Major pitching rule changes by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) for this upcoming Spring season will affect how fans watch the games and how managers coach them.
The NFHS Baseball Advisory Committee voted unanimously to use the pitch smart requirements that had been suggested by USA Baseball and Major League Baseball (MLB).
For pitchers in grades 7-12, those throwing more than 75 pitches will now have to rest four days before they can throw their next game.
• Throw 61-75 pitches, rest three days;
• Throw 46-60 pitches, rest two days;
• Throw 31-45 pitches, rest one day;
• Throw 1-30 pitches, rest no days.
Daily maximum pitch counts include 105 for juniors and seniors, 95 for freshmen and sophomores, and 85 for 7th and 8th graders.
Community R-VI head baseball coach Brandon Talbot has been an outspoken critic of the new rule as smaller schools struggle to find just two pitchers, much less have a need for a pitching staff with up to six pitchers ready at any time.
“I’m okay with the pitch count…,” Talbot said. “But having to rest them four days is a huge factor.”
He noted that some pitchers will now have to throw more pitches in a shorter amount of time because coaches are not going to pull them.
“You’re going to see a lot of 25-21 games,” he noted.
Talbot also gave an example of a pitcher possibly throwing a no-hitter in the 7th inning will now have to be pulled if they’ve reached their pitch count. The situation hits home for Talbot as his pitcher Matt Gastler tossed 117 pitches in last year’s districts to help the Trojans knock off No. 1 seed Marion County.
“This year, I would have had to pull him in the fifth inning and had to finish with a No. 3 or No. 4 guy,” he said. “The outcome could have been drastically different.”
Van-Far head baseball coach Wes Rowden said managers will have to be manipulators this year and the old days of a pitcher finishing games might be over.
“As you go through the year, especially in the (many) games you have through the week, you may throw three to four pitchers in one game, if you have that many,” he said.
“But you also have two to three other games. It’s going to be a chess match…It’s going to take some skill, for lack of a better word, to manipulate your pitching staff so you don’t use it up.”
Rowden said some managers who are up by several runs may not let up on the other team so they can ensure the game will be over by the mercy rule.
“Teams will play the game differently,” he said. “They may steal a base with a nine-run lead to get it over.”
Rowden said it is possible that next season, baseball may adopt a 15-run mercy rule so games will be over after three innings. All of the rules are expected to be confusing for many fans.
They might wonder why a manager is pulling a pitcher or might wonder why a manager is keeping a pitcher who clearly doesn’t have it in the game?
Other guidelines are:
• Pitchers taking at least four months off of competitive pitching, including at least two months off from all overhead throwing.
• Pitchers can’t pitch in multiple games on the same day.
• Pitchers can finish the batter when their maximum pitch count is met.
• Pitchers can only pitch two days in succession and then have a minimum one day rest period.