Pitchers are a hot commodity at all levels of baseball. A dominating starting pitcher can almost single-handedly win a game, especially at the high school level. It is only natural a coach would want to give his team the best chance to win each and every game, but often this means using the best pitcher as much as possible. However, this practice can lead to stress and strain on the arms of top pitchers. As a result, certain rules are in place to protect the arms of high school pitchers.
In place of an actual pitch count, many high school leagues have inning restrictions for pitchers. Some restrictions limit the number of innings a pitcher can throw per game, while others limit the number of innings during the course of a week. In New Hampshire, these restrictions include no more than nine innings in a single game and no more than 16 innings in a week.
Opponents of this rule argue the number of innings a pitcher throws isn’t indicative of the number of pitches thrown. It might take one pitcher 80 pitches to throw nine innings, and it might take another pitcher 160 pitches. Each pitcher has been used an equal amount, opponents argue, but one pitcher’s arm has done twice as much work.
Posting Pitch Counts
In New York, coaches are required to report and post the number of pitches thrown by each pitcher during each game. These pitch counts are posted to the general public. The goal of the rule is that a high school coach will be less likely to overuse a pitcher knowing he might face criticism from parents and other coaches.
Opponents of the rule argue peer pressure alone is not enough to ensure a pitcher’s arm won’t be abused. This rule provides no actual restrictions on pitch count or innings.
Special Tournament Limits
Virginia is among the states that have special innings limits for high school pitchers during tournament play. The rule is in place to prevent a coach from overusing his best player when the pressure is highest to win. It is the ultimate goal of any high school baseball team to win the state tournament title. It only makes sense a coach and team would want the best pitcher on the mound as much as possible. The rule is in place, therefore, to protect pitchers' arms.
Opponents of the rule point out this doesn’t stop a coach from overusing the best pitchers during the regular season. Teams with the best record have the easiest path through the state tournament, which means winning games is important regardless of the time of year.
- Photo Credit pitcher in control image by CPonder from Fotolia.com
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