More on Pitch Limits

Youth Forum…what pitch limits do you think certain age groups should be.

8-9?

10-11?

11-13?

or do you think there should be unlimited pitches for each athlete?

I’d like to address this topic from a slightly different approach.

Pitch counts and methods of projecting, stating, qualifying, or anything else that falls within those boundaries are part of, and inclusive, of a much wider purpose. Standing side-by-side are health issues, before and after and appearance, personal life styles, physical condition, nutrition and related qualities of life. Also to consider are a player’s maturity and ability to handle pressure.

In youth baseball, I have found that a generic number usually stands as a benchmark, and is adjusted up or down based on certain things happening or not. I wish I could add to this, but my experience with youth baseball is seriously lacking here.

In any event, a system that would address this subject with the supporting details that I mentioned in my opening paragraph, I think, is far beyond the reach of all youth programs. Parents, legal guardians, amateur coaches and sponsors, just don’t have the resources to employ more than what’s on the ground right now. I would also include all high school programs as well - but then this is an assumption on my part.

Why would I make such an observation?

I would say it’s common for all pitch count system employed by all youth programs, to be the same for a tall, slim, fragile build as it would for a tall, athletic, strong build player of the same age. Also, I would assume a pitch count for a player ten (10) years old coming off the flu from the last five days would be the same as a youngster who has had no such experience. But then again, I’m just assuming. Add to this - mostly high school I guess, a pitcher that has nothing by heat as a inventory would have the same pitch count measure as a pitcher that would have fluff for his/her inventory.

Without any argument from me, I’m sure parents would be the main advocates for managing their son or daughter’s experience, but then again this is an assumption.

I’ve been asked this question over the years by parents, especially after a good showing and therein an interest in pursuing the pitcher’s position. When I start to talk about growth plates, stress and demand loads, nutrition and sleep disciplines, etc., etc., I usually get a …”oh, ahaaa…thanks coach … we’ve got to get going, but nice talking to you…”

For the amateur youth game I guess some sort of measure that limits a youngster’s exposure to injury is necessary. Beyond that, I assume that those involved in youth baseball do there best with what they’ve got.

As far as a number addressing the question with respect to limits, I’ll leave that to those that know the youth game a lot better than I.

Coach B.

Very thoughtful musings, Coach B. It’s little wonder that your community wanted you to coach youth players, even though you always say the youth amateur game is outside of your personal strength.

re: “For the amateur youth game I guess some sort of measure that limits a youngster’s exposure to injury is necessary.”

I think that statement hits the nail on the head. There is really no such thing as a universally sensible “one-size-fits-all” approach to pitch count limitations for any particular age-group; however, it is probably very sensible to take pitch count decisions for kids out of the hands of amateur coaches. There is so much variability in the abilities and attitudes of youth coaches that a “one-size-fits-all” approach that is mandated by youth leagues may be effective in protecting kids from over-use abuses by the worst end of the coaching spectrum.

Ahaaa… that’s what I wanted to say, crisp and to the point.

See, now there’s experience over assumption.

Coach B.

The biggest problem with pitch count limits is that most people totally misunderstand what they’re intended to do, and what they do do.

They aren’t intended to be a cure-all for anything! All they are is an easy way to do what laflippin alluded to, that being to remove decisions for when to remove players from a game period, not just by determining pitch count limits, and not from just amateur coaches.

There’s a lot of complaining and whining from coaches who say they don’t need limits because they KNOW how to judge when to take out a player. The trouble is, the percentage of coaches who truly possess that kind of knowledge are present at the different levels in different percentages. I.e, of all 12U rec coaches, the percentage of ones who have the knowledge is not as high as the percentage who coach 12U ball where there are tryouts. That’s because the coaches at that level are generally more experienced. The same thing happens in each succeeding level as well. The end result is, with the issue completely out of the coach’s hands, its just one less thing to worry about.

But like I’ve said on many other occasions, it isn’t the coaches alone who are the problem. Its parents too! IMHO, a bigger problem is the moron dad who allows his child to pitch in more than one venue, such as LL Inc rec, and on a team that goes to weekend tournaments at the same time, plus does weekly pitching lessons, and he doesn’t make sure everyone knows. Trouble is, there’s no national or even local databases to force all the pitching in games to be made available. Some programs do that, but not many.

Another big problem with them, is that by themselves they don’t really tell a lot. however, for those who’ve been down this road many times before, there’s a realization that something having a great deal of impact on the issue is the amount of rest. Most pitch count limit rules also include minimum rest requirements, but there’s not nearly as much talk about that as just the count limits.

Also, in the last year or so, there’s been a great dial of discussion about how stress impacts the limitations. Its pretty simple. Has a pitcher who’s thrown 100 pitches all from the windup with no runners on, been under less stress than one who’s thrown 100 pitches, but 75 from the stretch?

All of those things and more, affect a pitcher’s state of fatigue, but there’s one factor no one I’ve ever been in contact has explained yet. Let’s say the limit for a 12YO is 85 pitches, but every single indication is, he could easily throw another 20-30 because of all the factors affecting fatigue, but he’s forced out of the game.

Here’s the question. What could that pitcher possibly gain from those additional pitches, even if they caused him no problems? What is it he’s getting cheated out of?

Coach b,

I think you’re right on about everything except for this part:

“Without any argument from me, I’m sure parents would be the main advocates for managing their son or daughter’s experience, but then again this is an assumption.”

This is true only if the parents are aware of the issues. Unfortunately, based on my experience this is often not the case. And it’s why I end up spending time trying to educate the parents of the kids I work with.

Another good reason to listen to the men/ladies with experience in this sector. My assumptions are based on just that, assumptions - not experience.

As laflippin, Roger, JD, and scorekeeper have so nicely put it - it takes people who know the market - sort of speak. My assumptions in this regard would more than like go in the wrong direction, big time.

Coach B.

buwhite,

There’s been lots of good discussion here but no real numbers for you. I’m a big believer that using pitch counts is safer than using innings especially if you believe in added fatigue/damage of high pitch/high stress innings.

I don’t have much experience with the younger ages 10 and below but I’ll tell you what we did at U12. This is pretty much a take-off of the ASMI/USA Baseball/NPA recommendations.

• No more than 100 pitches in any 7 day period.
• We tried to limit kids to around 75 pitches per outing. For the most part 60-65 seemed to be the practical limit before we started to see signs of fatigue. Many were done around 50. A few could get near 85 but usually as a result of stringing together some low pitch innings.
• We considered 20-25 pitches in an inning a “high stress” inning. Two high stress innings and the kid comes out no matter the total count. One high stress inning and he’s “on the clock”. If he went much over 25 in one inning things were going bad anyway and he came out at that point.
• If a kid throws more than 25 pitches in a game he doesn’t pitch the next day.
• No kid pitches twice in the same day unless we rolled right into the next game and all other things were in order.
• Catchers don’t pitch unless they won’t catch for several days i.e. they may pitch in a mid-week house game but not in a weekend tournament.
• Pitchers don’t play SS after pitching or the day after.
• Pitch counts are limits not goals. More short outings are better than one long one.

At U13 we followed the same guidelines but the 7 day max went to around 125. This age was tough though because of the different rates of development of kids, longer games and the likely move to the big field. We didn’t compromise but just had to be better managers of time and pitches.

Most would view this as conservative. It is hard to say whether this actually cost us games or not because looking back we always felt we could have hit better or fielded better.

[quote]All of those things and more, affect a pitcher’s state of fatigue, but there’s one factor no one I’ve ever been in contact has explained yet. Let’s say the limit for a 12YO is 85 pitches, but every single indication is, he could easily throw another 20-30 because of all the factors affecting fatigue, but he’s forced out of the game.

Here’s the question. What could that pitcher possibly gain from those additional pitches, even if they caused him no problems? What is it he’s getting cheated out of?[/quote]

A couple of years ago, as Scorekeeper sort of touched on, we came to the conclusion that winning at 12 or 13 was not worth injury to a kid. There’s too much baseball left in their lives.

We’ve made so much progress in this area in the past 6 yrs, really great to see. Not to revisit all the very good points made, but to touch on 1 … parents. We’ve now addressed the coaches, but if parents continue to work around the recommended guidelines by letting their son pitch for multiple teams in the same season, well it kinda defeats the purpose.

Regardless what the number of pitches is, having a program that regulates that AND recovery days is a huge step forward, and I congratulate all of you involved at the local levels to make this happen…and this includes LLBB, even if they were about 5 years late to the party!

So many good comments have been made on this subject here and I agree with all or most of them. The last comment on “Parents” is so strong that “Parents” can/should consider their kids situation on a day by day basis, but how do parents educate themselves about pitching? This website is great! LLWS highlighting what their rules are has been very positive! But are there other ways?

What should we as “baseball people”, expect from other organizations that aren’t Little League? What about USSSA, they have rules in place added in 2010 but not one tournament my kids were involved with last year (10 tournaments for one and 8 for the other) enforced USSSA pitch limits, except for State and World Series events. How about other local leagues, should they adopt Little League standards? Should they all be sanctioned by Little League? Should NFHS, NCAA or MLB consider the possibilities their involvement for their future players.

Next, when should parents/coaches expect that the player themselves govern their pitch limits? I think that around 14 they should start to understand enough about pitching to consider where they are, they should find out about how many pitches they pitched and take some responsibility about pitching since their future has a lot to do with what they do to improve and manage their own bodies.

How about sites like this publishing, “Suggestions” for parents/coaches/players to follow. All are very difficult questions but helping one more parent or player that has no idea that 250 pitches a weekend is way too much is positive as far as I can see. That one player could be the next great pitcher that might not get the chance to really show his stuff because he has separated growth plate.

A few posts above, JD described a very good and comprehensive approach to handling a youth pitching staff. The only thing I would add to that is to say that pulling that off requires an appropriately sized staff. If you’re only carrying 11 or 12 players so noone has to sit out that much, it’s going to be next to impossible to stick to all of those limits. Of course, if you do manage to stick to the limits, players will sit out more and that can become an issue too.

Roger,

On that note, why do teams only carry 11 or 12 kids max these days. Last year we had 13 and at one point 14 kids on my 13 year olds team and it was great, there was lots of flexibility, players didn’t have to play hurt, you could have 2 pitchers and 2 catchers warming up all the time and didn’t have to take a coach out of the dugout to make that happen. There was competition at all spots for playing time but still loads of playing time to go around since it was at least 4 games each weekend, they played 15 tournaments last year. It made it financially easier and got into more tournaments since there were more players.

Are parents so worried about their kid on the bench for part of the game that they don’t want their kid to compete for spots?

Roger brings up a good point and had my post not been so long I would have addressed roster. I feel you need a minimum of 5-6 solid pitchers and 3-4 more that can fill in. If the whole roster can pitch you’re that much better off. They don’t all have to be “studs” but just not walk a lot of people. IMO errors and walks lose more youth games than the other team stringing together a bunch of hits.

Looking back one thing that helped us was that most tournaments have time limits- usually 2 hours with some even 1:50 so it was unusual to play more than 5 ½ or 6 innings. Throw in some mercy rule situations and getting through a 5 game weekend tournament was fairly manageable. Just don’t leave your “horses” in the “barn” too long. :oops: :frowning:

[quote=“buwhite”]Roger,

On that note, why do teams only carry 11 or 12 kids max these days. Last year we had 13 and at one point 14 kids on my 13 year olds team and it was great, there was lots of flexibility, players didn’t have to play hurt, you could have 2 pitchers and 2 catchers warming up all the time and didn’t have to take a coach out of the dugout to make that happen. There was competition at all spots for playing time but still loads of playing time to go around since it was at least 4 games each weekend, they played 15 tournaments last year. It made it financially easier and got into more tournaments since there were more players.

Are parents so worried about their kid on the bench for part of the game that they don’t want their kid to compete for spots?[/quote]

You got it!

On the travel teams I coached, we tried to have 8 guys that would pitch regularly plus the others who could give and inning or two here or there. And when we had team pitching practices, the whole team participated.

You got it![/quote]

The way you said(wrote) that, you give out the impression that every parent is like that. While I’d agree that every parent would like their child to be the slama jamma super stud on the team, I maintain that most whose child isn’t, understand and accept that, while harboring lots of wishful thinking and hope for the future. IMHO, that wishful thinking and hope is why so many people send an 8-10YO to a private coach and/or spend hundreds if not thousands on every magic piece of equipment that comes down the line, guaranteed to improve every player.

Again, IMHO that parent desire for the best, and most coach’s unwillingness or inability to explain his choices about PT, is a very combustible combination, and the cause for many an ugly confrontation between parents and coaches.

You and JP both make excellent points, and any coach of a travel/select/tournament team that chooses to try to go with fewer pitchers is only looking for eventual problems for the players and the parents.

But for those in HS, let’s not forget that its a completely different animal. First of all, except for private schools, there’s not a whole lot of choice about the available talent. Then there could be as many as 6 grades fighting for spots on the HS teams, since there are some places where MS students are eligible to play on the HS team.

On top of that, there are usually at least 2 teams, V & JV, and often a FR team as well. Depending on the size of the program, its not unusual for the V and JV to siphon off the best FR players, leaving them with significantly less talent than they otherwise would have, and, its exactly the same for the JV as well, because the whole point of the program is to produce the best V team possible.

Then comes the schedule. HS’s in the sun belt have things much easier because of the weather. Heck, in the last 4 years here in Sacramento Metro, our HS team has only had 1 games cancelled. Eat you hearts out you snow bunnies! :wink:

But the best thing about the good weather is, we can easily start playing in mid-Feb, and with all of Mar, Apr, and May available and only at most 5 or so games, the schedule works out to at most 2-3 games per week, except for the Easter and Playoff tournaments. So, while it would be great to have tons of pitchers on a team, and we have done that a couple times, I can tell you that there simply aren’t enough innings to support a lot of pitchers.

We’ve had 7,11,11, and 8 pitchers for the last 4 years, and I can tell you that while its nice to see no one getting overworked, its kinda sad to see a pitcher play fall ball, do all the conditioning in the winter, then do all the practicing during the season, and only get to pitch a few innings all season.

Then on top of all that, in most HS programs, its seldom pitchers will also hit and play positions, so in essence most are PO’s. Now how bad is that? No only don’t some of them get to pitch, other than an occasional pinch running stint, they seldom even get in a game. :frowning:

[quote=“scorekeeper”]
Again, IMHO that parent desire for the best, and most coach’s unwillingness or inability to explain his choices about PT, is a very combustible combination, and the cause for many an ugly confrontation between parents and coaches.[/quote]

This is veering a little OT but at the youth level it’s very important for parents to understand what type of team their kid is joining. Is it a developmental team with equal focus on now and the future or is the goal to play at the highest level possible with the primary emphasis on winning now? If winning now is the focus then be prepared for PT issues. From what I have seen developmental teams typically have smaller rosters and more balanced PT.

IMO for the vast majority of youth players it’s better to play at a lower level and be on the field than on the bench at a higher level. High schools don’t really care what travel team you played for as long as you can play when you get there.

You got it![/quote]

The way you said(wrote) that, you give out the impression that every parent is like that.[/quote]
Of course, what I wrote was a generalization. But, when talking about travel ball, it’s fairly accurate I believe.

I’m as big an opponent of year round youth baseball as there is, and I do believe the incidence of parents who are shall we say, “more interested in their kid’s career than is healthy”, but to believe “every” parent in travel ball doesn’t want their kids to have to compete for spots is way off target.

While to be sure some have the luxury of being able to buy a spot on a team, many like my son had to compete to get on. Now I’m positive that there is at least some percentage of parents of travel ball players who are exactly as you describe them, but for the most part, I think more are like me and my son. You have to keep in mind too, that every travel team isn’t made up of the Type A players with Type A parents. Many are nothing more than some kids getting together to extend baseball season past the 20-25 game normal rec season.