World Series Managers Predict Little League Baseball’s Pitch Count Regulations Will Change Game for the Better
Carter’s four wins is one of those records that may never be challenged. Then again, since the 2007 season will be the first to use the actual number of pitches delivered as the deciding factor in determining eligibility in the Little League Baseball division, the record may fall as soon as next year’s World Series.
Jeff Echelmeier, who managed Daniel Boone National Little League from Columbia, Mo., to the Midwest Region championship and into the 2006 Series, said the pitch count takes the moral debate out of the game.
“Putting in the pitch count was the right thing to do,” Mr. Echelmeier said. “A player’s safety and long-term health are always more important than having a pitcher throw 120 pitches to win a game.”
Little League is the first national youth baseball organization to institute a pitch count. The Little League International Board of Directors unanimously approved the new regulation at is annual meeting during this year’s World Series.
“Good pitching almost always tops good hitting,” Randy Morris, manager of the 2006 Little League Baseball World Series Champions, said. “With the pitch count rules, hitters will be more aggressive, because they’ll see more strikes, and pitchers won’t have the luxury of throwing a lot of pitches to get a player to swing.”
|“With the pitch count rules, hitters will be more aggressive, because they’ll see more strikes, and pitchers won’t have the luxury of throwing a lot of pitches to get a player to swing.” – Randy Morris, manager of the 2006 Little League Baseball World Champions from Columbus (Ga.) Northern Little League.|
With a limit of 85 pitches allowed per game for 11-12 year olds (75
for players 10 and under) in the Little League Baseball Major
Division, the new regulation replaces previous pitching regulations
that based a player’s eligibility on the number of innings pitched.
The pitch count regulation is designed to protect pitcher’s arms, while also prompting coaches to seek and develop more pitchers.
In four years as a Little League Baseball manager, Mark McCauley, who guided the Portsmouth (N.H.) Little League team to the New England Region championship, has always believed it’s important to develop as many pitchers as you can.
“I think every team in Little League will have to be deeper in pitching – that’s a good thing,” Mr. McCauley said. “This is a win for the kids, because every manager is going to need at least four or five kids to pitch during the regular season.”
During the 2006 season, Little League International offered a pitch count pilot program to all of its 7,400-plus leagues. Nearly 500 leagues, including Northwest Region Champion Murrayhill Little League from Beaverton, Ore., opted into the program.
Manager Jeff Keller said his league took advantage of the pilot program and it had a positive effect as the Murrayhill Little League looks toward 2007.
“We (as a league) had a feeling the pitch count would become a rule so we wanted to get a head start,” Mr. Keller said. “Following the pitch count rule made our managers teach the fundamentals and start to develop more pitching at a younger age.”
Previously, Little League pitching regulations limited pitchers (league age 12 and under) to six innings per week (Sunday through Saturday), and six innings per game.
“Pitchers are always at a premium and the pitch count will make control a premium,” Mr. Echelmeier said. “With the cap on pitches it will make (a manager) think twice about trying to get a batter to fish.”
“The biggest difference I expect to see will be on defense,” Mr. Morris said. “Now you’ll have to have your best defense out there a lot more, since there’s going to be a lot more balls to field.”
The number of pitches allowable under the new regulation is based on the pitcher’s age. Specific rest periods are in place when a pitcher reaches a higher threshold of pitches delivered in a day.
“I don’t know how many kids can hit their spot consistently, but you know there won’t be a lot of wasted pitches,” Mr. Echelmeier said.
All of the managers admit that there will be a need to place more pitches around the plate, meaning a greater emphasis on developing pitchers with the ability to throw to different locations.
There was also a consensus on a player’s approach at the plate. All agreed that hitters can expect to see more pitches in the strike zone and to take advantage they must be aggressive, but more disciplined, to work deeper into the count.
“There will be more pitches down the middle and a lot more runs scored,” Mr. Morris said. “From now on, when I go into the regular-season draft I will have to look hard at more kids who can pitch.”
Mr. McCauley thinks some managers may approach their drafts with a “closer” in mind. He said this type of player is someone who isn’t yet physically strong enough, or may not have the experience to throw 85 pitches, but is capable of throwing about 20 quality pitches.
“Coaches will look forward to their schedule,” Mr. McCauley said. “This next year you could have a pitcher pitch twice in a week. This will allow a coach to figure out a rotation and develop a relief pitcher.”
Describing his approach toward nurturing players from throwers to pitchers, Mr. Keller said, “I’ll identify seven or eight players and start building their arm strength. From there we’ll work on off-speed pitches like a change-up, and then focus on location.”
“Naturally, this rule will make coaches develop more pitching,” Mr. Morris said. “I’ve said all along, a pitcher’s arm has a certain number of throws in it before it gives out. Little League is for fun no matter how you look at it. It’s not about throwing a player’s arm away to win a game.”
Each coach admitted that practice time will impact the development of pitchers. All are in favor of a child being well-rounded and playing many sports throughout the year, but all consider some sort of off-season program a necessity to work on mechanics and arm strength to prevent injury, while also giving a young player the time to develop confidence and stamina.
More information on the 2007 Little League Baseball pitch count regulations can be found here: http://www.littleleague.org/media/pitch_count_08-25-06.asp