Understanding Pitch Count Rules

Updated Friday May 17, 2013 by Laurel Little League.

Each year, we have several new coaches, and there's always some confusion on pitch counts and how they work.  Understandably so--there are lots of guidelines to keep in mind, and it can cause some awkward moments on the field when pitch count limits are being hit.  This information conveniently printed on the Pitching Log that each coach receives, but here's a great link that summarizes the rules and why Little League has gone to pitch counts:

http://www.momsteam.com/sports/baseball/safety/2013-little-league-baseball-pitch-count-limits-and-mandatory-rest-periods

Here are some general strategies for coaches to keep in mind while planning out your pitchers for the week:

1. Remember to plan ahead for days rest, especially if you have a quick turnaround.  Example: You have games on Thursday and Saturday and you want a particular pitcher (say she's 9) available for both days.  She can pitch no more than 35 pitches.  Note: She can't "finish the hitter" and exceed this pitch count.  She must stop at 35 to be eligible to pitch on Saturday.

2. The only time a pitcher can exceed the maximum age-based pitch limit is to "finish the hitter." Example: An 8-year-old is at 49 pitches on a Saturday.  He can pitch to the next hitter and pitch through the at bat to completion, even if it takes him 11 pitches.  He will require three days of rest, so he is not eligible to pitch again until Wednesday.

3. Manage your catchers.  A good rule of thumb is to not have players catch more than three innings if at all possible.  That leaves them always eligibile to pitch.  On the flip side, pay attention to make sure your pitcher stops at 40 pitches if you intend for him to catch later in the game.

4. You'll start to see how this can come together for you.  If you are playing Thursday and have a game on Saturday.  You may want to save all your pitchers for Saturday.  Tell your pitch counter to let you know when your pitcher is getting close to 35 pitches.  They'll all be eligible to catch.  Only thing you have to worry about is keeping your catcher to under four innings if you want he/she to pitch later that day.

5. Come tournament time, it becomes very important to manage pitchers for short turnarounds, especially if you have back-to-back days.  The limit in this case is only 20 if you want them eligibile the next day.  You'll often see coaches employ the "kitchen sink" approach, where every pitcher is used 20 pitches at a time...which if you're lucky is roughly one pitcher per inning.

As always, if you have questions about how counts work, please talk to any of the experienced coaches in the upper divisions who have dealt with them in the past.  They'd be happy to share with you their management strategies.

Attached to this article is a Pitch Plan Tool that was created to help layout the games and who would pitch, especially when the makeup games and tournament games start compressing the schedule.  Feel free to use as is or modify to your needs.  Any questions regarding the tool can be sent to contact@laurellittleleague.com

Pitch Plan Tool v2.xls



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