One of the big headlines in Major League Baseball today is the impending debut of 21 year old phenom Stephen Strasburg. The two time All-American and 2009 1st overall pick from San Diego State is in his first year as a pro and has blown his way through the minor leagues. Strasburg in 45 minor league innings has struck out 54 and yielded only 22 hits and 10 walks. His ERA is a minuscule 0.99. Is this a good idea for the Nationals to move him up with very little seasoning? With his history of a lot of innings in the past pitching in college and for the U.S. Baseball team would it be better for him to spend a few years in the minors and rest his arm a bit? This could help his longevity of his career. Do the names Kerry Wood and Mark Prior ring a bell with anyone (especially Cubs fans)?
I think there is something to be gained from taking a safe approach with pitchers. Pitching is very demanding on a young arm and precaution needs to be taken. I have seen youth pitchers throw over 100 pitches in a single game at the age of 9 and have even seen 9 year old pitchers starting to throw curveballs! I am a firm believer in developing as many pitchers as possible for a season and putting each pitcher on a pitch count in order to preserve their arms. Your team’s record might suffer, but the young arms will benefit and they will pitch much longer and with less arm troubles if you do this.
Pitch counts I use are at the age of 10 and under a 50 pitch limit, 10-12 can move up to a 60 pitch limit, 12-14 is a 70 pitch limit, and 15 to high school should max out at 90 pitches in a game. Also breaking balls shouldn’t be thrown until at the least the age of 14 to 15. Changeups should be taught at a young age as it is a very effective pitch and does not hurt the arm like breaking balls do.