As I’ve been keeping up with this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, I’ve noticed the need teams have for pitchers.
Out of the 314 players picked in the first 10 rounds of the draft, 168 are pitchers. That’s right, 53.4 percent of the players picked thus far are the guys preventing the runs instead of scoring them. Everybody wants top line starters and relievers. In today’s game you don’t just have a starter and a closer. You have the starter, the long relief man, the pitcher that comes in to face just right-handers, the guy that comes in to face just left-handers, the set up man and then the closer. The total approximate pick value for those 168 pitchers is $114,076,500. That’s a lot of money in projected signing bonuses. The draft will conclude today.
Looking these numbers in the first 10 rounds of the draft, it makes me realize that preserving a pitcher’s arm is more important than ever.
Over the years, more emphasis has been placed on watching pitch counts with pitch count rules put in place in high school leagues and recreation leagues. The Mississippi High School Activities Association has a pitch limit of 120 pitches for a game with rest rules in place after throwing a certain amount of pitches in a game. Dixie Youth Baseball limits pitchers ages 11-12 to 85 pitches in a day and 75 pitches in a day for players ages 9-10. Grand Slam Tournaments and the United States Specialty Sports Association have innings rules but no pitch count rules.
The importance of keeping up with pitch counts is more than just following a rule, it's having the full scope at what stage in a game a pitcher gets tired at, learning more about how to protect a pitcher’s arm and fully understanding how to develop him through out the season.
The biggest thing about all athletes is each person is different. Some pitchers handle a heavier workload than others. Some pitchers might be able to throw 100 pitches and still feel ready to go, while others might start losing steam at around 60 or 70 pitches.
With young athletes, there’s nothing wrong with exercising the old saying better safe than sorry.
I was looking at the Brandon High School Bulldogs' Maxpreps page. Their best pitcher this year was J.T. Ginn whose fastball is consistently in the upper 90s with a high of 99 miles per hour.
On March 19, Brandon had a game with Northwest Rankin with Ginn pitching. He struck out nine with three walks and didn't give up a hit in four innings of work with the Bulldogs leading 3-1. He was at 84 pitches. The coach took him out after four and Northwest Rankin ended up winning 13-3. The coach could have left Ginn for at least one more inning trying to get the win, but Ginn was pulled. Those 84 pitches in four innings equal an average of 21 pitches per inning, which is a lot. Looking at the games Ginn pitched this year, the most pitches he threw in a game was 89 and that came against Greene County on Apr. 28 in a playoff game he threw 6 2/3 innings inning. Ginn was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the MLB Draft Monday. He's the 30th overall pick.
With those results, I try not to wonder what would have happened had he been pushed to go further in games earlier in the year. Two of Ginn's three complete games came in his last two outings of the year.
If you're a youth league coach and high school coach, you might not have a pitcher that's destined for college or the Majors. If you're a college coach, you might not have a pitcher that will have the big leagues in his future but acting on the side of caution might be the thing that enables that young player to have the must fulfilling life with the best health possible when he reaches his adult years.