In an effort to stem the alarming increase in elbow and shoulder injuries among young baseball pitchers, Little League Baseball adopted important new rules in 2007 to limit the number of pitches a pitcher can throw in a game and how much rest he must take pitching appearances.
In its continuing effort to protect the health and safety of youth pitchers, and to reflect the latest research on pitching injuries, Little League made additional changes in its rules, which went into effect for the spring 2010 season and beyond.
Pitch count limits for 2014 and beyond
|League Age||Pitches Allowed Per Day|
|13 - 16||95|
| 9 - 10
|7 - 8
||50 [Note: this is a change from the 2007 rules, which lumped all pitchers 10 and under together so as to allow even the youngest pitchers to throw 75 pitches in a day]|
To ensure that pitching rules are strictly followed, Little League now imposes a number of other strict requirements:
- Each league must designate a scorekeeper or official to track pitch counts as the official pitch-count recorder.
- The pitch count recorder must provide the current pitch count for any pitcher when requested by either manager or any umpire, and notify the umpire-in-chief when a pitcher has reached the pitch limit, who will, in turn, notify the pitcher's manager that the pitcher must be removed.
- Failure of the pitch count recorder to notify the umpire-in-chief, and/or the failure of the umpire-in-chief to notify the manager does not relief the manager of his/her responsibility to remove the pitcher when that pitcher is no longer eligible to pitch.
- Violation of the rule can result in a protest of the game in which it occurs.
In general, the rules add extra days for pitchers regardless of age and lower the threshold for pitches triggering extra days off between taking the mound. The old rules set different rules for pitchers league age 16 and under and league age 17 and 18. The new rules establish different rules for pitchers league age 14 and under and league age 15 to 18. Reflecting new research findings about the risk of injury to pitches who throw the most pitches, the new rules require a fourth day of rest - not required for a pitcher of any age at any pitch count under the old rules - for pitchers throwing 66 pitches or more for younger pitchers (7 to 14) and 76 pitches or more for older pitchers (15 to 18).
|Age||Daily Max (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)|
|0 Days||1 Day||2 Days||3 Days||4 Days|
Note: new for 2014 is the removal of an exception in Regulation VI Note 3 which provided that, in the event that the first inning was not completed, all records including pitching records, batting records, etc. were to be disregarded. Under the new rule, even if a game does not complete the first inning, pitchers who participated during the first inning must adhere to the appropriate rest requirements. In addition, this eliminates the requirement to completely restart a game that doesn't get through the first inning - such a game would be suspended just like a game interrupted at any other point. Note that the corresponding exception in the Tournament rules (Rule 11) was not removed.
Other important rules
- Pitcher to catcher ban: any pitcher who delivers 41 or more pitches in a game may not go behind the plate to play catcher for the remainder of the day. [Remember: once a pitcher is removed from the mound, he can only return to the mound in Little League's Junior, Senior and Big League Divisions only; except in the Big League Division, a player may not pitch in one more than one game in a day; in the Big League Division, a player may be used as a pitcher in up to two games in a day]. [Note: a 2010 study appears to support this new rule, finding that playing catcher appeared to double or triple a pitcher's risk of injury, although the small number of injured players studied prevented a finding that the risk was significantly significant].
- Minor league pitching: Players over age 12 may not pitch in Minors division games
- Multiple games: Players may not pitch in more than one game in a day
- Pitches in suspended/regulation tie games charged against pitcher's eligibility. If suspended games are resumed on another day, pitchers of record at time game was suspended will be allowed to pitch to the extent of their eligibility for that day if they have rested the proper amount of days.
- Completion of pitching to batter: If a pitcher reaches the pitch-count limit for their age while facing a batter, the pitcher may continue to pitch until the batter reaches base, the batter is retired, or the third out is made to complete the half-inning.
Limits are working ... to a point
According to a 2011 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina commissioned by Little League, its pitch count program appears to be working, reducing the risk of shoulder injury among pitchers in Little League Baseball (ages 8 to 13) by 50 percent.
The problem, unfortunately lies elsewhere: with travel ball teams that don't come under the Little League umbrella. Indeed, recent statistics published by Safe Kids International suggest that many of Little League's rules are honored more in the breach:
- 45% of youth baseball pitchers pitched in a league with no pitch counts;
- 43.5% of youth baseball pitchers pitched on consecutive days
- 30.4% of youth baseball pitchers pitched with multiple teams
- 19% of youth baseball pitchers pitched multiple games in one day; and
- 13.2% of youth baseball pitchers pitched year-round.
Sources: Little League Baseball
Umpire Resource Center: 2014 Little League Rule Changes. http://www.llumpires.com/2014-little-league-rule-changes/ (accessed March 17, 2014)
Updated and revised October 2, 2015