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Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Many Pitches Should My Son Throw?

I saw "Matthew" today.  Matthew is a 13 year old pitcher with a "stress fracture" in his pitching shoulder.  He threw, READY FOR THIS, 109 pitches in his first game of the year!

I was asked, "How many pitches should he have thrown?"  Below is a summary of the answer I gave...

I think the LL guidelines are a good attempt overall. However, with the physical maturation variance among adolescents I don't personally think all 13 year olds are the same just as all 10, 11, 12 year olds are not the same. A 13 year old throwing 30 pitches with suboptimal mechanics may be worse than a 13 year old throwing 60 with good mechanics. Therefore, putting a number limit isn't the answer in my opinion. To borrow a phrase from a good friend and mentor of mine... "where you fail is where you start". That simply means, Matthew's pitch count limit should be where he first begins to a) lose velocity, b) lose command, c) verbally reports fatigue, d) mechanics begin to change. So where his pitching performance begins to fail (change) is where his pitch count limit should be set for future outings.

Now, in terms of when can Matthew return to pitching, again, should be determined by changes as described above (AFTER THE FRACTURE HAS HEALED AND THE PRE-DISPOSING FACTORS HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED). He may be good for 10-20 throws but then his performance changes (as described above). Therefore, he should not be permitted to throw with subopitmal mechanics just to reach some "magical" number.  So that, in my opinion, is how to determine readiness to progress throwing - physiological response.

So when should Matthew have stopped pitching?  As soon as his performance began to change.

What if he is still effective?  Let's keep in mind that during the younger years of baseball, for the most part, hitters develop later than pitchers.  That means pitchers can appear to be effective against later developing hitters but still be placing way too much physiological stress on their shoulders and elbows.

The other part to "what if he is still effective" is he may be "effective" for that game but now the majority, if not all, of his season is lost.  So, in the big picture, how effective was Matthew?

Wishing you health and success,