO changes to the stupid Little League Tournament rule that allows young kids to throw 255+ pitches in SEVEN days.

    

In 2009, Little League has made another small adjustment, discussed below, to the regular season.  Again, however, in the dangerous Williamsport tournament, no changes have been made.

     

2009 LITTLE LEAGUE REGULAR SEASON CHANGE IN PITCH-COUNT RULE

     

Beginning in 2009, during the regular season ONLY, Little League has given the local little league in your town a second option with respect to pitch count.  As many of you know, last year, if an 11-12 year-old threw 61 or more pitches in a game, he/she needed three days of rest (and an intervening game) before he/she could pitch again.  This three-day rest period was less than the prior pitch count pilot program (2005, 2006) which required four days of rest with the same 61 or more pitches thrown by a pitcher.

    

The three-day rest rule remains in effect today as “Option 1” under Little League Rules (See LL Rules and Regulations, Regulation VI (d), Option 1).  But this year, there is now an “Option 2” which reverts the days of rest to four days, the way it was when the pilot program of 2005 and 2006 was in effect based on the recommendations of Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glen Fleisig through USA Baseball (See LL Rules and Regulations, Regulation VI (d), Option 2).

    

Unfortunately, the choice on these options is left to the local league Board of Directors, which will be discussed more below.

     

NO CHANGE IN THE 2009 WILLIAMSPORT TOURNEY PITCH-COUNT RULE

     

More devastating for young pitchers, the Little League, once again, has failed to change the terrible pitch-count rule for the summer Williamsport tournament, which is a six-week extravaganza where young kids’ arms get routinely “abused” (well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tim Kremchek’s word, not mine) by allowing kids to throw 255+ pitches in seven days (as always, these numbers must be compared to the recommendations of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig of 75 pitches per game and 100 PITCHES PER WEEK for 11-12 year-olds).

    

As many of you know, the schedule during the tournament is a hectic one.  Teams often play three games in four or five days or six games in nine or ten days.  Indeed, it’s a poorly kept secret that, in the final week of Williamsport, the two teams that get to the championship game on Sunday, by definition, will have their top pitcher pitch Wednesday-Sunday or even Thursday-Sunday, allowing a young kid to throw 170+ pitches in only four or five days (again, far beyond the doctors’ recommendations of 100 per seven days).

     

So, at the end of August, you’ll read here about four or five pitchers who threw absurd amounts of pitches in seven or eight or nine days, sometimes over 255 in that span (the 255+, for you rookies, comes from the fact that, once you reach the top limit of 85 pitches a game, you are still allowed to finish the batter.  So, it’s not unusual for a pitcher to throw 87, 88, 89 or even 90 (if you go to a 3-2 count on your final batter) pitches in one outing).  

      

SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE?

     

Well, Little League really should have instituted “Option 2” (mandatory four days of rest) as the only option during the regular season.  But, rather than follow the recommendations of world-renowned doctors, they’ve left the decision up to the local boards.  While there are often many right-minded people on these boards, there are also many people who just want to win that Little League Championship and, if this type of person is in control, you’ll see Option 1 voted for and a chance for that top pitcher to be overused during the regular season.

    

Little League simply should have returned to its own pitch count pilot program, doctor-recommended four days of rest in the 61-85+ number of pitches for 11-12 year olds.  If you follow it, you’ll still hear examples of late-in-the-season, three games in six days to finish the schedule.  In that situation, you can bet the house (if it’s still worth something) that a kid will be throwing 170+ pitches in two games in six days.

    

It’s strongly recommended here (as being MUCH closer to the doctors’ — not the board of directors’ or Little League executives’ — recommendations) THAT INDIVIDUAL LEAGUES VOTE FOR OPTION 2 AND TELL LITTLE LEAGUE TO ABOLISH OPTION 1 (Option 2, again, would just be returning Little League to their own doctor-recommended pitch counts and rest used in 2005 and 2006).

        

THE TOURNAMENT IS STILL IN MUCH WORSE SHAPE

        

What about the summer tournament?  Still a pitch-count disaster (255+ in seven days), one can only hope that intelligent Little League parents will protect their own kids by not having them pitch so much and by telling Little League that you don’t want your children exposed to this kind of overuse.  Remember, if any major league pitcher (you know they routinely all pitch with four days rest nowadays) was told by his pitching coach to throw 255 pitches in seven days, then that coach would be fired unless (maybe) it was Game 7 of the playoffs.  Even Little League execs must understand that a 12 year-old can’t be expected to do what no major league pitcher does today – pitch three games in seven days.

    

You read, virtually every year, about Little League pitchers who blow out their arms by pitching too much, too often to chase the prize of getting to Williamsport.  Hopefully, this will be the year when parents (coaches? board members?) will take a stand and say no more of this for our children.

    

This is the year to stand up and be counted. 

     

 © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

Advertisements

13 responses to “IN 2009, LITTLE LEAGUE TRIES TO FIX THE PITCH-COUNT RULE (AGAIN) AND COMES UP SHORT (AGAIN)

  1. That’s why most of the top players here in NC play in NationsBaseball or USSSA, where the pitch counts are strictly observed and kids have a much better chance of getting to high school age with a healthy arm. Little League is a joke.

  2. worldwar1letters

    What seems to be even more dangerous is the Cal Ripken tournament format which to my knowledge has no specific pitch count rules.

  3. However, option 2 eliminates the mandatory game of rest, so if you normally play only 2 games a week, I think option 1 does a better job of protecting the arm than option 2.

    However , I realize that when end of season tournaments come into play, the # of games per week changes.

  4. Our league voted for Option 1. Part of the reasoning was requiring a kid to skip a game. With Option 2 you could have a kid throw 85+ Monday, 85+ Saturday, and then 85+ Thursday. And yes it would happen that teams use only their “star” pitcher at every opportunity at the expense of other kids in order to win. Sad but true.

  5. Our board chose option 1. However our teams usually don’t play more than two games per week, and if we went with option 2–teams could conceivably go the whole season only using 2-3 pitchers. By choosing option 1, we are trying to develop a number of pitchers, and most teams end up using 8-10 kids to pitch during the year.

  6. I never liked the “. . . and a game” rule because it served no protective function when regular schedules were interrupted by weather.

    That has been a regular fact of our May schedule here in central NJ for the last two seasons. In May 2008 my town league team had FOURTEEN days between games because of rain and/or unplayable field conditions. There is no reason that a boy on my team should have been ineligible to pitch because he threw 41 pitches in a game two weeks earlier!

  7. Does anyone happen to know what the modifications for pitch counts are during the district and regional tournaments?

    Also, my opinion on the pitch counts is the exact opposite of popular thought these days. I believe kids don’t throw enough anymore. Back in the day, kids would throw all day long, every single day. That’s all we did was play baseball. We didn’t sit inside and play video games, we played ball. We’d practice day and night and no one had arm problems.

    Today, pitchers from youth baseball to the pros are pitching less and they are injured more. I believe it is attributed to poor mechanics, poor coaching, and general under-use, not over-use. To me, pitching is like golf, it’s a skill sport, and it needs to be practiced over and over to get good. You can’t expect anyone to throw 30 bullpen pitches at 75% intensity and then go out and throw 85+ pitches in a game. The kid is simply not conditioned to do so.

    My son pitches approximately 90 pitches at 100% intensity in his bullpens 2-3 times per week. He’s worked up to that amount so that to throw 85 in a game is second nature to him. He does not get tired and his arm is never sore. It’s always the kids that are babied in practice but increase their workload in games that get injured (not to mention the ones with poor mechanics that pitch “all arm”).

    The only rule I would support regarding youth leagues would be one where a pitcher is restricted to pitching 6 innings over 2 consecutive games. That restricts a team with a “ringer” from pitching him every game and walking away with an undefeated season. If he pitches a complete game, he can’t pitch the next game. If he pitches 5 innings, he can only pitch 1 inning the next game. Now you have a situation where the team has to utilize a second, and maybe a third, pitcher.

    Just my thoughts.

  8. I have to agre with Stu. Growing up, we were taught proper mechanics and our coaches encouraged us to throw for half an hour a day to our parents. Half an hour ended up being 85 to 100 pitches. There was rarely if any pitching related injuries. Little League and coaches can not regulate what my son and I do at home and this is what we practice.
    What I have realized over this year is that the pitch count rules penalize the truly talented pitcher. While skills are learned in practice, strategy and mental preparednes are learned in the game. What happens now is that the top pitcher are “saved” or held in reserve for the “big” game. The result is they get far less in game experience. In 9-10 yr old baseball, our top three pitchers pitch 20 pitches in hopes we can build a comfortable lead and then they are pulled. Then our mediocre pitchers go in are are ridden until hey hit their max. Our top pitchers only ever see more than 20 pitches in important league games or tournament finals.

    Too much emphasis is now placed on pitch count. Coaches now spend more time strategizing on how to work within the count limits than any other aspect of the game. The kids are losing out on learning a lot of game strategy. If you asked my son what is the most important strategic aspect of baseball he would answer “managing pitch count”.
    I whole heartedly agree that the best compromise is teaching proper mechanics, proper arm conditioning, and limiting innings pitched per week to discourage the “ringers”

  9. This is the first article that addresses Little Leagues farce pitching rules. We just played a senior league team in a CHAMPIONSHIP tournament that threw the top pitcher 111 pitches in one evening. We caught them, challenged it and they still got to continue playing dispite the so called rules that little league writes and little league ignores. the team was supposed to be disqualified. NOT. Little League is gutless and is only out for making themselves seem like the mini major leagues. BOTH my sons had arm pain from pitching exactly at the 12-13 year old time, big growth time, and no one cared. I did, and boy was I ignored, NICELY, and they kept pitching them. Honestly, my husband was one of the culprits. He nicely blew me off. the WIN was more important that his arm. Now he doesn’t throw much because he doesn’t want his arm to hurt and his love for the game is DEFINATELY diminshed. Why? Because, simply and only because, the adult MEN can’t say no. That’s why the opposing team kept playing dispite LL’s clear punishment, forfeiture, for deliberately overpitching a player. Oh, and here’s the best part, the idiot rep from the state did NOT know the rule correctly. He interpreted 95 pitches in a DAY, as 95 pitches in a game. Total idiot. Little League lets everyone do whatever they want. I WISH, WISH, WISH we were in a league such as the one mentioned above in NC that really has true limits on these things and STICKS to them. Win or lose. Little League is two faced and is ONLY out to make money for themselves. It’s a horrible example of sportsmanship…..I am looking forward to being an anti little league parent.

  10. worldwar1letters

    The other question I have in watching this year’s Little League World Series is why there is no rule against kids throwing breaking balls. As a youth coach, based on everything I’ve learned from sports medicine there is a greater threat to a player’s arm from throwing curve balls before the age of 15-16 than exceeding the pitch count rules such as they are. I won’t allow any of my players to throw anything but fast balls and change-ups. The benefits of deceiving a batter with a curve ball can also be accomplished with a cut fast ball without endangering the player’s arm. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  11. I guess I’m a little on the other side of the argument. While watching all these games, when the pitcher gets to 85 pitches and has to come out of the game, almost always that team ends up giving up a significant amount of runs and loses the game. I think a kid should be able to go the distance regardless of pitch count. I mean really, how many of these kids are going to be professional ballplayers? Probably less than 1% although I don’t know the real numbers. Let them throw for God’s sake and quit capping their pitch count and let them have fun.

  12. My son was the best pitcher in his 9-10 year old league last year and rarely gave up a hit, and only one unearned run. But at the end of the season, when the playoffs started, games were condensed into a tighter time frame. He pitched 3 innings on a Thursday, and then was started again on Saturday, two days later. After about 10 pitches, I could tell his elbow was bothering him, and I told his coach. His coach continued to pitch him for the rest of the inning and the start of the next. When I saw my son going out to the mound for the second inning and he was still rubbing his elbow, I went to the coach and told him “either you pull him, or I pull him”. He pulled him out and we went on to lose the game, knocking the team out of the playoffs. The coach was mad at me, but I didn’t care. It took about 6 weeks of rest before his arm was back to normal. So, whether you have a pitch count or inning count, someone needs to know when to say “NO”, because most coaches are out to win games, no matter whose arm they ruin.
    BTW, I agree with the writer above who feels that curve balls should be outlawed until age 15 or so. The number of kids having Tommy John surgery before age 15 is on the rise. Someone needs to look out for the best interest of the kids – to protect them from parents or coaches who think that winning is everything.

  13. I just watched my local little league pony division pitch a 7 year old twice in one day throwing 57 pitches the first game and 67 pitches the second game the league commissioner was the players coach and the pony commissioner was the 2nd game umpire and the base umpire was the 1st game umpire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s