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NEW YORK – A rule change that began this season in New York City’s Public School Athletic League has tweaked the meaning of "you’re out" in baseball.

It used to be only three strikes. Now, it’s also 105 pitches.
“It’s a new rule that we just have to follow just like three strikes or four balls,” School of the Future ace Anthony Vargas said. “Do I like the new rule? Not really. But rules are rules.”

Varsity pitchers in the PSAL now have a cap of 105 pitches for one game and junior varsity hurlers can’t throw more than 90. Once they hit the pitch limit they must be removed from the mound and cannot return until after a mandatory rest period.

The PSAL, with a push from city politicians, enforced the rule this season in an effort to prevent arm injuries in the present and foreseeable future.

“Baseball is a popular sport in our schools and we want to make sure our student athletes are playing to the best of their ability without getting serious long-term injuries and the limit on pitch counts aims to do just that,” PSAL executive director Donald Douglas said in a statement before the season began.

The PSAL is not commenting on the rule change again until after the season, spokesman Marge Feinberg said. But they do report that there have been no injuries this season.
The rules also stipulate that varsity pitchers are required to rest for four consecutive days after pitching more than 91 times in a single game, three days if they pitch between 76 to 90 times, two days if they pitch between 51 to 75 times and one day if they pitch between 26 to 50 times in a game. Junior varsity pitchers are required to rest for four consecutive days if they pitch more than 81 times in a single game, three days if they pitch between 61 and 79 times, two days if they pitch between 41 to 60 times and one day if they pitch between 21 and 40 times in a game.

Coaches will be held accountable for pitch counts during the game and if it is revealed their pitcher went over the pitch limit they will be subject to a one-game suspension.

The new rule has sparked a debate amongst coaches and players in New York City.

James Madison coach Vincent Caiazza said he gets the sense that most coaches in the league disagree with the rule.

“It’s a waste,” he said. “It’s ludicrous because high school kids these days do double duty. If they reach the limit on Monday they will be playing shortstop or centerfield on Wednesday throwing the ball just has hard 40 more times.”

He said the focus should be more on how the young pitchers condition.

“That is how you will prevent injuries,” he said. “Not by throwing up a random number for a pitch count.”

Some coaches disagree with Caiazza.

Grand Street Campus coach Melvin Martinez said the rule was “absolutely necessary.”

“I like it because it protects our pitchers,” he said. “Over the years I have seen pitchers throw up to 140 pitches in a game. That’s too much. Professional pitchers don’t throw that many. I like the rule.”

What do the players think?

Vargas leads the PSAL this season in pitches thrown (674) and strikeouts (80) in seven games this season.

On two occasions he was pulled from the game because he reached his pitch limit.
“I didn’t like it,’” he said. “We still ended up winning, but I would feel terrible if I had to leave a game with a 1-0 lead late in the game. I understand why they are doing it. They don’t want our body to break down. But I also know my body and a lot of times I feel like I can go a lot longer than 105 pitches.”

His coach, Felix Shen, said he has mixed emotions about the rule change.

“It changes the way we have to manage and sometimes you can’t have who you want pitching because of the rule,” he said. “But I understand why they have a limit now. Baseball, in general, from the Majors and down, is more sensitive about arm injuries more than ever. So I see a need for it at the high school level.”

The rule rooted after PSAL received requests from parents and the City Council to look into the number of pitches thrown. The PSAL then spent last season monitoring pitch counts and reviewing its findings with the City’s Office of School Health, PSAL coaches and medical experts.

“We want our students to participate in high school sports and lead healthy, active lifestyles,” said Deputy Chancellor of Operations Kathleen Grimm. “At the same time, we want to prevent long-term injuries and we believe limiting pitch counts will achieve this and at the same time keep the sport competitive. The safety of our students is a top priority.” 

Rule raises questions

With the playoffs looming the rule will definitely change the way coaches manage the game.

“Ideally you want your ace out there as much as possible,” Shen said. “Now you have to adapt and follow the rule. One good thing is that it also gives some other kids a chance to shine.”

The rule also poses the questions like, “What if the pitcher has a no-hitter, or what if it’s a tight game in the final inning of the state championship?”

“I’m going to leave him in,” Caiazza said. “I wouldn’t take a no-hitter from a kid … If I have a kid throwing 90 mph and it is 1-0 and he is nearing his pitch limit, I want him in the game. But now they tell us we have to pull him? That’s not how baseball is played. That’s not strategy.”

The PSAL plans to continue the rule in the future.

Caiazza said he will continue to fight against it along with colleagues.

“A lot of coaches agree with me,” he said. “This isn’t a rule made by baseball people. It’s a rule made by people who sit behind desks.”




Views: 332

Comment by Ken Jacobi on May 18, 2011 at 6:37pm

I like the rule, but the issue is that every pitcher has a different threshold. Some pitchers probably shouldn't go past 80 pitches, while others can handle 120 pitches. I do understand trying to protect the players, but when you make such a brad rule as this, there's always the chance it will hurt the outliers.


I think perhaps the rule should state that you only have 3 games a year that you are allowed to cross that threshold. That way in a big game you don't have to worry about taking your ace out. At some point, in this example 3 games, I would agree with the rule and say enough is enough and that the coach is abusing the rule.


Whether you like the rule or not, it is a very interesting debate.



Comment by Michael Paes on May 19, 2011 at 11:37am

It is better than nothing, but it is no substitute for proper supervision:

- As the article states, it does not take into account what pitchers do off the mound (other positions, warmups, etc).

- If players play on more than one team (AAU, etc.), there is no way to combine the count.  With the rise of private leagues, players are often playing in different public and private leagues.


As far as I am concerned, I don't care if a pitcher has a no hitter, or his coach wants to win a championship, the health of the player should be paramount.

Comment by Grady Smith on May 19, 2011 at 11:51am

I am on the fence with this one. I believe coaches have to consider the health and welfare of thier players. HS Sports cannot be just about winning. I personally watched a game this seaon where a Pitcher through over 200 pitches. In my opinion that was borderline criminal. If that kid had suffered permanent arm damage, I think the Coach could have some potential criminal liablity.


Little League has imposed pitch count limits for the purposes of protecting players from injury. I think this program for the most part has been successful. Yes, it causes problems from a coaching standpoint, in that you have to have more than a pitcher or two on your team.


I am not sure that pulling some random number out as a pitch limit is the answer either. There needs to be some research done on how to determine this. Is 140 to many? What about 115? How many days rest do they need? The answer should not be based on opinion, but some intelligent, and reasearched reason.


Everyone wants to win, including me. However, winning at the expense of ruining a kids arm, shoulder, elbow, etc for the rest of his life is not worth it.

Comment by jimnemo on May 19, 2011 at 11:54am

This doesn't seem arbitrary: rather, cut and dry. What authority or qualifications do coaches have to determine the physiological integrity of a given pitcher: their loss of control late in the game?


A Freshman or a Senior could be playing on a High School team (forget JV Vs V for a moment.) a 14 year-old Freshman who rocks could be pitching an entire 7 inning game with 105 pitches: because he can; wants to; even when the coach asks the player how they are doing and the player is motivated to go the distance, improving, actually, with each pitch: with what authority does the coach allow the young player to determine how they feel, how their tissue is able to endure?


It seems a pitch count is the only way to remove the arbitrary and get to a safe system that can't rationalize particularly at the more important moments in a game or season.


I have always wondered how pitch count factors in players staying in the game throwing from other positions; the pitcher who transitions to catcher is the most insidious.

Comment by Bill Adkins on May 19, 2011 at 12:14pm

Like the rule or hate the rule, but the reason the rule exists is that too many HS coaches abuse young arms.  They get themselves into a situation whereby they only have 1 great arm and a few average arms to rely on.  They push the great arm too far.  Karl Kuhn, the pitching coach at UVa has a great formula.  Kids should be allowed to throw 100x their age PER YEAR.  This includes Spring Ball, Summer Ball and FALL.  BTW, Karl goes on to boast that UVa hasnt had an arm injury in over 16yrs.  Here is a link to his entire interview.


Comment by Dennis Koolhaas on May 19, 2011 at 12:36pm
In Little League a pitch count is understandable since you have Dad's coaching and sometimes their emotions affect their ability to manage.  However at the High School level you have professional coach's who know the strengths and weaknesses of their pitchers and how far they can go without harm.  No formula works on every player so that is a joke. Look at the pitchers you know, they are all different!  If the coach is abusing arms, then he should never be put in the position as a head coach, and the school is liable.  Most of the High School coach's know their stuff, and they should be able to control their own pitchers. Coach's are with the pitchers everyday, they know when their pitcher is tired even when the pitcher swears he is not, so that is a fallacy as well.  Jack McDowell has a great article on pitch counts for those interested. The goal of Head Coach is for each player to have a great high school experience and if talented enough, get them into a college program or the MLB draft.  Abusing pitchers does not accomplish this and the coach would miss out on one of the greatest rewards we can hope to get.  What, you think we do it for the money?  New York is wrong.
Comment by Kip Gross on May 19, 2011 at 12:42pm

To me, it's not about the number of pitches but the amount of innings pitched over the course of a season or year. Once the pitcher is warm and throwing with proper mechanics, I believe he can throw many pitches without breaking down. This is one of the few times that I think a radar gun can be useful during a game by which seeing a drop in velocity means that the kid is tiring and needs to be taken out. I believe that the getting up and down between innings is way more abusive to the arm and body than total pitch counts could ever be. 


One huge problem that I see with this rule is that you are going to have opposing coaches telling their players to take many more pitches than they normally would because they want the opposing pitcher to get to the 105 pitch limit sooner than later which is not how the game is supposed to be played. I'm guessing that they came up with 105 pitches because that would be 15 pitches per inning if the games go 7 innings which means if the pitcher has even one inning where he gets into some type of trouble and throws 30 pitches that he is looking to be taken out around the 5th inning or even sooner. 


The other problem with all of this is that these rules need to be used at the younger ages where kids are throwing a 100+ innings at age 13 and below and all the while throwing curves, sliders and fork balls. 


But either way it's all on the coaches.

Comment by Ted Browne on May 19, 2011 at 1:16pm
I agree with Bill and Kip (among others).

Pitch counts are ridiculous to enforce and should be left to the coach and the parent. Mechanics, age, conditioning, other positions played, prior weeks'/months'/year's total pitches thrown etc. all make pitch counts a bad idea. A kid who throws 50 pitches might be hurting himself more than a kid who throws 120...arbitrary pitch count numbers hurt the game and simply cover peoples' a$$es who do not understand the game's nuances.
Comment by Steve Peeler on May 19, 2011 at 1:30pm

I do not believe in pitch counts and never have.  I think this is one of the problems with not having 20 game winners in MLB anymore at the number we used to see.  If you do not push your arm a little more and more in the off season and correct recoup procedures, then you are asking to hurt your arm one pitch 25 just as much as you are on pitch 100.  Enforcing pitch count is not good from a coaches point of view either and it can change the outcome of a game.  


If i have a pitcher that works the hitter inside, outside, up, down, and keep the hitter guessing, it limits my pitcher and my game plan in approach to win.  For an overpowering pitcher that is hitting the gun around 90 - 95 and has good movement on the fastball and slider, then the arm is probably strained and he has to throw less pitches to get an out. On the other hand, if I have a Maddox type pitcher that is lower on the gun and coming in around 80-85, then he needs to throw more pitches because he must have more deception to keep the hitter off balance.  Power pitcher with good control is going to get an out with 1-3 less pitches per hitter than the lower or normal pitcher.  Does not sound like a lot, but over a 9 inning period the difference is 27 - 81 pitch difference.  Obviously I am not going to let a guy throw 200 pitches per game, but every individual has limitations and it is my responsibility to know and learn those limitations.  So, pitch limits are not a good idea.  

Another issue that has just occured this year is the fact with all of the rain.  Most high schools in the northeast are way behind in the schedule with all of the rain.  In order to complete the season, they are going to have to play everyday over hte next week to complete for playoffs.  No high school team I know has a 5 man rotation and a regular position player is going to have to step up and pitch.  Pitch count would really effect this type of situation and I just do not like it.  Again, it is making arms weaker and more prone to injury than protecting them.  

Comment by David Yeager on May 19, 2011 at 1:53pm

I think the main focus should be on monitoring for fatigue.  Pitch counts can be a piece of the fatigue puzzle.  There are several other factors to consider.  For example, location and effectiveness, whether or not the pitch count has been achieved before, number of innings, rest time between innings, velocity, and how easy or difficult a time the pitcher had in reaching the pitch count.  Below is an article that looked into each of these areas with professional pitchers.  An argument can be made that with the high school pitcher, the numbers should be adjusted and accounted for lower skill, conditioning, etc.

Performance Variables and Fatigability in Baseball Pitching


David Yeager, ATC, CSCS



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