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Managing pitch counts - 8U

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  • Managing pitch counts - 8U

    We are about to start our season in two weekends. My group will be doing a 50/50 tournament split between CP and KP. Our first is a one day KP round robin and I'm trying to build lineups.

    My question is: how do you manage pitch counts and actually complete a tournament with 8U kids? I know it's done every weekend, but it seems pretty challenging. You can practice all day (we don't), but 8 year olds are going to be 8 year olds. Lots of balls and wild pitches. Tips on strategy?

    We have 12 players, but one is injured due to a non-baseball thing, so we have 11 available. I worked with them all winter as best I could and plan on using each one as a pitcher at some point. Some are better than others of course. I have 2-3 I consider hard throwers. The rest are just playing catch.

    Pitch count rules say the following:

    50 pitches max
    >20 equals a day rest
    <20 means they could pitch a max of another 30 the next day

    I am 100% on board with the rules and the spirit behind them.

    Take a typical two day tourney. Two game on Saturday and who knows how many on Sunday (1-3).

    Do do I try to put a starter in each game and get 50 pitches from him and then aim for the same count for each reliever? Or, do I shoot for < 20 for relievers and try to use them over the course of both days? Does the latter see like it would be detrimental for the kids' arms? That's not a hypothetical question by the way. Truly curious and want to do the right thing.

    Thanks
    Last edited by -Hawk-; 03-12-2018, 11:03 AM.

  • #2
    How many teams in your tournaments?

    When I coached that age, I used to throw every kid an inning on Saturday. Most games hit time limit in a tournament so not everyone pitched on Saturday. I tried to save the ones I wanted to pitch on Sunday to no innings on Saturday if I could. We always work to have 15 pitch innings or less. The great thing about it was that it also worked into my player rotation. Say you had 11 available. One kid that is out this inning is warming up in the bullpen to pitch the next inning and the other kid that is sitting is the kid that pitched the last inning, or someone that just came out from catching. I liked that and it kept parents very happy as they understood what was going on.

    Then on Sunday we would pitch the better pitchers out. If you have a small tournament with 2-3 games on Sunday you can make it and not go over the pitch count. Remember that run rules and time limits are your friend for saving pitching.

    This is not the strategy for having the best 8u kid pitch team out there. This is the strategy for having the best team in a few years. Most of the academy teams around here would break into Saturday pitchers and Sunday pitchers and throw the kids out, nothing wrong with that I did it later, just not at 8u. In the coming years though, they just replaced players that weren't performing to their standards. I was more of an, I am going to coach up the ones I've got. We had almost no turnover from 8u to 13u, and as the kids got older they could all pitch well enough for pool play games and we had some that blossomed into Championship day pitchers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Keep in mind that it's EARLY in the season and, this is 8U. I would use everyone for 20 or less. No one's arm is probably conditioned for more at this stage of the season and their age. Plus, it's 8U. It's not the college WS in Omaha. Run them out there. Give them 20 pitches each. And, don't worry about the results.
      Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

      Comment


      • #4
        All I can add is, if you pitch them more than 25-30 the first day do not pitch them the 2nd.

        Comment


        • #5
          Typically what our teams did at that level was aggressively try to win the pool play games with our aces and grab the top seed. That eliminates a whole game of needing pitching. I think 50 is a super low pitch count and I wouldn’t worry too much about overuse injuries. Our local TB has an 8 inning per weekend count (no pitch count) and that’s where you see injuries.

          As was previously said, run rules and time limits are your friend.

          Comment


          • #6
            First off the disclaimer: I never coached below 10U ball, and that was over 10+ years ago now. So that said....

            From what I'm reading, and what I'm picturing in my head, if I were you I'd first take the stated rules, and the number of potential games you could have, and start working backwards.

            So, unless I'm reading something incorrectly, since it's a two-day tournament...as soon a a pitcher throws his 21st pitch on Saturday he's done pitching for the remainder of the tournament, and can't pitch on Sunday. This means either no one throws more than 20 on Saturday, or if they do throw pitch 21...then let them go as long as they can safely, up to the 50 pitch limit because you can't use them either way again on Sunday.

            Now if you decide to go the no one throws more than 20 on Saturday, that only gives you a total of 220 pitches over two game Saturday at your disposal, so the accuracy of all your pitchers must be taken into consideration, because 20 pitches could easily be taken up in an inning by a less than accurate pitcher, or if the other team starts stringing some hits together. You then have to consider that fact that it may take you more than one "20 pitch" pitcher to get you through an inning. Assuming that each of your two games goes 5 innings, you could potentially run out of "20 pitch" arms come the end of the first day.

            That brings us to the use a couple of them to their 50 pitch limit on Saturday and they don't pitch again Sunday...so and again, depending on accuracy, and your opponents hitting proficiency, you're going to have to guesstimate at how many pitches will they potentially need to get through the 10+ innings of the first day's two games, and choose your rotation accordingly.

            That all said...when we coached 11U tournament teams (no two-day, multi-game tournaments for 10Us and below), we'd start our #1 in the first game as a warmup/bull pen kind of thing, and throw him until he reached the "can pitch tomorrow" threshold, and then go to our "nearer the end of the line" pitcher(s) depending on where we were score wise...and yes, we tried to run-rule the other team to shorten the innings as much as possible to conserve arms as much as possible. We'd then go with our #2 guy in the second game, and play it the same way as the first....sometimes we'd go #1 and #2 in the first game, and #3 and #4 in the second depending on who we were playing in the seeding games, and what message we wanted to send at the time.

            We also didn't care where we were seated the next day because there was usually only one or two other teams in the tournaments that we considered strong competition, and the TDs usually knew who was who beforehand as well, so made sure the brackets didn't typically put us facing any of them until the later games in the tournament on Sunday.

            Just what we did years ago, and at a different age and competition level...hope that might help some, or at least give you somethings to think about in preparing for it.
            Last edited by mudvnine; 03-12-2018, 11:58 AM.
            In memory of "Catchingcoach" - Dave Weaver: February 28, 1955 - June 17, 2011

            Comment


            • #7
              I get the fact that it's not some vital competition we have to win. We're not one of the premier, super competitive organizations, so I'm very familiar with not worrying about results. We want to compete though, even if we fail.

              Tournaments are going to vary in size, but I think the 2 pool play Saturday/single elimination Sunday format will be there 90% of the time.

              This season is about getting them to the point they are ready to play KP next year.

              I like the thought of working in the playing rotation like that. ITS always a challenge to make sure everyone is getting their fair share of playing time.

              We are lucky to have a one-day RR as our first tourney, so I think the 20 and out concept is solid.

              Comment


              • #8
                Some great things to think about all. I really appreciate your help.

                Comment


                • #9
                  At that age group (going back and taking the average from a couple season on GC) you should average around 20 pitches per inning if the kid doesn't struggle with too many walks. Figure that every game on Saturday would be between 4-5 innnings each which would require you to use almost an entire roster assuming you carry 10 kids if you limit them to the minimum. We always let the strike throwers who could put the ball in play (regardless of outcome of the hit) throw a little more on Saturday while saving our better "pitching" for Sunday when they were allowed to use the majority of their pitches. We always had 2-3 who were our better pitchers who pitched primarily on Sunday but were used occasionally on Saturday to close out an inning or help preserve a seed if we could avoid having to play an extra game on Sunday. Have you been doing regular bullpens with your players? They should be throwing between 25-35 pitches a couple times a week to help build their arms and help to develop control.

                  The scenarios above assume that you have 10 kids who can all consistently throw strikes on a regular basis. It has been my experience that when dealing with 8U baseball this is not typically the case and the scenarios mentioned above get worse when you have to divide the innings up with lower numbers.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It looks to me as though you have 550 total pitches to work with, 50 for each of 11 players, whether it’s a 1 or 2 day event. It may sound daunting, but keep in mind everyone else is under the same constraints. Kinda hard for me to believe anyone’s out there building an 8yo dynasty, so I’d just give everyone the 20 on day 1 and quit worrying about it. If there’s a day 2, you’ll either have plenty of arms in reserve or you have to forfeit a game, which isn’t even close to the end of the world.

                    They’re 8! It should be the start of a journey filled with lots of fun. Don’t obsess about trying to micro manage the pitchers because of the pitch count rules. Give ‘em all an opportunity to pitch and see what happens. Good luck!
                    The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks again, everyone. Gives me a better idea of what to plan for.

                      They are all very eager to pitch and will all get the opportunity. At this age, I've got a few that are a little better than the others, but for the most part they are all the same. Lots of balls thrown and busy catchers blocking them. In reality, it doesn't really matter who's up on the mound.

                      We've slowly incremented the number of pitches thrown during practice every week and all of them are between 30-40 right now.

                      As a feeder program in the local Catholic school system, our organization has been asked to 1) get kids pitching and 2) use the pitch count rules to protect them and so they are used to it. IHSA changed their guidelines last year I believe and many local schools had to forfeit games because they didn't have pitchers. The HS team wants a kids that can pitch.

                      Obviously the majority of my kids won't pitch in HS, or even play in HS, but that's beside the point. We'll prepare them as best we can and the future will be what it is.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by -Hawk- View Post
                        … IHSA changed their guidelines last year I believe and many local schools had to forfeit games because they didn't have pitchers. …
                        Why would any coach forfeit a game for lack of pitchers when everyone on the team is eligible to pitch? If there were forfeits, I suspect it was because someone ineligible pitched and got caught.

                        I see the IHSA pitch count rule is pretty close to all the other states, including regular checking of the counts by both teams during the game. http://www.ihsa.org/documents/board/...Guidelines.pdf

                        I’ve scored every spring, summer, and fall ball game since the pitch count rules have been in effect but haven’t once been asked by anyone on the opposing team to verify the count. I’m wondering if that’s the norm or an aberration.
                        The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          One thing it took me awhile to learn is to always start with weaker pitchers and work your way up to the better ones. Especially if you are going to try and pitch every pitcher one inning. What hopefully happens is your weakest guy throws well and you can burn him and not even have to use the better pitchers.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bman52 View Post
                            We always work to have 15 pitch innings or less.
                            At 8U? Can’t even get that out of our 12Us. You must be one hell of a coach.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I said we work towards that. I didn't say that we always got it. You should be averaging that at 12u though unless you are playing on a 200 foot fence. Especially the first time through the lineup for the pitcher. Then at 13 you will see it go up again as they make the adjustment to the big field. I definitely am not one hell of a coach. I do coach defense aggressively and coach pitchers not to try to miss bats. That accounts for low pitch counts. At 13u and below we will throw a slow change-up just to end an at bat knowing we can play defense and it is hard for the other team to string hits together. That is not a strategy I use at the High school/Legion level where we bear down and let the pitcher try and win each pitch and battle at the plate. But at those levels I have had more pitchers and pitch counts were higher.

                              Comment

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