Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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Pitch limits to replace inning limits in PA

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs high school athletics in the state and is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), will implement a new rule from the national organization to limit pitch count for high school pitchers, rather than limiting the number of innings a pitcher can pitch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Baseball pitch in high school
A national high school athletic association has written new rules to restrict pitchers.

The PIAA was using pitching restrictions in its bylaws that went into effect from the NFHS around 1990: A pitcher who worked 4 or 5 innings had to get two days of rest before he pitched again. A pitcher who worked 6 or more innings needed three days of rest. A pitcher could pitch for a maximum of 14 innings in any given week, assuming that an inning counted as any inning of the game during which he threw at least one pitch.

“I’m a strong advocate of this new rule and I think a lot of coaches are,” the paper quoted North Hills High School baseball coach Randy Miller as saying. “It makes no sense to base pitching rules on how many innings a kid pitches. You could have a three-pitch inning and a 40-pitch inning, so why put an arbitrary inning-number on it? … I couldn’t believe it when that kid we faced threw 100 pitches one day and a complete game three days later. That’s just wrong and maybe this rule will put a stop to that.”

The NFHS, in developing the new rule, says it will allow each state high school association to come up with its own guidelines in terms of pitch count, but it was clear that the federation intends for pitching restrictions to be based on the number of pitches thrown, not on the number of “innings” pitched. As a result of leaving the question open like this, each state can decide for itself how many pitches to allow over how many days and how much rest is required. We therefore can’t say exactly what the new rules will be in any given state.

The Illinois High School Association baseball restrictions:

VIII. Tournament Rules … B. Rules of Play …

The current National Federation Rules Book is adopted as the official rules of play for the series of tournaments. …

C. Playing Regulations

2) A player may not pitch more than nine innings in any one day, except, if a pitcher is pitching in the game when the score is tied at the end of the regulation period of play, the pitcher shall be permitted to continue pitching until he is relieved or the conclusion of the game, whichever occurs first. Penalty for violation shall be forfeiture of the game.

a) If a pitcher pitches to one or more batters in an inning, he shall be charged with having pitched a full inning.

Restricting pitchers based on the number of innings pitched, though, is likely to disappear from the Illinois rule book, as Illinois schools follow suit. To be honest, it surprises me that high school coaches in the state might not have already been restricting pitching this way, but there’s no time like the present if they haven’t been.

The single most important factor in protecting teenagers’ arms from overuse injury is pitch count. Wisdom used to be that the kind of pitches that were thrown led to elbow injuries, so athletic trainers and physicians advised young players not to throw curve balls when they were under about 12 and not to throw a slider until they were 16 or 17. But now it’s clear from research that pitch count, not pitch type, is the driving force behind elbow injuries in young pitchers.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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