Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Get 'Em Young About the author, Boyd Nation

Get 'Em Young

Publication Date: October 7, 2003

I am, as we say in Dilbertland where I spend my days, straying a bit from my core competency this week. Alert reader Charlie Artmann pointed something out a couple of months ago, and I want to report on it now that the heat of battle has died down (at least on that front; have you ever noticed that between the high school playoffs, the CWS, the Little League World Series, and the major league post-season, you could stay in playoff fervor mode for almost six months if you were so inclined -- almost like there are TV networks with time to fill out there or something).

One of the points that's made frequently by those who argue against reporting of pitch counts (nobody ever seems to be in favor of overuse, but lots of folks don't seem to believe it exists) is that a lot of pitchers are already used to carrying huge loads before they arrive on campus. One example they give is the well-reported case of Kerry Wood pitching both ends of a doubleheader during his high school career (given Wood's losing a couple of years from his early pro career to injury, we can problem quote Richard Pryor here: "Wait a minute, didn't James Dean die?"). I think the point is supposed to be that these kids have somehow been toughened up to be used to it. It doesn't work that way, as far as we can tell -- every case of pitching while fatigued is another chance to get hurt or aggravate an injury. However, one thing that is true is that to study the whole of the issue, it would be really great to have something approaching lifetime data to be able to see if there's a statute of limitations, so to speak, or to what extent the probability of injury increases cumulatively.

We don't have a source for high school pitch counts or younger, and we're probably not going to in the foreseeable future, but Mr. Artmann pointed out some data that's interesting from an anecdotal point of view. This year, the official Little League Web site carried box scores for all games from the regional level up, including pitch counts, and the numbers are, to me, fairly scary. When he wrote, after the regional tournaments, he had a nice list of overworked kids. It didn't improve any in Williamsport.

Let's put this in context. Little League (at least the division that leads up to the famous Little League World Series in Williamsport) is played, at least theoretically, by eleven- and twelve-year-olds. Physiologically, that means that most of them are still at the stage where their growth plates are developing full speed. While I have no medical training, my view as a well-read layman is that this is a time when arms should be treated gently. To further put things in context, remember that Little League games are only six innings long, and there's a school of thought that says that, for a given pitch count, there's an added danger from high-pitch-count innings -- in other words, it may be more dangerous to throw 125 pitches in 6 innings than it is to pitch 125 in 9 innings. Given all of that, 100 pitches is probably well over the reasonable limit.

With all that said, here are the pitchers who went over 100 pitches during the Little League World Series:

Pitcher           Team             IP   R  ER H  K  BB NP  Result

Cory Bernard      Chandler, AZ     6.0  4  3  4  12 5  117 W, 10-4
A. Manjarrez      Olmeca, Mexico   6.0  3  1  4  10 4  115 W, 11-3
Scott Dougherty   Naamans, DE      5.0  5  5  7  9  2  110 L, 5-1
Christian Lopez   Olmeca, Mexico   5.2  1  0  4  7  3  124 W, 2-1
Tim Fowler        Chandler, AZ     4.0  7  5  6  8  5  105 W, 8-7 (7)
Matt Petersen     North Scott, IA  6.0  7  7  11 10 0  118 L, 8-7 (7)
David Mastro      Naamans, DE      6.0  7  3  6  13 2  119 W, 8-7
Tharick Martines  Pabao, Curacao   6.0  0  0  1  14 7  115 W, 10-0
Yuutaro Tanaka    Musashi, Japan   6.0  1  1  3  14 8  132 W, 10-1

Note that only one of these guys was in a situation where both he had pitched well and the game was on the line.

Now, I don't pretend to have answers on this one. The mix of cultures that Little League brings together is remarkable, and trying to fix this problem by education would be difficult. I'm not a big fan of rules, and I don't know that a hard pitch limit is the right answer. I can't even guarantee that this is a problem. It is another log to throw on the fire, though, and it shows that parental involvement on the side of caution may need to start early.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Get 'Em Young About the author, Boyd Nation