Mandated rest for specific numbers will go into effect this spring for baseball players in New York

High school baseball coaches knew it was coming, and so it has.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association on Friday approved pitch count regulations that go into effect this spring for modified, junior varsity and varsity levels. 

At the varsity level, it’s broken down as such: If a pitcher throws 96-105 pitches, he’ll require four nights of rest, 66-95 (three), 31-65 (two), and 1-30 (one).

In the postseason, the pitch counts are increased: 103-125 (four), 72-102 (three), 41-71 (two), and 1-40 (one).

“It’s great,” said Canandaigua Academy baseball coach Dale Werth. “It keeps pitchers safer and I think most schools do it anyway.”

Werth said the Braves have had a pitch count system in place the last few seasons, but the new limits will affect schools in the number of pitchers they’ll need. 

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “It’ll get more pitchers into games.”

That’s easy enough for schools like Canandaigua and Victor, where student bodies are large. But coaches at smaller schools face a more daunting task because of the smaller populations.

As to how pitch counts will be monitored, each team will collaborate, according to the NYSPHSAA. Teams will use official count forms that will be compared after each half-inning and discrepancies “will be resolved based on the records of the home team pitch count chart.”

And what if a pitcher reaches a limit during an at-bat? He’ll be allowed to finish against that batter. 

Violations of this new rule will result in the game being a forfeit.

At its core, the rule is designed to protect arms and ensure health. But as Werth pointed out, it will change the game when it comes to strategy, planning, and honesty. He doesn’t anticipate much of a problem when it comes to the honesty of tracking pitches because most coaches get along, he said.

But there are plenty of coaches who wonder how this new rule will affect the game. 

For one, pitching strikes gets a new priority but that’s in line with fundamental pitching anyway. Still, it’s an issue that’s likely to get even more emphasis in an effort to keep the pitch count as low as possible.

On the flip side, will batters rest their bats to work the count, thereby forcing more pitches from the ace of an opposing team? Again, that’s pretty much in line with any batter’s approach to an at-bat, and it in turn means pitchers will have to be more aggressive from the get-go and attack the strike zone.

There will be plenty of new approaches and thoughts as area teams go through the 2017 season, but Werth said the bottom line of protecting young arms is the most important step to take, and this rule does it.

“Everyone will adjust,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised to see tweaks and changes in the seasons to come.