Early Season Youth Pitcher Rotation

Hi.

I am managing a Little League Minors team this Spring and have a question about early season pitcher rotation.

We have 5 experienced pitchers ages 9 to 10. Our season will be 3 months long: a 2-month Regular Season in which we’ll play 2 games per week; followed by 1 month of tournaments.

My question concerns the Regular Season. Normally I would schedule 2 or 3 pitchers for the first game of the week and 2 or three other pitchers for the second game of the week.

It occurred to me, though, that during the first few weeks of the season - perhaps even the first month of the season - it might be better to simply rotate the pitchers on a continuous one-inning-per-pitcher rotation (1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5), so that whoever was next in the rotation at the end of a game would start the next game.

I’ve seen this done by others with youth pitchers, especially early in the season, for the reasons that (a) at the start of the season many of the young pitchers are not in pitching shape and will struggle to go two innings, and (2) this way almost every pitcher will get to pitch in almost every game, that is, he’ll pitch in two games per week instead of only one game per week (assuming there are no pitch limit problems but with one inning per game there really shouldn’t be).

Have any of you tried this before? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

I think this theory is a pretty fair way of doing things, except i would tie the rotation to pitches, not innings. Let each kid throw a set number of pitches, 20, or maybe 30. This does three things: 1) It doesnt penalize a kid his reps for having an efficient inning, 2) It doesnt require a kid who is struggling to continue simply to get in his inning and 3) It keeps you from having to change your plans on the fly if either of the first two scenarios occur (and they will). It will produce more pitching changes during innings, but kids need to learn that too. Keep the pitch count on the down low, that way if a kid ends an inning with 29 pitches you can just start the next kid clean the next inning if you want, or if a kid has a batter 3-2 and has 30, you can give him one more pitch to finish that batter, if you choose.

With the pitch count and rest rules (36+ pitches require two calender days between appearances, 50+ require three days) Kids may or may not be able to pitch twice a week, if you dont actively limit their pitch counts. You’ll be surprised how fast the pitches pile up.

Also, you need to give everyone a chance to pitch, especially in Minors. One way some of my kids coaches have done this was by picking a couple of games during the season and only using the younger, less experienced kids to pitch in that game, even if we got stomped.

Both ideas seem fine but you really don’t consider that some of your other 7 or 8 players probably want/need to develop into pitchers. Is your only interest in pitchers those 5 kids?

What ever you do, don’t discount your tournament pitching needs. It is common to need more pitchers come tournament time because you may play more games in a short time period than during the regular season. Coaches who develop more pitching during the regular season will be in better shape come tournament time.

[quote=“southcarolina”]I think this theory is a pretty fair way of doing things, except i would tie the rotation to pitches, not innings. Let each kid throw a set number of pitches, 20, or maybe 30. This does three things: 1) It doesn’t penalize a kid his reps for having an efficient inning, 2) It doesn’t require a kid who is struggling to continue simply to get in his inning and 3) It keeps you from having to change your plans on the fly if either of the first two scenarios occur (and they will). It will produce more pitching changes during innings, but kids need to learn that too. Keep the pitch count on the down low, that way if a kid ends an inning with 29 pitches you can just start the next kid clean the next inning if you want, or if a kid has a batter 3-2 and has 30, you can give him one more pitch to finish that batter, if you choose.

With the pitch count and rest rules (36+ pitches require two calender days between appearances, 50+ require three days) Kids may or may not be able to pitch twice a week, if you don’t actively limit their pitch counts. You’ll be surprised how fast the pitches pile up. [/quote]

Thanks, yes, I had given that some thought and planned to take into consideration the number of pitches thrown. For example: 3 pitches + 3 outs = the kid obviously gets another inning; 25 pitches + 1 out = the kid may need to be pulled.

I like the pure-pitch-count method you suggest, but if I use 25 and a kid throws 20 in an inning he’s going to want go out for 5 more the next inning and I don’t think that’s necessary or beneficial.

I think scheduling one inning per pitcher and then seeing how the pitch counts go and making adjustments on the fly is the way to go. Heck, no amount of scheduling and planning is ever going to play out as designed anyway, especially at this level!

As for the pitch counts, my “core 5" are all 9 and 10 and so are limited to 75 pitches per game/per week (our league makes the Little League daily limit also a weekly limit). All games early in the season are two full days apart, so each pitcher can easily throw a 20 to 30 pitch inning in each of those early games and be within the league pitch count rule.

What I do is give every kid who demonstrates at least a basic ability to pitch at practice a chance to pitch in games. Unfortunately, as we all know, pitching takes a lot of practice and development over time outside of team practice, and with one team practice per week in the regular season we just don’t have the time to make pitchers out of players who have never pitched before and don’t practice on their own. Our LL Minors is competitive, with division standings and seedings for tournaments at the end of the season.

No. These 5 are the core of my pitching staff as they all pitched in Little League Minors last season. I have another 2 players who pitched at a lower level last season and they will be worked into the rotation as the season progresses. That will give me 7.

But my question is directed at these experienced 5 and the start of the season. By mid-season of course I will have these 5 (and hopefully the other 2) throw 2+ innings per game, depending on their pitch count of course.

Good point.

That’s another reason why I think it’s wise not to push the pitchers too hard early in the season with 2+ innings out of the gate: by April and May, especially May, when it gets hot, they can be gassed.

As for developing other pitchers, yes, as I noted above in response to buwhite, I have another 2 players who pitched at a lower level last season and they will be worked into the rotation as the season progresses. That will give me 7 pitchers, which is plenty. Any more than that and I think the “core 5" may not get the mound time they need.

Thanks for all your input.

It also helps in tournament play to have some pitchers who can throw three innings, and a pleasure at this age for a child to throw more than three innings. Try 2 - 2 - 1 - 1 and try to build up to a 3 - 2 - 1 or a 3 - 1 - 1 - 1 with a 30 pitch bullpen session each week. For the bullpen session, have a coach keep ball:strike percentage. The child will work harder knowing what he is doing is important enough to be measured. Keep a chart, and each week let the child know how they’re doing. I did this last year in the fall. With one boy who thought he was the next Roy Halladay, after 20 p[itches I showed him his percentage - - 1 strike in 20 pitches. Then I recommended a simple change in his stance. In his next 20 pitches, he threw 10 strikes. He was willing to listen because I was able to show him what he was doing was ineffective. From then on, he always wanted to know his strike percentage, and was open to learning.

That starts my point that a team that has 4 to 5 pitchers really doesn’t do well in tournaments, maybe league with 12-14 innings max a week, so many teams say well I only want 11 kids so that everyone get to play, well a good coach that wants to win in tournaments wants 14 even 15 kids, 9 to play and 2 sets of pithchers and catchers (4 players) to put in the bullpen at any time (or all the time), ready to make the change. Most kids cant just come from center field and pitch, they need 15-20 or more (some need 30-40) to really be ready to go. This might not be the right point for 10 yr olds but in tournament ball 12 and up…coaches should be looking for 14 kids with 9 to 10 pitchers to make a really competitive team.

As I wrote above, we have 5 pitchers who pitched in LL Minors last season and 2 other pitchers who pitched at the lower LL level last season who will be brought into the rotation durng the regular season. That’s 7 pitchers, which is more than enough for our Little League tournaments, which are 4 to 5 games over two weeks and not 4 to 5 games over a weekend travel ball tournament.

I did see that, I was hoping to expand the conversation a little into teams that aren’t just playing league but who are possibly moving from league into tournament baseball etc.

accidental double post. Sorry.

Just some thoughts-

I would consider 1 inning per kid at that age a good thing. Better to pitch 1 inning, 2 or three times a week. Again just an opinion.

When I helped coach in that age range we stuck with 1 inning per kid for most of the 1st half of the season. (8 to 10 games) Lots of kids do little or no throwing before their 1st little league practice (not ideal but true) so give them time to ramp up.

We used a pitch counter and talked to the kids about the importance of throwing strikes and getting outs. Kids would run off the field after a quick inning wondering how many pitches were thrown. They started becoming more impressed with low pitch counts over strike outs. Fun to see. As the year would progress if a kid had a good inning we would consider letting them go a second inning. No firm number, 20 pitches with lots of strikes and poor fielding may not keep a kid from going another inning. 20 pitches with control problems and lucky to get out of the inning we’d take them out and work on things next practice.

We usually had 12 kids on a team. 9 would probably end up pitching in games. Why not the other 3? Some did not agree with our approach but we felt if a kid couldn’t throw 50% strikes in a practice situation (throwing on the side with me catching and a generous strike zone that they weren’t ready to pitch in a game.) I was not bothered buy a kid who could get the ball over the plate and kids hit him hard. I think there was a 5 run limit per inning. So if kids put the ball in play and we didn’t make plays and gave up runs as a team so be it. Time to take more ground balls. That’s how kids learn. It’s not boring when the ball is in play. Other teams would put some kids out there that had little to no hope of throwing a strike. Walk the bases loaded and then walk in 5 runs. No one had fun and nothing was learned accept that’s the type of situation that leads kids to saying that baseball is boring. Not to say that good little pitchers won’t have control problems some games but this was not the case all the time. This league, which I really enjoyed being a part of, believed you developed pitchers by putting them in games but we believed you developed pitchers by working with them in practice which we did. All 12 kids. Usually 1 or 2 of the kids were more throwing lessons than working on pitching. Just getting them to get the ball 46 ft. in the air somewhere near a target. And with work the kids who put in the effort made great progress and by the end of the year if a grounder came to them when playing 2B you could expect them to make the throw and they were thrilled. Try to put kids in places where they can succeed and feel good about themselves and maybe they will want to play again next season.

When asked I tell parents if you want your kid to be a good little league player, play a lot of catch. If a kid can play a good game of catch from 40 to 50ft he’s at least going to be a solid player and probably be capable of playing every position. That’s what I’ve always found to be the case.

Finally - Just a gentle reminder to all those who coach little league or might some day. You’re a grown man. Don’t attach your ego to how many games a group of 9 year olds win. Or winning that big season tournament. If you want to take pride in something take pride in helping kids become better ballplayers and Teammates.

Good night everybody.

Good post RJ, thanks for taking the time.

When I coached last year we had 4 sure handed pitchers and 3 that I could work with and 2 of my great pitchers were catchers so I started a pitcher’s only practice and developed my three a other pitchers into relivers. So we would pitch our 1 or 3 pitcher first than our 2 and 4 pitcher the last inning and would through the relivers in for 1or 2 innings. We came in first place and one the county tuorney. Hope that helped

Probably not much help to the OP as this thread was from 5 years ago but it may help someone this year.

Welcome to the board. There’s a wealth of knowledge here. Pull up a chair and sit a while.

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Let your 5 pitches be your starter and closers and see if you can develop 2 relivers