On Monday, the Georgia High School Association adopted new pitch count rules that will take effect for the 2017 season.
It’s a decision that high school associations around the country will be making in the coming months after the National High School Federation announced that states must implemen.... In the past, most states have relied on innings limits.
The National High School Federation has left each individual state organization to create its own pitch limits, but it has required all 50 state federations to create pitch limits of some sort before the 2017 season begins.
Georgia’s new rules will limit any varsity pitcher to no more than 110 pitches in any outing. Pitchers will be able to finish facing their final batter even if that means they go beyond 110 pitches. The new rules for Georgia will also mandate three days of rest after any outing of 86 or more pitches, two days of rest after 61-85 pitches, one day of rest for 35-60 pitches. Pitchers who throw less than 35 pitches can pitch again the next day. According to the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, pitchers would also be limited to no more than 120 pitches in any postseason tournament unless the series was extended because of poor weather.
The Georgia regulations are less strict than those recommended by USA Baseball’s Pitch Smart guidelines that were developed with input from Major League Baseball and doctors. Pitch Smart recommends that no 17-to-18-year-old should throw more than 105 pitches while 15-to-16-year-olds should be limited to 95 or fewer pitches. Pitch Smart’s guidelines also recommend four days of rest after any outing where a pitcher throws more 76 pitches. GHSA’s new rules would allow a pitcher to return after only two days off if they threw 75-80 pitches.
Arkansas has also recently adopted pitch limits. The Arkansas Athletics Activities board’s new rules limit pitchers to 110 pitches in any outing. Pitchers throwing more than 86 pitches they are required to have three days of rest before pitching again. Those throwing 61-85 pitches have to have two days of rest, while pitchers need one day of rest after throwing 31-60 pitches.
Some states had already adopted pitch count limits before the NHSF’s mandate. Alabama went from having very lax innings limits to being ahead of the curve in adopting pitch limits last fall. But the majority of states have depended on innings limits. And those limits have often given pitchers and coaches the leeway to throw a heavier workload than any big league pitcher would be allowed to throw today. As Minnesota State High School League associate director Kevin Merkle noted to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, the old rules in Minnesota allowed a high school pitcher to legally throw 35 innings over a seven-day period.
In Kansas, a pitcher threw 157 pitches in a 10-inning outing in the playoffs last spring. He and his coach were suspended because the 10-inning outing exceeded state rules that at the time limited pitchers to nine innings in any one game. But if he had been pulled after the ninth inning, he would have been within Kansas’ current guidelines. No major league pitcher has thrown more than 125 pitches in any outing this season.
The push for pitch counts to replace innings limits has been going on around amateur baseball for much of the past decade. Little League Baseball replaced innings limits with pitch counts in 2007. In recent years, USA Baseball, Perfect Game, Baseball Factory and multiple summer college collegiate leagues have adopted Pitch Smart’s guidelines as far as days of rest and pitch limits.