Home Baseball Content Pitch Count Roundtable: Your Thoughts?

Pitch Count Roundtable: Your Thoughts?

Written on April 30, 2012 at 8:38 am, by Eric Cressey

Last week, I contributed on a pitch counts roundtable for ESPN Boston. You can read it HERE.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below, as it is a certainly a heated debate that has come to the forefront in recent years with pitching injuries on the rise.


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14 Responses to “Pitch Count Roundtable: Your Thoughts?”

  1. Joe Says:

    Great piece, EC. I think you nailed it right on the head, especially with the fact that most elbow injuries are an accumulation effect. I can’t tell you how many parents I spoke to and they think it was one pitch or one game that caused little Johnny’s elbow to hurt…

    I think another often overlooked part of the pitch count is it doesn’t take into account warm-up pitches before the game and the 8 warm-up pitches before the 1st inning and 5 in-between every inning. A pitch count of 100 after 7 innings can really be 150 if you include all the warm-up pitches.

    Also the pitch count doesn’t gauge how high stress certain innings are. From experience I can say it is a lot less stressful throwing 90 pitches over 7 innings opposed to 90 pitches in 4 or 5 innings.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  2. tom Says:

    As a strength coach and former D-1 pitcher who also coaches youth baseball, I agree that 155 pitches is way too many. However, imo, paying attention to break downs in mechanics and loss of velocity are more important factors to consider and can occur in some HS pitchers far before 100 pitches.

  3. JE17 Says:

    Just getting the debate out there is a good thing. You can’t legislate common sense, but you can teach those who are willing to learn.

    I coach an AAU team here in Massachusetts and we worked indoors on kids’ mechanics and baseball-related conditioning (thanks in part to your videos) as much as we could. In-season we monitor pitch counts, but every kid has a different threshold due to their mechanics and conditioning. We use the ASMI guidelines as a baseline since they know way more than I do, and tailor a bit based on the individual.

    All of our kids also play in town rec ball, and that season just started. So I wrote up my approach for the parents and I work with them and most of the kids’ rec ball coaches to manage their workloads. It makes my job more difficult, working around other schedules, but it’s better than having an arm injury on my conscience. Plus it’s good education for everyone.

    For nearly all the parents this was a new concept, but now I have Moms counting pitches at rec games and reporting them back. We still have rec ball coaches who will use these kids as much as they can since they’re good, but now the parents are aware and can speak up for the kids. And now they also know why we did those funny exercises when they could have just been doing more throwing.

    Reading the roundtable, it seemed that those with more knowledge on the topic highlighted more uncertainty than those who had less knowledge. I also see that in other coaches. That’s the reality of where we are – there is going to be a lot of uncertainty for the foreseeable future so we need to educate as much as possible and manage it the best we can with what we know today.

  4. Chase Says:


    Awesome job! You nailed it!”(less variety = less development),” I am constantly in debate with pitching coaches over this topic. And after reading your article… the debate is over.

  5. Tom Landry Says:

    A lot of very good view points on pitch counts but are they just pitchers? From little league through high school, the majority of these players pitch and play a position in the field. During game situations a short stop will be pulled into the game with maybe 8 warm up pitches and is expected to perform to the best of his ability on a mound. If he’s also a starting pitcher when did he pitch last? Maybe he pitched the day before and went higher than 100 pitches, did he have enough recovery time to go again? Did the same pitcher/fielder pitch for his town team and AAU team during the year? AAU programs are starting at 9 years old and use 75 to 85 pitch counts. Are these kids functionally strong enough to carry these workloads on undeveloped joints? Realistically if pitch counts were in place it would be easier to educate coaches and trainers on how to pre test pitchers to see if they are ready to pitch. There was more emphasis on baseball bat construction over the past few years to prevent injury to players in the field but are pitchers more durable than bats? The next step is to collect the statistical data regarding arm injuries and present this to the MIAA to strongly urge them to consider pitch count caps at no more than 105 for high school. If the rate of injury is high according to Dr OH then between the orthopedic and PT groups represented at Mass General and Children’s Hospital there should be a forum created to make more parents and coaches aware of this issue. It’s not going away through rhetoric.

  6. Mike Hopper, ATC Says:

    I am not a big believer in pitch counts. I think there is a lot of variability between pitchers which makes it difficult to have a set pitch count for a team. There are also many factors that go into rest and injury risk, etc.

    I do believe that high school players pitch too much as a whole. They start throwing and pitching in January, ramp up their high school season in March through early June. Take a day or two off in May/June and start summer ball where they’re playing 20-30 games a month through August. August through November they have fall ball on the weekends, showcases, etc.

    When exactly are their arms getting rest? And I mean extended rest… they need time off. And it’s not just their arms that need that rest. The rest of their body plus they need the mental rest as well.

    It was mentioned in the article that a lot of pitchers who suffer elbow injuries have significant weakness of the shoulder. And I would agree with that completely! But also we must look at more than just the elbow and shoulder. What about the “core” and what about the hips? I think many of our arm injuries are not reallly problems in the arm (shoulder or elbow) but more related to the hips. We must use our whole body and many pitchers try to use “all arm.”

  7. Henry Says:

    I am the “pitching” coach for my sons LL team. I monitor my pitchers and their counts, not only total count for the game, but pitches per inning.
    What my question is, if we have games either on back to back days or back to back on the same day, as it is for our USSSA league, what is the safest position to have the pitcher play in the next game? Other than not playing? I was thinking 1st base.

  8. Ruben Corral Says:

    “Third, we are better diagnostically and surgically now. In other words, there likely were more of these injuries in the past, but we weren’t as good at evaluating them and treating them, so they weren’t as publicized.”

    Diagnostically and surgically still speak from a “post-injury” perspective. I’d also like to point out that with all the technology and science seeming to lead the way, there has been a seven-fold increase in pitching injuries since 2000.

    What is being done to prevent injury? Pitch counts have been proven to not be the answer. These breakdowns in pitchers are structural, not muscular.

    In order to create pitchers capable of throwing 150 pitches per game, pitchers would have to train their structural mechanics to deliver the baseball in such a way that it does not cause structural injuries. This can be done, but it takes hours and hours of practice to perfect a new throwing motion. Pitchers would have to learn exactly what in their throwing motion causes injury, remove any such flaws in their throwing motions and once that happens, they will be able to strengthen their arms muscularly to the point where they can throw 150 pitches EVERY DAY if they wanted to.

    And that becomes the pickle. Learn a new technique is uncomfortable, takes time and energy, and “hey, I’m not injured now, why should I worry about it?”

    The two largest throwing muscles in the body are the latissimus dorsi (back), and the triceps brachii (arm). How many pitching coaches do you think train their pitchers to use these muscles to deliver the baseball?


    The tricep muscle contains the highest percentage of fast twitch muscle in the pitching arm. When pitchers throw from a high 3/4″-and-lower arm slot, they cannot use this muscle to drive the ball.

    The lat muscle is the largest muscle in the back. When pitchers pull their pitching arm behind, away and across their body, they cannot use their lat to drive the ball to the plate.

    The lat muscle is also built to slow down the pitching arm after release. However, when pitchers pull their arms across their bodies, the teres minor muscle, which is considerably smaller is the only muscle available to slow the arm down.

    Once pitchers learn to use these powerful muscles to deliver the baseball, they can now increase their muscular fitness by training the arm through overload strength training. By doing so, pitchers would be able to pitch as often and as long as they wanted.

    For youth pitchers and high school pitchers that have not yet reached full growth plate maturity, pitch counts and/or the number of competitive months thrown per year becomes a factor. Throwing too much at young ages can overstress growth plates and cause injuries to still open plates in the elbow and shoulder. There is no amount of structural or muscular training that supercedes a child’s growth pattern. Coaches and parents must understand the damage that can be done before pitchers are fully mature.

  9. Chris Says:


    Great post! I agree completely. I’ve been training and coaching baseball players for the last 8 years and the landscape for youth baseball in Philly is in complete shambles. Some organizations have kids playing 80-90 games a year starting at 10 years old and continuing through their senior year in high school. Trainers are not aware or making themselves aware of imbalances their players are dealing with and physical therapists are treating nothing but GIRD for every player (not just pitchers) that steps into their clinic. Down here, we have a complete overhaul to make in the upcoming years. With our AAU team, we don’t allow are pitchers to go more than 75-85 pitches per outing because of the lack of care they are seeing everywhere else. Dramatic changes are on the way for every state, though, it’s going to take time for correct practices to be implemented in the weight room, on the field, in the clinic, and in coaches minds. The information is out there for everyone, there’s no excuse these days for the type of neglect these kids are receiving.

  10. Jeff Johnson Says:

    I think pitch counts are important but I guess I see this differently. I’m more concerned about the number of pitches per inning as compared to overall. 

    I believe the most pitches thrown in a big league game was by Nolan Ryan. The 244 pitches he threw in that fifteen inning game averaged a little over 16 pitches per inning. Yes, 244 is way too many for anyone in any one game. However, when we consider he received a few minutes of rest between innings may prove less stressful than a pitcher that threw 90 pitches in three or four innings. Pitch efficiency is very important. By the way, Big Tex pitched for only 17 more big league seasons after that!  

    My rule is if a pitcher throws 30 pitches in an inning, he is done for the day. That’s pretty stressful to an arm, in my opinion. 

  11. Marcus, ATC Says:

    IMHO…I’m an ATC at a small D3 university. I think this issue affects guys in my situation significantly. Obviously, we’re typically not getting D1 caliber athletes/pitchers, but do once in a while. The issue I face each year is these young guys come to our program with numerous unreported issues related to wear and tear on their elbows and shoulders due to a combination of things that you address each week (poor UE/RC/Scapular strength and biomechanics, GIRD, poor core strength,etc…). If we add in the fact that they’ve been overused probably since they were 12-13 years old and they have also played year-round, they are simply an injury waiting to happen. They are recruited to come here and pitch, yet have not been completely honest about the fact that they have had a sore elbow or shoulder off and on for the last 2 years of high school, etc… It is a very frustrating issue for me to deal with, particularly when I ‘get stuck’ dealing with their lengthy rehab along with a possible surgery once they develop a significant injury. Managing these kids better when they are younger via pitch counts, better pitching instruction, encouraging multi-sport play, etc… is key. Getting better preventative care and corrective exercise work in the high school setting and with their select/travel teams is also important. Unfortunately, many kids are treated by their family physicians when they are home and have things injected, but don’t do much else to correct any issues or get to the root cause of their problem. I am constantly preaching to my coaches to do better during the recruiting process and dig deeper into the medical/injury history of their recruits to head off these issues, if possible. OK, I’m stepping down from my soapbox now…

  12. Eric Lagoy Says:

    Although I don’t think I have the background to I’d agree with this. There is such a push at younger and younger ages for specialization in all sports. Once someone is deemed a pitcher, whether in little league or high school, coaches often push for that person to stick with pitching, taking a “more is better” approach. I think Dr. Luke Oh hit the nail on the head when describing how youth pitchers are still developmentally growing. I think there should be a natural progression for pitch count as competitive level advances from youth sports to high school to college and professional level that would mirror the developmental capabilities of the pitcher. In the meantime, don’t forget basic principles and benefits of strength, flexibility, tissue quality, cross training etc., and these kids would be healthier in the long run.

  13. Eric Cressey Says:

    Great points, Jeff! Don’t forget that Ryan did eventually tear his UCL on the second to last pitch of his career; he retired a few weeks early as a result. I’ll still give him the benefit of the doubt, though!

  14. GT Says:

    Eric, what do you think adaptations in the bone structure have in relation to pitch counts? When pitchers age the stress of the pitching makes the bones bigger. Do you think this another reason why youth and professionals are different with pitch counts? Also, what if a person can deaccelerate and prevent added stress at the end of the delivery? Should this also factor in to the pitch count for that individual?

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