Maine is not the lone state studying the possible implementation of pitch counts for high school baseball in response to growing momentum for related policy changes nationally.
So, too, is the Lone Star State, with the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association set to propose pitch limits for the first time later this month to that state’s University Interscholastic League’s medical advisory committee, according to the Dallas Morning News.
All moves toward establishing pitch limits at the high school level are good news to Dr. William M. Heinz, a Portland-based orthopedist and chair of the sports medicine advisory committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“We’ve been looking at this issue for many years, the overuse issue,” said Heinz. “All the societies have said pitch count is the better way to evaluate how many times these kids have thrown.”
At least three states have adopted pitch limits at the high school level, with Delaware and Vermont already employing such restrictions while Alabama will switch from innings pitched to pitch limits beginning next year.
USA Baseball has published recommended pitch-count restrictions for various age groups, with guidelines for ages 15-18 requiring no calendar days of rest for zero to 30 pitches in a day, one day of rest for 31-45 pitches, two days of rest for 46-60 pitches, three days of rest for 61-75 pitches and four days of rest for 76 or more pitches, with per day limits of 95 pitches for 15- and 16-year-olds and 105 pitches for 17- and 18-year-olds.
“The easiest thing to do is to follow the USA Baseball guidelines,” said Heinz. “Nobody knows what the actual number is, and the reality is the actual number is different for every pitcher. If you look at the Red Sox pitchers, each one has a different pitch count they adhere to, and that’s because they figured out they could throw up to that level and if they throw more than that, they’re going to have a sore arm.
“So it’s different for every individual, and it’s really hard to make a blanket policy that applies to everyone, but it’s a step in the right direction. I understand it’s a one-size-fits-no-one approach, but we have to do something, we just can’t let them keep throwing their arms out.”
The Maine Principals’ Association currently imposes mandatory rest based on innings pitched.. A pitcher who works four or more innings in a game must have three calendar days off before pitching again, while a pitcher who works more than one inning and less than four innings in a game must have two calendar days off.
A pitcher also is limited to 10 innings in one game, with one pitch thrown in an inning constituting a full inning.
The Maine Principals’ Association’s baseball committee began discussing pitch limits during the most recent offseason, and while no official steps have been taken, all schools are being asked this spring to track pitch counts during games at all levels in order to help develop the most efficient way of tabulating pitches and tracking subsequent eligibility.
The Maine Principals’ Association’s baseball bulletin also includes an advisory that recommends coaches remove a pitcher from the mound after 90 to 100 pitches.
Maine Principals’ Association assistant executive director Mike Burnham said earlier this year that any pitch-count restrictions for Maine high school baseball would be developed in conjunction with the organization’s sports medicine committee, which includes Heinz among its members.
“I would like to see everybody change over to pitch counts,” Heinz said. “Innings pitched are useless, it tells you nothing. We actually need to have something we can measure and is a valid tool to really determine how many times a player has thrown a ball, and pitch count is really the only way to do that.”