Pitch Count Dilemma
Pitch count is a big issue in baseball and always has been, especially at the younger level. What is the right number of pitches that should be thrown by each player? How do you know when your pitcher is getting tired? We all know you want your team to win, but when is the right time to say enough is enough?
The issue of pitch count has been around for years. More and more pitchers are getting tommy john at an early age. Back in the 70’s and 80’s most pitchers in the MLB would throw entire games, but now it’s rare to see a pitcher throw a complete game. Why is this? It could be a number of reasons. Maybe pitchers today are throwing harder, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe it’s because pitchers are starting to throw more as well as throwing more off speed.
The Curveball Myth
The most daunting pitch of them all and the one that has caused the most controversy on this topic is the dreaded curveball. Some coaches don’t even allow it to be thrown by their little leaguers. Some parents have even tried to ban it! Luckily this hasn’t ever happened. Is this the reason so many young pitchers are hurting their arms? That answer would be a no. The one pitch that is taking youngsters down is actually the slider. And you may ask, why is this pitch worse than a curveball?
With a curve ball the wrist is cocked or with the thumb up throughout the entire motion. Which causes little to no stress on the ligaments of the elbow. On the other hand, a slider is held like a fastball and right before release, the hand is twists sideways to cause more of a side to side motion of the baseball with a sharper cut to it.
Causes of Arm Injuries
To sum this up, the three culprits of arm injuries at a young age are pitching too often, pitching too much and throwing the slider one too many times. Tendinitis has even occurred with kids who throw too much and too often even at this young of an age. Leagues who have pitch count requirements in effect have seen less arm injuries occur during the season. So, what should this mean for you as a coach? If you don’t have a pitch count max, then get one! Start using it and save your players arms. It will pay off in the long run and the kids and the parents will thank you for it.
Keep these few things in mind and have a great season!