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New Jersey Coaches Dealing with New Pitch Count Regulations

In an effort to help to prevent pitchers from suffering catastrophic arm injuries, such as torn elbow ligaments that require Tommy John surgery, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) has implemented a strict pitch count regulation for the 2017 season. 

The rules have been rigorously enforced so far, resulting in three teams having to forfeit games that were initially wins — having been called to task by both the NJSIAA and the opponent.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) initiated a new plan nationwide this year for each state to have a mandatory provision in place for some sort of pitching limitation rule.

The NJSIAA rules, which are those instituted by the NFHS, go as follows:

  • A head coach must remove a pitcher when said pitcher reaches the pitch limit of 110 pitches. That is the maximum total of pitches allowed in one game day. The pitcher may remain in the game or could re-enter, but at another position, per the substitution rule.
  • If a pitcher reaches the pitch limit while facing a batter, the pitcher may continue to pitch until the batter either reaches base, has been retired, or the third out is recorded to complete that half inning of a game.

There are rules that apply to the pitchers in terms of receiving proper rest after pitching: 

  • If a pitcher reaches 91-to-110 pitches in a day, then four calendar days of rest are required.
  • If a pitcher reaches 71-to-90 pitches in a day, then three calendar days of rest are necessary.
  • If a pitcher reaches 51-to-70 pitches in a day, then two days of rest are needed.
  • If a pitcher throws 31-to-50 pitches, then one day of rest is necessary.
  • And if a pitcher throws 1-to-30 pitches, then no days of rest are needed.

There are more rules that state a pitcher cannot pitch on three consecutive days, a pitcher cannot throw more than 50 pitches in two consecutive calendar days, and a pitcher cannot exceed 140 pitches in one five-day calendar period.

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The rules also apply to games suspended by weather, darkness or any other reason. A pitcher can resume throwing the next day, provided he threw less than 50 pitches on the initial start and he cannot exceed the 110-pitch limit for a game.

If he threw more than 50 pitches before the game was suspended, then the pitcher has to be monitored by the pitch count.

Got all that? It certainly can get confusing.

It’s also forcing some schools to have an assistant coach who strictly monitors the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. For smaller schools with smaller coaching staffs, the pitch count has been left in the hands of the scorekeeper, who in most instances is a volunteer high school student.

But New Jersey high school coaches have to follow the guidelines to the pitch or risk the chance of forfeiting a game.

The reason for the new rules put into place this season?

“After years of research and thoughtful discussion on minimizing risk for the position of pitcher, it has been determined that modifying the pitching restriction rule to reflect that the policy should be based on the number of pitches thrown is a better indication of overuse and repetition than the current method of innings pitched during a contest,” the NJSIAA said in a release last January that coincided with the new pitch count rules.

Last fall, the NJSIAA formed a new Pitch Count Committee, comprised of athletic directors, baseball coaches, and officials, to determine the pitch count limits and mechanics of operation.

The committee was concerned with the potential for overuse of pitchers, particularly with the amount of travel ball and other organized baseball programs that the NJSIAA cannot govern.

The committee examined models that had already been approved by states. Some of the warmer climates had larger pitch counts; some states in the northeast and northeast corridor of the United States had smaller pitch counts. Of course, in some of those states, high school baseball is a sport played in the fall because the weather is more suitable.

The only problem with having the entire country going by those rules is that a lot of the athletes involved play both football and baseball and this rule would then force the high school athlete to make a decision at an early age which sport to play.

The New Jersey model is closer to those of states in the Northeast region that already have pitch count regulations in place.

From GameChanger and Jim Hague.

Baseball, Baseball Features

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