(Renton, WA) The WIAA has approved a new rule that Baseball Coaches will have to take into account this season, an official pitch count for pitchers. The new rule was adopted by the WIAA Executive Board at their January 30 meeting and it takes effect immediately.
The Rule and Implementation
The rule will limit the number of pitches a pitcher can throw and is based on a per day count. The most any pitcher can throw in a day is 125. Also required is a minimum amount of rest before a pitcher can pitch again. Here is the pitch count table:
#Pitches Required Rest
91-125 3 calendar days
61-90 2 calendar days
36-60 1 calendar day
1-35 0 days (may pitch the next day)
The new rule will be the responsibility of the home scorekeeper to keep track of both team’s pitch count. The WIAA is encouraging the visiting team who also normally keeps a scorebook to keep track as well and have the scorekeepers check with each other regularly through the game to make sure they have the proper count. The count includes any pitch thrown with a batter in the box regardless if it’s a foul ball, a balk or foul tip. The only exception is if an Umpire grants time-out to the batter but the pitcher follows through with the throw that pitch would not count. The thought is sometimes stopping suddenly when a pitching motion begins can also cause injury. The count is a hard count as well which means if a pitcher hits the 125 mark with a batter up and the count is 2-2, the pitcher is done and must leave the game.
This rule will be enforced from game 1 of the 2017 season through the State Championship games. If a pitcher is found to have violated the rule it will be dealt with as the same as playing an ineligible player. The game will be forfeited and the league could impose additional sanctions against the coach for allowing the pitcher to throw over the limit. The umpires will not be in charge of enforcing this rule. The rule will be enforced through a process through the leagues. The leagues will then either verify the infraction and implement the penalties or they will find there is no violation and the result would stand.
The WIAA says it’s because the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has adopted the rule and as part of the NFHS the WIAA follows those rules. The NFHS now mandates the associations to develop pitch count regulations.
The whole pitch count issue also has come to the forefront of player safety with upticks in arm injuries and increased “Tommy John” surgeries on High School Players. Then came the story that ignited certainly the discussion in Washington State when then Rochester Baseball Coach Jerry Striegel allowed one of his pitchers Dylan Fosnacht pitch 15 innings throwing 194 pitches in a District Play-off game with La Center back in May of 2014.
ESN talked with Striegel who is also the Rochester Athletic Director, about the new rule and that game. He said he likes the new rule and thinks it is a good step but also said it’s important for coaches to know their pitchers and how much they are throwing weekly. He says some kids are specializing in only pitching and are throwing on their off days, some have personal coaches and do work outside the program. For many reasons he is in support of the new rules.
You would think that would have had him change his mind about allowing his pitcher throw 194 pitches but he hasn’t. Striegel says he knew Fosnacht was not one who was throwing on the side and in fact was a starting infielder and rarely pitched. He also said Fosnacht did not throw a bunch of pitches that are usually to blame for arm injuries like curve balls or screw balls but for the most part he was a fastball and a change up type of pitcher. He says as the game progressed Dylan kept telling him he was fine and ready to go and when Striegel finally lifted him in the 15th inning of a 1-1 tie that Fosnacht was disappointed.
The story got legs when the story caught the eye of Major League Pitcher David Price, then of the Tampa Bay Rays. Price lauded Dylan’s effort but hash tagged it with “#urcoachshouldbefired”. Dylan answered Price’s tweet defending Striegel.
Striegel says the only reason he would have changed his mind at this point would be to avoid the craziness of the media and social media that came with it but truly believes he was vigilant in looking out for his players and to this day Fosnacht has not had any arm issues. Fosnacht himself defended his Coach by way of Twitter:
“Some people think it’s awesome, some people think it’s ridiculous. I personally loved every minute of it and it’s a great memory to have”
and this one…
“People just don’t understand. I’m not a ace pitcher, I’m a infielder who pitches every now and then. Not a prospect ruining there career”
Here is the link to the story that was on ESPN which includes the tweet from David Price Click Here
In this story there was an interesting commentary defending Striegel and Fosnacht by ESPN Baseball Writer David Schoenfield Click Here
The next question is will this rule really have much of an impact on the games. We talked with current Black Hills
baseball coach Todd Venable who doesn’t think its going to be to difficult to comply with. He says his own pitch count keeps his pitchers right around 100 at most and he adds if you are throwing 125 pitches in 7 innings or less it’s highly unlikely they are having great success. He says that means there are several deep counts per inning or lots of hits because you would have to average nearly 20 pitches per inning.
His bigger concern would be to keep relief pitchers under the 35 pitch count so they could be available the next day. Relief pitchers had been monitored by innings pitched under the old rules and not actual pitches thrown. Venable says it will also become important for your scorekeeper to be correct in counting pitches. He says throwing 125 pitches in a game is not going to be where most if any violations occur, it will be miscounted pitches for shorter appearances and understanding how long a pitcher needs to rest before eligible to pitch again.
This could result in coaches having to develop more pitchers that could throw at least short outings. For the most part the new rule is unlikely to really change much, Venable points out last year he was questioned when he allowed a pitcher to throw a complete game early in the season. Venable said he had no problem in allowing his pitcher go the distance he finished the complete game with just 68 pitches.
But if you’re closer gets in trouble and he ends up throwing 36 pitches, he is no longer available the next day in the case of back-to-back games. In baseball this happens on a regular basis. Venable says they will have the same worries as they do every year when games begin to stack up most times due to rain-outs. Venable says he thinks coaches will have to be extra careful in keeping track of every pitch.