It’s not just about the pitch count

We live in a world of pitch counts and innings limits.  Most of the time, these rules are set by tournament and league officials with the good intentions of protecting young arms.  Coaches usually keep a close eye on pitching limitations.  Some do it because they don’t want to see a young player get hurt, while others do it so they don’t get kicked out of a tournament.

So, if coaches are monitoring pitch counts, then what is the problem?  The problem is not many coaches or parents take into consideration what the pitcher does when he isn’t on the mound.

If a 12-year old travel ball pitcher is your “ace”, then he is probably a pretty good all-around player.  Let’s assume he starts the game on the mound and throws 40 pitches in three innings.  That is perfectly acceptable by MLB/USA Baseball Pitch Smart guidelines.  By those standards, he should rest two days before taking the mound again.

Here is the issue and I have seen it happen over and over again.  The kid with the rocket arm leaves the mound and heads into the dugout – TO PUT ON CATCHER’S GEAR!  Are you kidding me?  The reverse is just as bad.

Pitching and catching in the same day borders on lunacy.  Catcher is the most physically demanding position on the baseball field.  Coaches forget that when the pitcher throws a pitch, someone usually needs to throw it back to him.  Sure, those aren’t terribly taxing on the arm but combine that with attempting to throw out baserunners and you will be surprised how much the catcher throws.

Pitching requires you to use your legs.  A kid with tired legs who just took off the catcher’s gear will involuntarily transfer that stress someplace else.  That’s right…his arm.

Check out this statement from the American Sports Medicine Institute.

A pitcher should not also be a catcher for his team as it is the next most throwing-intensive position and results in far more throws than players at other positions. ASMI found that amateurs who played catcher while not pitching were 2.7 times more likely to suffer a major arm injury.

Don’t be an idiot.