Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: The Impact of Pitch Counts and Days of Rest on Performance among Major-Leauge Baseball Pitchers (Sports Med Res)


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Impact of Pitch Counts and Days of Rest on Performance among Major-Leauge Baseball Pitchers

The Impact of Pitch Counts and Days of Rest on Performance among Major-Leauge Baseball Pitchers.

Bradbury JC and Forman SL. J Strength Cond Res. 2012; [Eup Ahead of Print].

A current strategy to reduce injuries among pitchers is to limit the number of pitches a pitcher is allowed to throw. Although this is increasingly seen in baseball, little research has evaluated pitch limits and their effectiveness in maintaining pitching performance among adult pitchers. Therefore, Bradbury and Forman examined the impact of pitches thrown as well as days of rest on the performances of major-league baseball pitchers between 1988 and 2009 who started games after less than 15 days of rest. A cut off of 15 days was used to eliminate data from pitchers coming off the disabled list and to account for a normal starting pitching rotation. Data on 1,058 pitchers, over 22 seasons, were evaluated via the open-access website (partnered with the National Baseball Hall of Fame). Overall, the analyses showed that the number of pitches thrown in the previous game had an impact on the pitcher’s performance. As the pitch count increased the pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) and home runs allowed increased in the next game but the strike-out rate decreased. Unexpectedly, each pitch during the preceding game was associated with an incremental decrease in walk rate. The analyses also revealed that with every day of rest a pitcher had there was a decrease in ERA by 0.06. Overall, the authors concluded that an increase in pitches thrown in a prior game has a negative impact on a pitcher’s future performance.

This is an interesting study suggesting that an increase in the professional pitcher’s workload may influence his future performance (increased ERA, home runs allowed, etc.). This supports the more recent trend of restricting pitchers’ pitch counts. While this is the case for performance, no relationship was assessed to injury rate among pitchers based on pitch count. Initially, the author’s explained that one reason for this practice is the prevention of injury. While no attempt was made in this study to assess a relationship between pitch count and injury this would be an interesting focus of future research. As the authors pointed out, the practice of limiting the number of pitches thrown by a pitcher to prevent injury is sometimes unsuccessful, as in the case with Washington National’s pitcher Stephen Strasburg who was intended to pitch only a total of 160 innings in his first professional season, yet required ulnar collateral ligament repair after only 123 innings. This study highlights that this commonly used strategy may warrant more research. Tell us what you have seen. Have you had experience developing a strict pitch count limit for your athletes? If so, do you feel you see the same trend as the authors’ here (increased pitch count resulting in decreased performance in the following appearance)?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Related Posts:
A Single Bout of Pitching leads to Infraspinatus Activation Deficits 

Bradbury JC, & Forman SL (2012). The Impact of Pitch Counts and Days of Rest on Performance among Major-League Baseball Pitchers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research PMID: 22344048


Anonymous said...

Data suggests recovery times of 72+ hours allows for return of normal arthrokinematics (GIR) as well as reduction of muscle soreness and enzyme levels in muscle tissue.

When it comes to injury prevention, such as the case with Strasburg, days off is more important than pitch count. In addition, changes in scapular positioning,increased torque at the shoulder and elbow can be prevented with consistent evaluation of mechanics and scapular motion. Neuromyofascial hypertonicity, poor recruitment patterns, and suboptimal arthrokinematics that are common with pattern overload can be corrected with focused rehabilitation.

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