Tag Archives: Dr. James Andrews

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.

Advertisements

LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES PITCH COUNTS STILL TERRIBLE IN 2009

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

When legendary Dr. James Andrews and his second-in-command, Dr. Glen Fleisig, made pitch-count recommendations to USA Baseball which were then made to, among others, Little League Baseball, they recommended 75 pitches per game and 100 pitches per week for 11-12 year-olds.  When Little League ran their pilot program in 2005 and 2006, they finished the program by allowing these same-aged pitchers to throw 85 pitches per game and, with four days rest, throw another 85 for a total of 170 in six days. 

In 2007, when the Little League pitch count became mandatory, Little League, without telling anyone, changed the days of rest from the pilot program’s four days to just three days.  Worse, for the Williamsport Tournament, Little League required only two days of rest (seriously) with one game in between.  Thus, 12-year-old Johnnie could legally (and Little League-sanctioned) throw up to 170 pitches in only four days and up to 225 pitches in only seven days.  Remember that the following numbers are always measured against the doctors’ recommendations to Little League of 75 pitches per game and 100 pitches per week. 

THE 2009 LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES (“LLWS”) 

While there are a number of Little League pitchers who threw astronomical amounts of pitches in four days, the first pitcher to focus on is Raymundo Berrones of Mexico.  Berrones threw 85 pitches on 8/22, 87 pitches on 8/26 and pitched poorly on 8/30, throwing 57 pitches to get only four outs in a consolation game (had he pitched well he no doubt would have reached the 255+ mark). 

In any event, Berrones threw 229 pitches in nine days, a staggering number for a kid who should only be throwing in the neighborhood of 100 in seven days (according to the doctors).  To compare, in the same time frame, good major league pitchers like Matt Garza (Tampa Bay – 198) and Chad Billingsley (LA Dodgers – 193) threw less.  Indeed, top pitchers like Chris Carpenter (St. Louis – 200), Mark Buerhle (White Sox – 201) and A.J. Burnett (Yankees – 202) didn’t throw as many during the same period. 

You had to go to stud pitchers like Tim Lincecum (S.F. Giants – a staggering 248) and C.C. Sabathia (Yankees – 231) to find pitchers who threw more than the Little Leaguer in the same time frame. 

IT’S WORSE THIS YEAR FOR FOUR DAYS 

The bigger problem in 2009 came for pitches thrown in four days.  For example, Trae Cropp, pitching for the Midwest, threw 86 pitches on 8/21 and, on TWO days rest, threw a staggering 90 pitches on 8/24 for a total of 176 in four days (remember, the 85 limit can be raised because you are allowed to finish the batter you throw your 85th pitch to).  Other staggering totals:  Marcelo Martinez of Mexico (173 in four days); William Mansfield of the Northwest team (162 in four days); and Jose Martinez of the Latin American team (156 in four days). 

To compare, the major league pitchers who threw as many or more pitches than these Little League kids threw in this time frame include …, include…, include…, well, NOBODY.  Nobody in major league baseball would throw a pitcher today on two days rest (shades of Sandy Koufax and the 1965 World Series).  The pitching coach and/or manager would certainly be fired if they tried to do it on a regular basis. 

And remember, the absurd numbers of the kids above is perfectly legal under Little League rules and has nothing to do with kids pitching in any other league. 

No matter what anybody tells you, this is a big, big problem. 

WHAT CAN REALLY BE DONE? 

Well, here’s what can really be done:  Steve Keener, President of Little League, is on the record as saying that, if Dr. James Andrews came to Keener and said the 255 in seven or 170 in four is too much, Keener and Little League would “take a look at it.”  Dr.  Andrews is clearly concerned with these big pitch numbers for young kids.  In fact, Dr. Andrews is starting his own “Council of Champions” to deal with this and other youth sports issues. 

Dr. Andrews, who should be considered a national hero for getting Little League to institute the original pitch-count rule, can now improve the rule by convincing Little League to go BACK to the way it was during the pitch-count pilot program – that is, four days of rest between starts.  If nothing else, that would put kids on a par with professional pitchers who routinely throw with four days of rest. 

Little League, an entity which should also be highly commended for instituting the original pitch-count rule, has gone the wrong way by watering down the days of rest so as to make pitch counts unrecognizable compared to the original doctors’ recommendations (today’s 255 pitches in seven days in no way resembles the 100 pitches in seven days originally recommended by the doctors and USA Baseball). 

If Steve Keener will listen to Dr. Andrews, who is now on the Little League Board of Directors, then hopefully Dr. Andrews will speak to Steve Keener and tell him this is simply too much and too dangerous for young arms. 

With the recent attempts by some doctors to “change the conversation” on curve ball use (see Kallas Remarks, 7/31/09) to focus more on overuse, how can anyone in good conscience allow children to continue to throw more than major leaguers?  It simply makes no sense.     

Here’s hoping that Dr. James Andrews will step up to the plate again and inform Steve Keener and the powers-that-be at Little League International that their pitch count is just too high and is hurting young kids’ arms. 

If he does, hopefully Little League won’t throw him a curve ball (pun intended).  We’ll see what (if anything) happens for 2010.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.