High School Pitcher Throws 194 Pitches in 14 Inning Effort

A high school pitcher in Washington State named Dylan Fosnacht threw 194 pitches, pitching the first 14 innings of his team’s 15-inning 1-0 win in a district tournament game.  Needless to say, it’s raised a lot of questions in the blogosphere, particularly given the widespread speculation that the rash of blown out elbow tendons among young professional pitchers may be caused by too much pitching before the age of 18.

Espn.com’s David Schoenfeld wrote a piece today which essentially says that everyone should chill out because Fosnacht “isn’t a pro prospect or even a college prospect,” this was the biggest moment of his high school career and he’ll have a lasting memory of his exceptional effort.

Frankly, I find offensive Schoenfeld’s implicit contention that we should not worry about overworking and thus hurting prep pitchers if they are not presently seen as having future professional or college potential. All young athletes deserve to be protected from possible injury, whether or not they appear to have the talent to play at the next level.

Second, who’s to say that young Fosnacht won’t be able to find a college program at some level where he’s good enough to keep playing if he wants to when the time comes.  Third, it’s the best talents/prospects that are most in danger of overwork, because they are the most valuable players on their teams.  If you let any high school pitcher throw 194 pitches in a game, it’s going to be the best talents who throw the most pitches in future games.

The simplest remedy for this kind of abuse of young pitchers’ arms is to adopt strict pitch count limits in the 100 to 120 pitches per game range with mandatory rest in subsequent games.  These are rules many high school and junior leagues have already adopted.  If the rule is adopted, then everyone knows what they are, and teams will adapt to make the necessary changes.

In fact, what I find interesting is that Fosnacht did not even throw a complete game anyway.  After 14 innings and 194 pitches, he came out, rather than pitching the 15th and final inning.  Baseball is a team sport and relief pitchers are now used at every level of play from little league on up.  If Fosnacht’s coach had been forced to take Fosnacht out of the game at 100 to 120 pitches, his team may have lost the game; however, the opposing team would have been playing under exactly the same rules limiting how long their own shutout-throwing pitcher could pitch.

There’s enough evidence now to be pretty sure that it’s hard for any pitcher at any level to throw more than 150 pitches in an outing.  I just don’t see how you can say it’s O.K. for a young pitcher to throw almost 200 pitches just because you think he isn’t likely to play at the next level up.

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