Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
According to a source involved with Little League International, the Board of Directors of Little League International has voted to change the pitch-count rules for both the Little League regular season and the Williamsport tournament.
Since this column has always mainly been involved with focusing on the rules for 11-12 (and, now, with the age change, 13)-year-olds, the main group that plays in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, we will continue to focus on this age group. Apparently, according to the source and the text of the rule changes to be made public next week, pitchers under the age of 14 who pitch 66 or more pitches in a day (that would be 66-85 for Little League Majors pitchers) will now need four days of rest during the regular season AND during the tournament.
This is a massive change from the last two years.
In the past, Little League Majors pitchers (again, 11, 12 and 13-year-old pitchers) who threw between 61-85 pitches per day needed only three days of rest (less than pitchers like Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia, just to name two) between starts. Even worse, during the Little League Williamsport tournament, the days of rest were reduced to only two, which gave rise to 11 and 12-year olds potentially throwing up to 170 pitches in four days (more than Cliff or CC) and up to 255 in only seven days (more than all but the sturdiest pitchers in the major leagues).
All of these Little League pitch-count numbers should be viewed in the context of the recommendations made by Dr. James Andrews to U.S.A. Baseball and Little League a few years ago. Those recommendations were for 11 and 12-year-olds to pitch up to 75 pitches a day and 100 pitches per week.
WHY THE CHANGE NOW?
Well, you have to think that Dr. James Andrews was involved in this change. Dr. Andrews (the top expert on the planet about youth pitching injuries), when interviewed a little over two years ago on the rising pitch counts for young kids in Little League, stated that the possibility of a young pitcher throwing 255 pitches in seven days solely in Little League games was “worrisome” to him. He said at the time that it would be monitored. Steve Keener, President of Little League International, also stated when interviewed a little over two years ago that, if Dr. Andrews called him and said that there was a problem with the days of rest, Little League would take a look at the problem.
Presumably, that’s one thing that happened to cause the change.
WHAT ABOUT PITCHERS WHO PITCH IN MULTIPLE LEAGUES?
Little League has long said (correctly) that they should be applauded as the only baseball group to institute pitch counts for young pitchers. And they are totally right. The problem with Little League arose when, after trying a pilot pitch-count program in 2005 and 2006 that required four days of rest between starts, the Little League made the pitch count mandatory in 2007 and changed the days of rest from four days to three in the regular season and to two in the Williamsport tournament.
This “new” change that will be announced nest week is really a return to the Little League pilot program in terms of days of rest.
But where does that leave you, the parent, with a star pitcher who pitches in multiple leagues and is under enormous pressure to win that next “big’ game (you’re told that they are virtually all big games, right)? Well, in that instance (and, frankly, in all instances of pitching), it’s up to you the parent to take charge of when and how much your child pitches. Again, you should speak to your pediatrician, your orthopedist and consider the Dr. Andrews recommendations of 75 pitches per day and 100 pitches per week and decide what is best for your child. Because the child who is forced to pitch beyond his capabilities has a fool for a parent if that parent lets him pitch too much. And, yes, you have often seen this in the Williamsport tournament and many non-Little League tournaments (just win, baby, right?).
With the new rules, at least in the Little League, this shouldn’t happen anymore. Hopefully, other leagues will follow suit (but don’t bet on it).
IS THERE ANY MORE FOR LITTLE LEAGUE TO DO WITH PITCH COUNTS?
Well, under the new rules, young pitchers will now be throwing up to 85 pitches in a day and 170 pitches in six days. While the 85 (as compared to the doctor-recommended 75) has been called a “fudge up” by Dr. Andrews himself, at least it is in the neighborhood of the recommendation. The 170 in six days (by comparison to the doctor-recommended 100) is still obviously 70% higher than what the doctors recommend.
Presumably, Dr. Andrews, who is a national hero in this writer’s opinion for getting the pitch count instituted in the first place, will continue to monitor this number as well. But for Little Leage Baseball to do what it will announce this week is a huge victory for the arms of young pitchers all across America. Little League is to be commended for its actions.
We’ll see what the national reaction to this will be in the coming weeks. And we will see how the implementation of this program goes next season.
© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.