Little League Refines Baseball Pitching Rules for 2008
After two years of testing involving hundreds of local programs, Little League unveiled an initiative in 2007 that used the actual number of pitches delivered, rather than innings pitched, to determine eligibility for the next time a player can pitch. The number of pitches permitted, and the amount of rest required, depends on the age of the player.
Little League International has urged all youth baseball programs to adopt a pitch count in order to protect young pitching arms from rising overuse injuries. However, to date, Little League is the only national youth baseball organization to adopt this method. USA Baseball, the governing body for baseball in the U.S., recommends using pitch counts as well.
“The Little League pitch count program has been an unqualified success, as districts and local leagues understood and embraced the important reasons for the change,” Patrick Wilson, vice president of operations for Little League International, said. “Our volunteers have done outstanding work in putting the regulation into effect.”
Little League International also is grateful for the continued support of Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig, who contributed invaluable data and advice in crafting the Pitch Count Pilot Program in 2005-’06, as well as the regulations and tournament rules in 2007. Dr. Andrews is the chairman and medical director for the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham, Ala., and Dr. Fleisig is the research director at ASMI. They are the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of pitching-related injuries.
As noted when the pitch count was first introduced, the regular season pitching regulations and tournament pitching rules were expected to evolve as time progressed. The ASMI, led by Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig, have worked closely with Little League International to continue the development of this initiative.
“The first year of using pitch counts in Little League Baseball appears to be a success at all levels, and we are pleased that Little League continues to refine the program,” said Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig in a joint statement from the ASMI. “The changes for the 2008 season reflect the leadership position Little League has taken to protect young pitching arms, and we wholeheartedly endorse these actions.”
Here are the significant enhancements for the 2008 season for all divisions of baseball:
Regular Season Pitching Regulations
• A pitch limit for pitchers league age 7-8 has been added, with a maximum of 50 pitches per day. Previously, the limit for these ages was the same as for pitchers who were league age 9-10.
• A provision has been added that prohibits a player who has been removed as a pitcher in a game from playing the position of catcher for the remainder of that day. This was a recommendation of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig, and is intended to further prevent overuse injuries. The position of catcher, according to Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig, has the second-most overuse injuries, which can be acerbated by moving from pitcher to catcher in the same day. (However, moving from pitcher to any of the other seven positions, or from catcher to pitcher, apparently does not cause the same concerns.)
• Pitchers league age 16 and under who deliver 41 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed. Pitchers league age 17-18 who deliver 51 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed. This enhancement is designed to help ensure that teams develop more pitchers, and to help ensure that scheduling anomalies do not result in undue advantages for some teams.
• The “automatic” intentional walk was removed.
If a pitcher wishes to intentionally walk a batter, he/she must do so
by pitching four pitches intentionally outside the strike zone that
are not struck at by the batter, and are called “balls” by the umpire.
All such pitches will count in determining that pitcher’s pitch count.
The complete regular season pitching regulation for baseball may be found at: http://www.littleleague.org/media/RS_Pitching_Regulation_Changes_Baseball_2008.pdf
Tournament Pitching Rules
• As noted above in the regular season regulations, a provision has been added that prohibits a player who has been removed as a pitcher in a game from playing the position of catcher for the remainder of that day.
• Pitchers league age 16 and under (except those 16-year-olds playing in Big League) who deliver 21 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed. Big League Division pitchers league age 16-18 who deliver 36 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed.
• A rule allowing the pitcher of record in a suspended game to continue pitching on a subsequent day in that game has been added. However, in the case of a game resumed more than one day after the suspended game, the number pitches delivered in a game in between those dates will also be used to determine eligibility.
• Failure by the manager to remove a pitcher before that pitcher becomes ineligible will result in the suspension of the manager for the next two tournament games, with further penalties possible if the Tournament Committee deems that the infraction merits it. (This removes the automatic forfeiture penalty. However, the Tournament Committee could impose a forfeit if the situation warrants it.)
• The “automatic” intentional walk was removed,
as noted in the regular season regulation above.
The complete tournament pitching rule for baseball may be found at: http://www.littleleague.org/media/T_Pitching_Rule_Changes_Baseball_2008.pdf
“Little League also continues to receive advice from volunteers regarding breaking balls,” Mr. Wilson said. “All of the evidence so far points to overuse at the main reason for pitching-related injuries. However, we continue to monitor this situation, and we are in fact taking part in a multi-year scientific study that we hope will provide clear direction on this issue. Once that study is complete, Little League will take the appropriate measures.”