Should softball have pitch limits?
Last week our Josh Horton wrote a story asking that question. It all stemmed from the 4A state high school softball tournament, which was won by Jackson for the second straight year. Almost all of the first day of the tournament was rained out, which meant it pretty much had to be completed in one day. As a result, Timberwolves star pitcher Iyanla de Jesus ended up pitching four games in one day.
While that may have been an extreme case, it is not unusual for softball pitchers to carry heavy workloads. Most softball teams, particularly at youth levels, have one pitcher who is significantly better than anyone else on the team, so when the games matter teams tend to rely on that one pitcher. In tournament settings, which often involve playing more than one game in a day, that makes for a busy day for the pitcher. I remember many years ago while working for the newspaper in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that we had a team win the state championship through the loser’s bracket, and the pitcher ended up tossing either six or seven games over the course of two days.
This is not the way things operate in baseball. In youth baseball, from Little League through high school, there are strict pitch limits enforced on pitchers. Pitchers can only throw so many pitches in an outing, and they’re required to rest a certain number of days based on the number of pitches thrown. The point is to protect the arms of young players who are still undergoing physical development, and thus reduce the chance at serious injury, either in the present or the future.
There are no such precautions taken in softball. Why is that? Josh outlines the reasons, the main one being that there isn’t a history of arm injuries for softball pitchers the way there is for baseball pitchers. It’s understood that the underhand softball pitching motion is more natural than the overhand baseball pitching motion, thus putting less strain on the arm and decreasing the likelihood of injury.
But is this actually true, and if so just how true? One thing we have in baseball, because of the major leagues, is more than a century of injury history for individuals who continue pitching into their 30s and 40s. Softball hasn’t had the same professional options, so there isn’t the same kind of data set to work with to see what kind of long-term effect those pitching workloads have on an arm.
There’s also a competitive question that surrounds the concept of softball pitch limits. With no limits, if a team has one dominant pitcher it can pretty much ride that player to success. Limits may compel teams to develop more than one pitcher, and in a team sport depth would become more important.
After working on the story Josh was curious to see what the public thought, so here’s your chance to weigh in. Should softball have pitch limits? Vote here: