There is an inherent risk of injury involved with throwing a baseball.
There’s no way around it.
The risk increases as outside variables are added and common sense is not part of the equation.
Am I totally against pitch counts? No.
I believe they are in place for the right reasons but I am not convinced they have solved any problems.
There’s a pitch count in Little League Baseball but are they the answer? Keep reading.
I have often thought, what is the number, is there a definitive number? According to the Japanese, there’s not.
What do I think? No, because of the individual variables that are part of the equation.
We all have unique anatomical and structural differences, muscular and strength imbalances, mobility and flexibility issues, routines and throwing schedules, etc….
5 Things to consider before tossing a number out there:
1. How often does the player throw when he is not pitching? I think this has to be answered before you could even HOPE to establish a pitch count. I am a firm believer that most players do not throw the baseball enough. I will probably catch some heat for this next statement but….
I think more injuries occur from the pitcher being under-prepared vs. overused!
Let’s begin with kids being under-prepared. The video game and social media age is here and it has impacted our society to such a degree, that kids don’t go outside and play baseball. I remember going outside and not coming back in until the street lights came on.
We were constantly playing some type of game and most required throwing a ball of some sort. Tennis ball, wiffle-ball, strike out and burn out were always neighborhood favorites. Some days it was skipping rocks across the creek, 100-200 a day, who knew because we didn’t count.
That was before the Urban Myth: “Throwing hurts your arm” and “You need to save it.”
I believe this myth is a major hurdle that we have to clear in the baseball community and it probably hurts as many kids as any other factor.
I firmly believe the arm has to be prepared for the demands of the activity and when you raise the intensity level that comes with competing and the NEED to WIN, it becomes a ticking time bomb.
We tell kids to rest up so they’re fresh, “take it easy.” Regardless of the actual pitch count, the arm will not be prepared because it hasn’t “been there before.”
Consider this scenario with a set of twins:
Twin A: Lifts on a regular basis and has a dedicated routine.
Twin B: Doesn’t have a regular routine and shows up from time to time.
Answer these questions:
- Would you say that both should be on the same “Dumbbell Count”?
- Which twin is prepared for heavier volume?
- Which twin is prepared to lift heavier weights?
- Which twin recovers faster?
Player A’s body will adapt and make structural changes based on the needs and demands of a strength training regimen. The same cannot be said for Player B, his body doesn’t know what to expect and isn’t prepared.
That’s common sense. There was a time when we believed that weight lifting hurt baseball players but now there’s an asterisk next to players names that let us know there’s a correlation between strength and performance.
Well, how do we strengthen our arm? We throw the baseball. It can’t be any simpler than that. You have to understand that…..
The body’s #1 goal is to protect itself and it will make necessary changes to do so, this includes anatomical and structural changes
Again, common sense has to be part of the equation. Lifting weights forces the body to adapt and make changes with the muscles and connective tissues. The same is true for throwing the baseball. Paul Nyman of setpro.com, whom I consider the best in the world of pitching mechanics, made a statement that made so much sense to me. It went something like this:
Studies have shown that the shoulder will begin to change and adapt according to the demands placed on it by throwing. It will actually make structural changes to protect itself and give the body its’ best effort to achieve the goal or need to throw.
It is IMPERATIVE that kids throw the baseball to prepare themselves to pitch. I don’t think I have heard too many kids say I hurt my arm throwing, it’s always I hurt my arm pitching. There is a difference between throwing and pitching.
Injuries termed as “over-use” can be prevented by the parents/coaches and players.
One reason over-use injuries occur are because winning takes precedence over development and common sense. Nowadays, baseball is played competitively year around. Competitively being the key word, meaning WIN. Kids aren’t prepared because they are too busy playing games and not spending enough time practicing and throwing. They play 5-6 games in a weekend, take a few days off and right back into competition. They never have a chance to create an effective throwing routine or program between starts.
If more parents and coaches listened to Nolan Ryan there would be less injuries.
“The day you pitch should be the easiest day of the cycle.”
In my opinion, over-use injuries are preventable and more injuries occur because of pitchers being under-prepared for the demands pitching places on the body and arm. I go back to Paul Nyman of setpro.com who stated:
“You have to throw to pitch but you don’t have to pitch to throw.”
2. Intensity levels are just as important as the volume.
A high volume of pitches in one inning raises the intensity level of the outing. There are many times that a pitcher is required to expend more energy with 80 pitches than 100. Maybe he threw 30, 30, 20 pitches in 3 innings but the coach says, “Hey, he only threw 80 pitches.” 30 plus pitches per inning really increase the intensity level and is more taxing on the pitcher than getting to 100 by averaging 12-15 pitches per inning.
Again, just like working out you have to measure and track the intensity level and be careful not to raise the intensity and volume in the same workout.
The intensity level from an emotional stand point has to be considered as well. If it’s a big game or a reliever coming into a high pressure situation and/or pitching after a previous big win or loss, the intensity level is affected. Our emotions and physical activities place high demands on our Central Nervous System and keep us from performing up to par.
Studies have shown that emotional taxing activities such as tests, school, personal life experiences decrease the efficiency of our CNS and therefore decrease its output. This increases the risk for injury and poor performances. If a pitcher has been studying for finals or endured something in his personal life you will probably need to adjust the number.
3. Does he or did he play another position prior to coming into the game or did he pitch yesterday? Special interest needs to be placed on catcher’s that pitch. Catcher’s take a beating on their body, legs and arm. This is not a good combination and safeguards need to be put in place. The equipment weighing them down, heat, legs and other variables play a role in fatigue. The pitch count cannot remain the same for a pitcher/catcher because of the intensity and level of fatigue encountered behind the plate.
Don’t be guilty of saying he only threw 40 pitches yesterday so it’s OK if he pitches today. That’s a red flag to me because I would rather see a kid extend his outing and begin the recovery process sooner rather than later. I realize it’s necessary to use relievers on back/back days but make sure they are prepared.
4. Take into consideration the physical characteristics and mentality of the INDIVIDUAL. The SAME number does not hold true for all pitchers. There are many variables that may require special consideration. Is there a history of injury? Is the pitcher changing seasons from one sport to another? Does the pitcher have a routine in between starts or does he play in multiple leagues? All these need to be taken into consideration before throwing a number out and asking all players to abide by it.
50 pitches for one player may be more taxing than 110 for another pitcher.
There is only one system that will totally prevent injuries. If you want to set a pitch count that will totally prevent all injuries, that’s simple. Don’t play. If you do want to play, reduce the chance for injury by preparing the arm for the demands of pitching. Throw the baseball and establish a routine in between outings
5. COMMON SENSE.
Here is a GENERAL guideline I implement with my 13/14U teams.
Rest =Day off from competitive pitching but encouraged to throw the baseball.
*This is a general guideline and can be manipulated per individual, there are NO ABSOLUTES.
** Include scheduled bull pens between starts and find a way to measure or chart them. Be specific with what you are trying to accomplish with the bull pen. Never throw a pen just to be throwing.
Level 1: 0-24 Pitches No Rest/if pitching on consecutive days of 0-24 there will be 2 days rest
Positions for next day: Can play any position on the field if only throwing one day of 0-24 pitches
Level 2: 25-40 Pitches 1 day rest
Positions for next day: Can play any position on the field the following day
Level 3: 41-60 Pitches 2 days rest
Positions for next day: Can play right side of IF and LF/CF.
Level 4: 61-75 Pitches: 3 days rest
Position for next day: Right side of infield or DH
Level 5: 76-95 Pitches: 4 days rest
Positions for next day: DH
Level 6: 96 and above: 5 days rest
Positions for next day: DH
Level 2: 0-24 Pitches: Can catch following day
Level 3: 25-40 Pitches: Can Catch on day 2
Level 4: 41-60 Pitches: Can catch on day 3
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