The state of Colorado recently mandated pitch counts related to rest periods for high school baseball pitchersl. The question is whether the number of pitches thrown in a game is important in reference to the health of young athletes.
I see the benefit of having a pitch count rule in the youth levels of the sport, but I don’t see it as being beneficial at the high school level. Injuries in overhanded throwing in baseball are frequently the result of poor mechanics and the load placed on the elbow and/or shoulder joints from those poor mechanics. In this instance, is a pitch count going to keep these injuries from occurring? Probably not.
Also, what is the trigger point for cutting a pitcher off? I don’t think you can mandate a magic number for these players. I’ve seen players who can throw 110 pitches without losing anything on their pitch. I’ve also seen kids who start tiring at about 40 pitches. And there are different points between. Perhaps putting a radar on pitchers to track velocity during a game would be better suited for determining when he needs to come out.
The problems are: 1.) how to develop good mechanics of throwing, 2.) how to care for their arms and 3.) how to know the difference between an injury and pushing themselves. Again, a pitch limit wouldn’t cover the education part, but it would lessen the impact of the lack of education. I don’t think that pitch count alone is going to make a difference. While it would help protect pitchers from the overzealous or worse, the uneducated coach that feels the need to win at the potential cost of players’ arms, the coaches and programs who do it the right way will suffer from the rule.
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There are two things more important than the number of pitches a kid throws in a game – the rest a pitcher gets between games and the number of pitches a kid throws in a year – not a season.
With proper rest, pitchers can make it through a season with no problems. But when that same player starts playing summer ball after high school season and then fall ball, if he is not being regulated properly he could be throwing three times the number of pitches he normally would. This is the reason high school coaches should run their own summer and fall programs.