STUFF PITCHERS SHOULD READ

Week of November 20, 2016

Each week we bring you stories and articles that we don’t want you to miss out on. It’s stuff pitchers should read.

  1. “Core Training” – What It Is and How to Progress It – Part 1 (by Ryan Faer, Driveline Baseball)
  2. New Wisconsin Study Claims Single-Sport Student Athletes Suffer Far More Injuries (by Cam Smith, USA Today)
  3. 3 Tips for Improving Shoulder Health and Performance (by Eric Cressey, Cressey Sports Performance)

WORDEKEMPER JOINS PITCHING INSTRUCTION TEAM

Eric Wordekemper brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Tom Oldham Baseball staff as the current pitching coach at Creighton University. An 11-year veteran in the professional ranks, Wordekemper was drafted by the New York Yankees following the 2005 season, pitching at the A, AA & AAA levels for the Bronx Bombers.  Wordekemper pitched at the AAA level for the Yankees in 2006 (Columbus) as well as from 2009-11 (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Sidelined by Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2013, Eric returned to Creighton to complete his undergraduate degree (2015) in leadership studies. As Wordekemper worked to return to the professional ranks, Coach Servais saw an opportunity to help a former player as well as his current squad by bringing Eric on as an undergraduate assistant in for the 2014 season.

You can read more about Eric by visiting his bio page.

TRUSTING THE PROCESS

“If I was given eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first six hours sharpening my axe.” –Abraham Lincoln

I can still remember Spring Training like it was yesterday. Not so much the games, but the practices. Early morning conditioning in the desert followed by PFPs (Pitchers Fielding Practice). Day after day after day.

I remember thinking, “Ok. I got it. I can field a ground ball and throw it to first. Can we mix this up a little?” But, we didn’t.

We practiced the fundamentals over and over again until we could pick someone off of first with our eyes closed. Interestingly, though, the veterans didn’t say a word. They knew the drills were part of the process. They were at the highest level of baseball and they never stopped focusing on preparing for the season. In fact, they’d show up weeks before Spring Training started to get a jump start on their preparation.

Witnessing this helped me realize that you achieve success by trusting the process.

Trusting the process ultimately comes down to two things – preparation and patience. You must be prepared mentally, emotionally and physically in order to play your best baseball when spring rolls around. Patience is important because achieving your dreams doesn’t happen overnight and there are no shortcuts to success at the highest levels of baseball.

As you continue or begin your off-season development, remember to trust the process. There will be exciting days when you crush your personal records and frustrating weeks when you experience plateaus and question everything. Both are important and both are part of the process. Just keep working hard.

STUFF PITCHERS SHOULD READ

Week of October 30, 2016

Each week we bring you stories and articles that we don’t want you to miss out on. It’s stuff pitchers should read.

  1. Can Poor Scapular Control Lead to a Labrum or UCL Tear? You Bet. (by Randy Sullivan, Florida Baseball Ranch)
  2. Shoulder Impingement – 3 Keys to Assessment and Treatment (by Mike Reinold)
  3. 4 Ways to Improve Your External Rotation (by Ben Brewster, Tread Athletics)

STUFF PITCHERS SHOULD READ

Week of October 23, 2016

Each week we bring you stories and articles that we don’t want you to miss out on. It’s stuff pitchers should read.

  1. Measuring Recovery of Baseball Pitchers Using Omegawave and HRV (by Michael O’Connell, Driveline Baseball)
  2. How to Determine Age-Appropriate Training for High School Athletes (by Ryan Faer)
  3. Why Baseball Player Development is on the Decline, and Why Very Few Realize It (by Brian Hamm)

PITCH COUNTS, QUESTIONS AND UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Let me begin by saying that I am in favor of rules around pitch counts. Pitch count rules help to minimize overuse.  By putting parameters in place at both the youth and high school level hopefully we could start to see a decline in overuse arm injuries. This past week, the American Legion announced that American Legion Baseball has adopted pitch count rules for the 2017 season. They state, In an effort to minimize arm overuse injuries, American Legion Baseball has changed its pitching rule for the 2017 season. Legion Baseball has adopted regulations limiting pitchers based on the number of pitches thrown, replacing the previous rule which was focused on innings pitched.”

Here is a brief summary of the rule:

  • Seniors (age 19 or younger): max of 120 pitches in a single day
  • Juniors (age 17 or younger): max of 105 pitches in a single day
  • Can finish an at-bat if max limit is reached
  • No more than 2 appearances in a 3-day span

The pitch count rule also stipulates the amount of required rest:

  • 1-45 pitches = 1 day of required rest
  • 46-60 pitches = 2 days of required rest
  • 61-75 pitches = 3 days of required rest
  • 76 pitches or more = 4 days of required rest

A similar pitch count rule is being proposed at the high school level for the spring, but has not been formally announced by the Nebraska Schools Activities Association (NSAA). The proposal would limit the total number of pitches in a single game to a maximum of 85 pitches. The proposal also stipulates required rest days similar to The American Legion’s rule as follows:

  • 1-25 pitches = 1 day of required rest
  • 26-35 pitches = 2 days of required rest
  • 36-60 pitches = 3 days of required rest
  • 61-85 pitches or more = 4 days of required rest

Once April 1st hits and the State Championships start the pitch count rules adjust to:

  • 1-25 pitches = 0 days of required rest
  • 26-35 pitches = 1 day of required rest
  • 36-60 pitches = 2 days of required rest
  • 61-85 pitches = 3 days of required rest
  • 86-110 (120) = 4 days of required rest

You’ll notice that the maximum number of pitches increases to 110 pitches starting April 1st and increases even higher to 120 pitches during the District and State Tournaments. It should also be noted that even if a pitcher throws less than 26 pitches in two consecutive days, that pitcher is not allowed to pitch on the third day. Basically, a pitcher can only pitch two consecutive days regardless of the number of pitches thrown.

While these pitch count rules were established and proposed with good intentions, there may be some unintended consequences and questions that need to be addressed.

Who is going to be monitoring pitch counts?

The rules stipulate the number of pitches and corresponding required days of rest, but they do not address how these rules will be monitored. Similar to umpires, this should be done by an unbiased third-party who is required to report the numbers to a publicly available, centralized reporting “database” or “app”. Otherwise, if left up to the coaches, how would you arbitrate discrepancies? That could get ugly, quick.

Why is maximum number of pitches 120?

The American Legion pitch count rule and during the District and State Tournaments for spring high school baseball the maximum number of pitches that can be thrown in a game is 120. My opinion is that 120 pitches in any one appearance is too many. In fact, when I pitched professionally, rarely did I throw over 100 pitches in a single game. My pitching coaches just wouldn’t allow it. Let’s consider that an average number of pitches thrown in an inning is 15 pitches. If a pitcher has an outstanding game and throws, on average, 15 pitches per inning, it would take them 8 innings to reach 120 pitches. What we need to realize is this is a maximum number, not a suggested number of pitches. Coaches need to realize that regularly throwing 120 pitches in a game as a high school player is not smart. I’ll be interested to see how many times pitchers hit this maximum.

Pitchers will be left in the game longer than they should.

A potential unintended consequence of these new pitch count rules is that pitchers will be left in the game longer than they should. Let’s think about these rules from a coach’s perspective. If I have a pitcher that enters the game and throws one pitch, that pitcher is not available the next day. If the pitcher has a great outing and throws a number of innings this may not be that big of deal. But what happens if the pitcher is struggling? Coaches may determine that leaving the struggling pitcher in the game is the best strategy for the team depending on how much pitching depth the team has. If a team lacks pitching depth, the new rule may inadvertently have pitchers in a game when they should have been removed.

An Alternative Approach

Let me reiterate – I believe rules around pitch counts are a good thing. But total pitches per game does not tell the whole story. There are other factors that should be considered such as pitches per inning and the individual pitcher’s strength and overall physical development.

Total Pitches Per Inning

Throwing 30 pitches over 4 innings is much different than throwing 30 pitches in one inning. Even though the number of pitches is the same, the amount of fatigue on the body and arm is different. This is an important factor that should be considered when mandating required rest between appearances.

Here are some guidelines I have put together to help coaches and parents understand when a pitcher should be removed from the game based upon total pitches per inning:

Total Pitches Per Inning

In addition to the above guidelines, we need to consider that no two pitchers are the same from a strength or overall physical development standpoint. Moreover, coaches need to be afforded the opportunity to use judgment when determining when to use their pitchers. If we can’t trust that a coach is making prudent decisions, then that person probably shouldn’t be allowed to coach. Understanding that the majority of coaches put the wellbeing of their players first, the mandatory required rest should be a range of days. This would allow the coach to make a decision that takes into consideration a number of factors – not just total number of pitches in a game.

Mandatory Required Rest Between Appearances

To help illustrate this, I have developed these guidelines and I hope that they reach The American Legion, the Nebraska Schools Activities Association, and most importantly USSSA.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-3-05-19-pm

I hope we can come together as a community and understand that while the number of  total pitches per appearance is important, it isn’t the whole story.

If you have any questions or would like to continue this conversation here’s how you can reach me:

tom@tomoldhambaseball.com

Facebook: @tomoldhambaseball

Twitter: @tomoldham19

STUFF PITCHERS SHOULD READ

Week of October 10, 2016

Each week we bring you stories and articles that we don’t want you to miss out on. It’s stuff pitchers should read.

  1. 3 Ways To Improve Throwing Velocity By Enhancing Lower Body Force Production (by Mike Reinold)
  2. How Can Pitchers Ever Be “Elite” If They Take Time Off from Throwing? (by Eric Cressey)

  3. Why Do Plateaus Occur? – Part 1 (by Ron Wolforth)

EDUCATIONAL CLINIC

Developing Pitchers in the Off-season

On Sunday, September 25th at 7pm I’ll be hosting an Educational Clinic for player, parents, and coaches. The clinic will be focused on how to develop pitchers in the off-season. The clinic will be held at Athletes Training Center (13809 Industrial Road, Omaha, NE) and there is no cost to attend.  To register for the free clinic visit my Facebook event page by clicking here.

TOTAL PITCHES PER INNING

How to Know When To Replace a Pitcher

“The number of pitches thrown has the strongest correlation to youth pitching injuries.” – Dr. James Andrews, Renowned Orthopedic Surgeon

(Source: Andrews, Dr. James R., Any Given Monday – Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, For Athletes, Parents, and Coaches – Based On My Life In Sports Medicine), p. 55).

While I whole-heartedly agree with Dr. James Andrews, I think there is more to the story. In professional baseball, the number of pitches thrown is tracked in every game, for every pitcher.  If a starting pitcher is hovering around 90 pitches after the 6th inning, he is probably having a great game and is positioned to go back out for the 7th. The math on that works out to be 15 pitches per inning – which is generally considered to be the average number of pitches thrown per inning. Depending on where at in the season, that pitcher may go beyond a 100-110 pitch count. But, as realistic as this total pitch count example may be in professional baseball, it should not be used in the context of youth baseball.

Total Pitches Per Inning

 

In youth baseball, the dynamics of multiple games per day each weekend makes managing pitch counts crucial for the coach. A coach should focus on long-term development for the pitcher, rather than short-term successes. Meaning, coaches must make the hard decision to replace a pitcher in order to protect that pitcher’s long-term development. I’m often told by youth baseball coaches that I don’t understand when I discuss this with them. Their argument is that they only have a few “arms” that can throw strikes so those “arms” are the ones that pitch. My response is typically, “Looks like you need to develop more “arms.” I do get it.

There is pressure to win the tournament and many coaches believe that they just need to manage total pitch count or total innings pitched over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That could not be more wrong.

Coaches need to pay attention to total pitches per inning more closely than total pitch count or total innings pitched. Total pitches per inning is a better indication of the stress or workload a pitcher is facing in a given game. Think of it this way, if I asked you to do 30, 30 yard sprints in 30 minutes, do you think you could do it? That’s sprinting around the bases 7.5 times. You could probably do it, but you’d be feeling it. Now, what if I asked you to do the same 30, 30 yard sprints, but instead of 30 minutes I gave you 60 minutes. How would you feel the next day? Better than when you ran it in 30 minutes!

My point is this – pitching is an explosive movement and the duration over which a total number of pitches is thrown is important when the question is regarding the stress/workload on a pitcher.

The tough decisions coaches have to make will never go away. But hopefully the below chart will help. This chart highlights the importance of total pitches per inning and when a pitcher should be replaced. Share this with your players, with parents, and most importantly with other coaches  so everyone is one the same page about protecting the arms of youth pitchers.