My experience as a dad with 2 sons who underwent Tommy John surgery and their reaction to the time they realized they were hurting…but that protecting their arms was no longer what they felt was most important.
From the link (not from me)…
If a pitcher isn’t a prospect, it’s foolish to hold him or his coach accountable for protecting the health of his arm as though he had a long, bright future ahead as a pitcher.
I’m not sure I fully agree with that. The health of the athletes is something that should be protected, within ability to do so.
It’s up to the head coach to assign someone competent to personally watch the pitcher for signs of fatigue or pain as well as continuing to talk with the pitcher to get as much information as possible to make informed decisions about managing the outing.
The simple truth is that competitive athletes will often lie to remain in the game, so what you hear needs to be compared to what you see as the coach. When in doubt, pull 'em out.
There is something to be said for managing pitches per inning and noting that the pitcher has sufficient recovery time between innings. A pitcher is less likely to go deep into the game when he pitches through a tough inning before or after his team has a brief offensive inning. Throwing 30+ in an inning right after or before your team goes 1-2-3 in their half of the frame is when the pitching coach / head coach should be paying close attention. Most pitchers can’t sustain that pace for more than a couple of innings without beginning to fatigue. Do a couple of innings like that and a pitcher is lucky to get through the 4th before seriously fatiguing–not to mention the pitch count would also be very high.
In the case of the pitcher who through 194 pitches over 15 innings, that’s a pretty low pitch/inning rate and could be sustained for a reasonably long time–provided the pitcher got consistent / sufficient to his conditioning rest cycles between innings. Still, 194 is more than a bit much. I don’t support that, but I can see where throwing 13-14 pitches per inning would allow someone with good stamina, endurance to go more than 9 innings.
If throwing a baseball becomes a threat to a youngster’s overall health, clearly … protect the youngster. In my experience, playing and coaching for nearly 50 years, an arm injury stemming from youth or interscholastic baseball hasn’t been a longterm health problem for a youngster who played the game for fun and didn’t seek a future playing in college or professionally.
Generally, I like your theory on monitoring the stress on a pitcher by inning.
People forget that most kids who aren’t prospects pitch and play a position. Nobody monitors the stress on their arm when they’re throwing at practice, between innings, etc.
I find that , other than the pitchers and catchers, no one throws enough to injure their arm. For all other positions than the battery, they should throw more than they do in order to properly condition their arm. Injuries tend to happen when the arm is used to throw hard with insufficient warm-up.
Overworking the arms of defensive players is easy to avoid by limiting the number of hard throws and the intervals between the throws when taking infield or going over defensive strategy. For example, if you are giving infielders 100 grounders, they should only throw 5-10 across the diamond. Spend time working on the front half of double plays or making some of the shorter throws, or simply plant their feet, bluff the throw, and dump the ball into a bucket and go back in line for the next ground ball.