IN A STUNNING TURN OF EVENTS, LITTLE LEAGUE TO BE COMMENDED FOR MOVING THE RIGHT WAY WITH ITS REVISED PITCH COUNT RULES

                                                                          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.

Stay tuned.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “IN A STUNNING TURN OF EVENTS, LITTLE LEAGUE TO BE COMMENDED FOR MOVING THE RIGHT WAY WITH ITS REVISED PITCH COUNT RULES

  1. Hi Steve,

    I enjoy listening to you and Ric Wolf on FAN’s sports edge on Sunday mornings. I appreciate the fact that you guys are supporting this change of the pitch count rules. I agree that it’s a long time coming, but, in fact, its only been five years. LL is at the forefront of safety and pitch counts go a long way towards meeting that end. What you and Ric need to harp on is these parents who want to push their kids into travel baseball on top of LL (or whatever youth baseball organization of choice may be). These are the kids that are ruining their arms with overuse. LL has done a good job in the recent past protecting the kids arms and this modified pitch count rule will go even further.

    Respectfully,

    Scott A Miller
    DA, CT District 1

  2. Great insight to this ever growing emphasis on winning at all costs including future hs and college participation.

    Does this advice translate to young girl softball pitchers?

    I see 8/9 graders girls pitching varsity in upstate ny, that train obsessively in the off season to the detrement of their arm and shoulder.

  3. I think Steve can tell you that softball pitching is not the same as baseball. Little or no strain on the pitching arm. With that said, we probably need more studies to show how overuse with girls can be potentially as bad as the boys. Bottom line here is that LL is attempting to continue to foster using more boys to pitch in baseball. There are innings pitched rules for girls, but until they prove pitch counts (or some other method) will help control the girls side, things will continue to be different for the softball side of the house.

  4. Steve,
    Excellent comments – we in Canada have adopted many of the recommendations of ASMI and look forward to improving arm safety – check out our system at:
    http://66.241.210.162/files/2008%20Pitch%20Count%20-%20English%20Version.pdf

  5. Ruling is long overdue. Now let’s address a real safety concern for LL pitchers. 12’s turning 13 on a 46 ‘ mound with high performance bats is lunacy. I defy anyone to defend this. There simply is not enough reaction time for the pitcher under these circumstances. Those in charge that continue to ignore this issue will regret it. At the least, the cut-off date needs to be moved back from April to Aug 31 or later. Also, the performance level of the bats used must be governed down. Something need to be done!

  6. Steve,
    Pete Harnisch here. hope all is well. I played baseball at every level and have a bit of a different view. The real problem with young pitchers is the fact that they start throwing breaking balls at way too early of an age. I have personally witnessed 10 year olds throwing curve balls that I could never throw. The amount of strain placed on young arms is very dangerous. I have spoken to and know personally some of the top orthopods in the country. They agree whole heartedly. Young kids in the 10-14 year old range should throw more, not less and only be allowed to throw straight fastballs and straight changeups. tommy John surgeries are performed as early as 12-13 now. When I was young I threw a ball all day long and we had never heard of anyone hurting their arms. Thank you!!

    PH

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