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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Pitch Smart? Study Finds Showcase Pitching Violations Most Common At 8U Level

A study in the November issue of the “Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine” entitled “Pitching Behaviors in Youth Baseball: Comparison With the Pitch Smart Guidelines” studied 100 youth baseball teams between the ages of 8-and-under up to 14 years old during the summer of 2019. The study encompassed nearly 2,500 individual games. What the doctors found was that during the summer tournament season, more than 90% of teams they studied violated Pitch Smart guidelines. Of the pitchers they looked at, 48.6% of them were used in at least one way that violated those same guidelines.

Shockingly, the largest number of violations were occurring in the 8-and-under age group. Hopefully it doesn’t need to be said that there is no trophy, medal or dogpile in an 8U tournament that is worth adding to the risk of a future elbow surgery.

I used to think this was an education problem. Parents and coaches just didn’t know the best practices to ensure that kids weren’t overused on the mound.

Once they knew better, they would be careful. They would stringently monitor their players’ workloads. They would make sure they didn’t pitch and play catcher in the same tournaments, which is another risk factor flagged by Pitch Smart’s doctors.

My optimism has evaporated over the past decade. I’m much more cynical now. I’ve heard too many stories of players, parents and coaches getting caught up in the allure of winning a weekend tournament. So they decide it’s time to stretch by an inning or two beyond the recommended pitch limits. Even more often, they’ll bring a pitcher back to pitch again in the same tournament.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2021 at 02:50 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pitch counts, youth baseball

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: December 16, 2021 at 03:30 PM (#6057611)
I’ve heard too many stories of players, parents and coaches getting caught up in the allure of winning a weekend tournament.

Travelball teams can't recruit the BEST 3rd grader talent if they're not WINNING and travelball parents aren't paying big bucks so little Jaxxon or Espen can finish 2nd in a weekend tournament. How is their 8-year-old ever going to get a D-1 half-scholarship if he's a loser?
   2. DL from MN Posted: December 16, 2021 at 03:31 PM (#6057612)
8U shouldn't have competitive tournaments. That was "coach pitch" age when I participated.
   3. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 16, 2021 at 04:19 PM (#6057620)
Having coached at these ages for many years I pin a lot of the blame on the tournament organizers. The coaches tend to stick to whatever rules are in place and while it is reasonable to say the coach should know better the simple reality is they (we) don't know better. We do our best we watch the kids but the reality is that as a coach you are learning as you go. This is especially true with the 8s where the coaches are often coaching in a competitive situation for the first time and doing the proverbial submarine thing of figuring out how deep it can go by going deeper.

I've been at this for 11 years now and I've never had anyone tell me about risks of having someone pitch and catch in the same tournament. I've learned by doing it over the years that it's problematic but it's not something I've ever been "taught" in any meaningful way.

My optimism has evaporated over the past decade. I’m much more cynical now. I’ve heard too many stories of players, parents and coaches getting caught up in the allure of winning a weekend tournament. So they decide it’s time to stretch by an inning or two beyond the recommended pitch limits. Even more often, they’ll bring a pitcher back to pitch again in the same tournament.


I think this is a little unfair. For me if it's truly important to do this then the tournament needs to set these rules in place. Having said that, every tournament or competition I've been a part of has had some kind of rules. They may not be Pitch Smart rules but they are there.

A couple of things I've learned that I'll advise any coaches;

1. Have EVERY kid on the team throw some pitches in practice. If nothing else having the kid be familiar with the mound in case you need him to eat an inning somewhere along the line helps.
2. Watch a kid's pitching hand. When a kid flexes his hand, his arm hurts.
3. Talk to the kids about being willing to admit pain. Even now a lot of kids feel the pressure to "man up" and get through it. It's a tricky thing to identify what you can play through and what you can't. A willingness to talk to the coach is a big step in the right direction.
4. As the game progresses ideally have one coach be the pitcher/catcher guy and one coach deal with the rest. This gets to number 3 a bit, it builds the relationship between coach and pitcher and also minimizes the situation where ten different people are telling the kid ten different things.
5. THROW THROW THROW make sure the kids warm up by throwing (not pitching) beforehand whether they are pitching or not. And watch them as they do. Don't let them slack. Kids love to throw sidearm and stuff like that in warm ups. Hound them on it. Teach them to use their legs on all throws.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: December 16, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6057623)
I think my kid eclipsed the recommended Pitch Count totals twice - he threw over 90 one game, and about 115 in another. He was 11 the first time and 12 the second. In the first, he was really cruising and didn't seem to be working that hard. In the second, the coach was just hoping to get that one last out, and didn't have faith that whoever he brought in to relieve would be able to do it (a justifiable fear, as they tacked on about five more runs after he lifted my son). And the team was kicking the ball around the field, so it wasn't as if my son was getting lit up.

And it's a strange feeling watching as a dad. On the one hand, you know that it's probably not the best idea for any kid that age to throw that many pitches, you also understand and sympathize with the coaches' thinking. Neither one was in any way just in it to grab a trophy.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2021 at 04:41 PM (#6057624)
I just started coaching a 7 year old team and I can't believe there are "competitive" 8 year old teams. My kids don't even know where to run to when they hit it.

I will say, that I think some leagues go a bit overboard in protecting arms now. My 13-year old plays in a rec league where they can't pitch more than 3 innings and they can't throw breaking balls. It's a rec league, 60-70 percent of these kids will never even play HS ball, let alone college or pro, and the pitchers especially won't if we can't allow them to get enough reps to improve. So what are we protecting them from really?

   6. McCoy Posted: December 16, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6057627)
If 90% of the teams are violating your rules I'm guessing you've got too many rules and that they are confusing and hard to follow.
   7. DFA Posted: December 17, 2021 at 12:51 AM (#6057692)
5. THROW THROW THROW make sure the kids warm up by throwing (not pitching) beforehand whether they are pitching or not. And watch them as they do. Don't let them slack. Kids love to throw sidearm and stuff like that in warm ups. Hound them on it. Teach them to use their legs on all throws.


This is a really important point. I volunteer for my son's team (10U rec league) and I really cannot underscore how easy it is for kids to pick up poor habits, which in turns lead so ineffective pitching and possible injury. One of my kids is trying to pitch like his dad's favorite pitcher, Nolan Ryan, and seven other of my kids don't know who Mike Trout is...Getting those proper mechanics, it's rough.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: December 17, 2021 at 12:57 AM (#6057693)

If 90% of the teams are violating your rules I'm guessing you've got too many rules and that they are confusing and hard to follow.


Except there's no evidence the leagues have committed to following those rules. It's someone evaluating how well the travel leagues/teams are adhering to Pitch Smart's recommendations, but the participants aren't necessarily aware of what Pitch Smart's recommendations are. So it doesn't mean that Pitch Smart's rules are too numerous or too complicated.
   9. Adam Starblind Posted: December 17, 2021 at 07:21 AM (#6057695)
How many 8 year olds can throw strikes? Geez. How far away is the pitching rubber?
   10. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 17, 2021 at 08:37 AM (#6057701)
Adam - The mound is 46 feet. As for the strikes you'd be surprised. Obviously there are some kids that have no chance but on the 8-9 town league team I coached the last couple of years most of our guys could throw semi-regular strikes. Some of it comes to the umps who will open up the strike zone a bit and kids will swing at just about anything sometimes. But while there were the occasional situations where you had some guy walk 4 in a row or something for the most part there would be swings.

Of course contact is always dicey and once contact you have fielding, then you have throwing, and throwing to the right base. The chaos that follows on a batted ball at that age tends to be fun.
   11. McCoy Posted: December 17, 2021 at 08:42 AM (#6057702)
So somebody came up with some arbitrary recommendations and then is shocked when people who don't know about them aren't following them?

This is newsworthy?

In other news I have declared all of Cobb County to be Freelandia. Any former Cobb County residents please remit any taxes you were paying to local, state, and federal governments to me.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: December 17, 2021 at 08:50 AM (#6057705)
So somebody came up with some arbitrary recommendations and then is shocked when people who don't know about them aren't following them?


First of all, I don't know the degree to which anyone was shocked. It's just a report.

Second, they have been adopted at the high school and little league levels. This was a separate organization, the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, looking to see how well these guidelines, ones that are being followed by two significant bodies governing baseball for teens and below, have been adopted at the travel league level.

There's nothing bizarre about any of this.
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: December 17, 2021 at 09:35 AM (#6057708)
There's nothing bizarre about any of this.
Maybe not bizarre, but the use of "violations" in the headline/excerpt is somewhat confusing or misleading. Although I guess if I read the actual article it might not be.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: December 17, 2021 at 09:46 AM (#6057710)
Maybe not bizarre, but the use of "violations" in the headline/excerpt is somewhat confusing or misleading. Although I guess if I read the actual article it might not be.


I guess so, but it's kind of a minor nit. Non-compliances with outside guidelines? Instances of usage outside norms adopted by major youth baseball governing bodies? There aren't a lot of ways to succinctly describe what the report is studying.
   15. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: December 17, 2021 at 09:50 AM (#6057711)
I quit coaching travel ball over this stuff. I had a kid pitch twice over a weekend, he turned his ankle in the second game running the bases but seemed OK. Went out and dealt the next inning, but got back to the dugout and could barely stand. I sat him for the tournament and we lost, so the parents of everyone who wasn't that kid got together and demanded that sponsor ditch me. He was willing to give me another chance but I told him I'd never play an 11 or 12 year old who was obviously hurt just to win a game and we parted ways. The whole thing is just sick.
   16. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 17, 2021 at 09:51 AM (#6057712)
"Pitch Smart Recommendations Not Being Followed"

Pitch Smart seems, um....smart. But yeah I think the headline is a bit poorly done and is kind of what got me rolling on my post in #3. It's not fair to call them "violations" when the coaches are in fact following the rules.
   17. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 17, 2021 at 09:54 AM (#6057714)
I quit coaching travel ball over this stuff. I had a kid pitch twice over a weekend, he turned his ankle in the second game running the bases but seemed OK. Went out and dealt the next inning, but got back to the dugout and could barely stand. I sat him for the tournament and we lost, so the parents of everyone who wasn't that kid got together and demanded that sponsor ditch me. He was willing to give me another chance but I told him I'd never play an 11 or 12 year old who was obviously hurt just to win a game and we parted ways. The whole thing is just sick.


UGH.

I have been SO fortunate with the parents on the teams I've coached. That is just outrageous behavior by the parents right there. This has been a big challenge the last couple of years with COVID, trying to balance protecting the kids, giving them some freedom and dealing with the varying viewpoints of different families. Fortunately for me the leagues I've coached in have had pretty clear rules about masks/distancing that have allowed me to say "hey, I'm just enforcing the rules as they are."

But man, I've seen some parents who flip out over stuff and it's never fun. The idea that a 12 year old kid should go out there when he's genuinely hurt is just not ####### OK.
   18. DL from MN Posted: December 17, 2021 at 11:21 AM (#6057734)
At 8U they probably shouldn't play more than 2 hours of competitive baseball in a day. It should be a lot of catch, hit, throw and running drills (games) in practice with 1-2 games per week. I don't even know if kids that age should play the same sport two days in a row.
   19. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: December 17, 2021 at 11:49 AM (#6057743)
We lost, so the parents of everyone who wasn't that kid got together and demanded that sponsor ditch me. He was willing to give me another chance but I told him I'd never play an 11 or 12 year old who was obviously hurt just to win a game and we parted ways.

And here I was thinking I was just being cynically flippant in [1].
   20. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 17, 2021 at 12:24 PM (#6057750)
How is their 8-year-old ever going to get a D-1 half-scholarship if he's a loser?


It always cracks me up when I hear parents say they're investing this time and money for scholarships. Folks, there are very few baseball scholarships. My roommate was the starting catcher for Ohio State, and he earned a 1/6 scholarship his senior year. You're better off investing in tutors. Just say you're doing it to live vicariously through your kids!
   21. DL from MN Posted: December 17, 2021 at 12:36 PM (#6057753)
It always cracks me up when I hear parents say they're investing this time and money for scholarships.


Play sports because it is an enjoyable way to spend your time. Spend the money if it brings you that much enjoyment in return.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2021 at 01:10 PM (#6057756)
It always cracks me up when I hear parents say they're investing this time and money for scholarships. Folks, there are very few baseball scholarships. My roommate was the starting catcher for Ohio State, and he earned a 1/6 scholarship his senior year. You're better off investing in tutors. Just say you're doing it to live vicariously through your kids!

Or they could, you know, invest the money they are spending on travel teams, and private instruction, and travel to games, into a 529 plan, and have a nice chunk of change set aside for college.
   23. TJ Posted: December 17, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6057759)
We lost, so the parents of everyone who wasn't that kid got together and demanded that sponsor ditch me. He was willing to give me another chance but I told him I'd never play an 11 or 12 year old who was obviously hurt just to win a game and we parted ways.


I coached 14-15 year olds in Little League for a couple of summers. Told their parents right off the jump that I was going to focus on teaching the kids how to play and not worry about winning or not. Some parents didn't like that- I told them focusing on whether you win is what high school ball is for. So I taught the kids everything I could about how to play, including how to read a pitcher to steal bases. I gave everyone the green light to run anytime, including the slow kids. Our biggest, slowest kid got on first base and looked over to me in the third base coaching box. I gave him the "go if you want to" look. He read the pitcher, got his jump, and was thrown out by a good 15 feet. When we got back to the bench he ran over to me with a big smile and said, "Thanks, Coach- I always wanted to try that but my other coaches wouldn't let me..."

My absolute favorite moment ever coaching kids...maybe it is different in travel ball. That came a little after my playing days ended...
   24. bfan Posted: December 17, 2021 at 02:28 PM (#6057760)
One thing I see missing from this analysis on kid's arm overuse is that the best pitchers at this age are typically the shortstop for their team when they are not pitching, so they are probably throwing with warm up throws at the beginning of every inning a good 30 to 40 times, every day, even in the 3 off-days between starts.
   25. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 17, 2021 at 02:52 PM (#6057766)
23 - Great story!
   26. glitch Posted: December 17, 2021 at 03:15 PM (#6057774)
In other news I have declared all of Cobb County to be Freelandia.


Funny you chose Cobb County. That’s got to be about the most PitchSmart-adherent travel ball area on the planet. East Cobb is a huge Perfect Game hub, and they not only require that teams follow the recommendations, but they provide Gamecast to count the pitches. There is no penalty for violations beyond having to change your P, but if your kid is dealing, the opposing coach will be asking the PG guy for pitch count updates regularly. It’s been awhile since we’ve done tournaments with other orgs, but USSSA, Top Gun, Triple Crown, etc only had, at best, innings limits last I checked. The other big promotion in the ATL area, PBR (at Lakepoint in Bartow Co), only “suggests” that teams follow the guidelines.
   27. villageidiom Posted: December 17, 2021 at 06:12 PM (#6057810)
I was an assistant coach in little league around a decade ago. After every inning the coaches would need to agree on how many pitches were thrown for the official count. There was this one guy in our league who would conveniently forget the 2-strike foul balls in the pitch counts for his pitchers, but not for his opponents' pitchers. My scoring system was effectively a pitch by pitch game log, so whenever he'd try to short his pitcher's count by half a dozen pitches I'd have to bring out my list and have conversations like "Pete alone fouled off 3 two-strike pitches in a row. Don't you remember we had to wait until someone finally brought back one of them because we didn't have another game ball to use? You didn't count any of those as pitches?" with that guy and the umpire.

They also had rules that a pitcher couldn't later play catcher. Our coach's son was a good pitcher and the starting catcher for the team. So the coach made him our closer - since they didn't have rules about the catcher becoming a pitcher. Definitely violated the spirit of the rule, even if it didn't violate the letter of the rule.

EDIT: We had to do an official count of pitches because we had to report to the league not just the final score but the pitch counts for each pitcher. They had hard rules about the amount of rest a pitcher must have based on the pitches thrown. Also, within a game, once a pitcher reached 85 pitches he could not face another batter.
   28. sunday silence (again) Posted: December 18, 2021 at 11:15 PM (#6057953)
After every inning the coaches would need to agree on how many pitches were thrown for the official count.


That sounds like a nitemare waiting to happen. What happens both coaches cant agree? Isnt this something the umpire should handle?
   29. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 19, 2021 at 09:23 PM (#6058030)
This is done where I coach too. It’s generally a non issue. Occasionally there is a minor dispute but everyone agrees on the number pretty quickly. For big tournaments (such as the stuff that would be the path to the Cal Ripken Workd Seires (same as LLWS) there is an official counter whose count is taken as gospel.

But when the two teams are just sharing data, well as I said I’ve done this for eleven years and never run into a dispute that lasted more than six seconds.
   30. villageidiom Posted: December 20, 2021 at 03:43 PM (#6058115)
That sounds like a nitemare waiting to happen. What happens both coaches cant agree? Isnt this something the umpire should handle?
Mostly they agree, or if they don't they're off by 1 pitch and they both agree to run with the lower number. Otherwise the umpire will step in, but the umpire only has the information the coaches are giving him.

It's that kind of system, where the one with the higher count usually defers to the one with the lower count, that leads some hyper-competitive coaches to try to "win" that reconciliation by systematically undercounting their own pitchers. It's rare, unless you have one of those coaches in which case it happens every inning you play against that guy.
   31. TJ Posted: December 21, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6058254)
Hey, I know that guy! Always wears #69 when he is the catcher on his beer league softball team and swears he would have been a MLB all-star if his Little League coach had not kept him on the bench so he could play his son back when he was 10 years old...

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