Perhaps this is how strict pitch counts will finally be introduced to prep baseball: pitching coaches across Major League Baseball will all reveal absolute disdain that high school kids are racking up horrendous numbers of pitches before walking across a stage for graduation.
If that’s what transpires, we should all take stock of the visceral reaction provided by Texas Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail as a seminal watershed moment in the evolution of horror related to rising high school pitch counts. Brocail was asked what he thought of the fact that four recent prep pitching performances exceeded 120 pitches in a single game in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area alone, two from the same star (Kyle Muller, a likely early round draft pick in the forthcoming MLB Entry Draft). Two of those four performances even topped 130 pitches.
To his credit, Brocail did not equivocate about his feelings relative to pitch counts for younger pitchers.
“With all the talk about Tommy John surgery and injuries, we have to ask who is looking out for these kids,” Brocail told the Dallas Morning-News, whose Evan Grant posed the question. “We have plenty of medical information that says it’s dangerous, that suggests either somebody wasn’t paying attention or was paying attention and didn’t care. As an industry, we should be pissed off about that.”
Interestingly, Rangers manager Jeff Banister was a bit more measured in his critique of prep pitching counts, citing a number of different factors in determining the strain on young arms, including pitch mix, physical maturity and the ratio of “high-stress” innings that include 30 or more pitches.
Not Brocail. He isn’t getting to the point of secondary considerations. As far as he’s concerned, any high school kid who is in for 120-130 pitches in a game is being wronged by the entire industry. For a man who had to undergo Tommy John surgery himself, that’s a powerful statement, and one which may resonate more broadly in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.