Counting on fairness with new pitch-count rule

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rules are always changing in sports to provide a “fair game,” but sometimes we find ourselves in a bind. This year, a new rule was established for Mississippi high school baseball in an attempt to make the playing field fair. The rule establishes mandatory resting periods based on the pitcher’s pitch count.

It’s a tactful and rational rule, but it’s the little things about the rule that still leave me wary.

According to the new rule, a pitcher who throws a maximum of 25 pitches in a single game does not have to rest before stepping on the mound again in a separate contest. If said pitcher exceeds 25, but throws no more than 50, it is required by the Mississippi High School Activities Association that he rest, or sit out, for one day. Fifty-one to 75 pitches requires two days of rest, 76-105 requires three and 106-120 requires four days of rest before that same pitcher can play again. No pitcher can exceed the maximum pitch count of 120 in a single game.

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This part of the rule makes complete sense to me, in that it makes a team dig into their bag of pitchers, instead of throwing their best player on the mound game after game. It also protects the athletes from potential injuries that could lead to long term injuries.

According to the rule, pitch counts are required to be recorded on MaxPreps within 24 hours of the game. The MHSAA will also provide a form that each team can complete to share with their opponents following the game, the rule states. Failure to properly submit pitch-count statistics will result in a penalty. If the team goes through with using an ineligible pitcher, the team must forfeit the contest and the school must pay a $250 fine.

That is all fine, but what troubles me is the potential for human error in how pitch counts are gathered for official use. It is my understanding that during a game, it is the home team that counts the pitches of both contenders. This could play a huge part in the outcome of games, especially either down the stretch, in tournaments or during doubleheaders.

If an opposing pitcher throws 25 pitches in the first game of a doubleheader, by rule he can play in the second game. However, if he throws 26, he is ineligible to play in that second contest.

I commend the MHSAA in showing its trust of the coaches. From my experience, they are extremely trustworthy. I just hope the rule is taken with all seriousness to provide a pure playing field for these tremendous athletes.