little league pitch counts

Little League Pitch Counts: The Ultimate Guide

little league pitch counts

If you have a young Pedro Martinez in training, you may be wondering how much they should be throwing and what the proper amount of rest is. Baseball parents, youth coaches, and baseball league administrators should be aware that certain activities are considered harmful to the long-term health of a player’s throwing arm. Your first priority should be to protect your young pitcher’s arm, so we’ll be reviewing MLB’s official guidelines for Little League Pitch Counts and how to incorporate them into your pitcher’s arm care program. 


Importance Of Little League Pitch Counts

For a young pitcher, pitching more than once or twice a week can be counterproductive. The risk of injury increases with each additional game, and pitching too often can actually weaken the arm by causing muscle strains and other injuries.

For young pitchers, a lot of the damage is already done way before they even enter high school. At the youth level, kids are playing in town leagues, league games for AAU, summer ball, showcases, and travel ball leagues, often at the same time.

If their coaches truly have their player’s best interests at heart, they need to be well-coordinated to manage their pitch count across the different leagues.

Pitching Overuse

Youth sports are completely different compared to when I was growing up. We had Little League baseball in the spring and maybe summer ball if you were good enough to get selected to the all-star team. After that, the season was over, and you wouldn’t typically throw until a month or so before the spring season started again.

In today’s game, kids are playing year-round, which makes it difficult to give their arms the proper rest they need to recover. So what happens to a lot of the youth pitchers who are being overused at a young age? There’s been a huge increase in Tommy John procedures, as well as Little League shoulder problems and elbow injuries.

Take a look at these stats from the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

  • 45% pitched in a league without youth pitch counts
  • 30.4% pitched on multiple teams with overlapping seasons
  • 13.2% pitched in competitive baseball for more than eight months per year
  • 43.5% pitched on consecutive days 
  • 19% pitched in multiple games on the same day

To help with this widespread problem, Pitch Smart, an MLB and USA Baseball initiative, has set guidelines for Little League pitch counts. They’ve also included additional resources on injuries and arm care. Most youth leagues have pitching rules to hopefully prevent kids from throwing too many pitches in a day.


Little League Pitch Counts and Rest Recommendations

When it comes to pitching, everything is about how fast you throw. After all, how will you get recruited unless you can throw as hard as Nolan Ryan in his prime? Scouts will look at the complete skill set of the player, but those who can throw gas will get noticed a little bit easier.

While it may be fun to watch your child strike everyone out, starting at kid pitch through high school, the effects of throwing hard over 10 years can cause significant damage to their arms. These guidelines, if followed by coaches and parents, allow players to be fresher and more effective when they play. It will also keep them healthier throughout their baseball career.


Little League Pitch Count For Ages 8 & Under

Age Pitches Per Game0 Days Rest1 Days Rest2 Days Rest3 Days Rest4 Days Rest5 Days Rest
7-8501-2021-3536-50N/AN/AN/A
MLB Pitch-Smart

At this age, the game of baseball should be about having fun, building knowledge, and improving skills.

With the decline in the sport’s popularity over the years, we should focus on developing their love for the game before making it super-competitive. Use these years to learn about the game’s rules (there are a ton), focus on teamwork, and learn the proper fundamentals of hitting, fielding, base running, and pitching.

In terms of pitching, your player should not pitch more than 60 combined innings in a calendar year. Once the season ends, players should take a minimum of 4 months off hard-throwing, with at least 2 to 3 of those months being consecutive.

General guidelines that pitchers, coaches, and parents should follow. 

  • Be sure to warm up properly before getting on the mound. This doesn’t just mean playing catch with a teammate for 10 minutes. 
  • Get your blood pumping by doing a few laps in the outfield. 
  • Implement stretching techniques for pre and post-game. 
  • Establish rest days after an outing, and be sure to follow Little League pitch counts.
  • Make sure not to throw pitches other than fastballs and change-ups until at least 12 years old. 
  • Try to limit your player to one league at a time. It will make managing pitch counts much easier.
  • This one should be a given but do not pitch twice on the same day.
  • Don’t pitch and play catcher on the same day
  • Have kids play other sports. This will help them develop different muscles and skills.
  • Do not let your pitchers pitch batting practice in between games.

As a parent or coach, you must always look for signs of fatigue or injury. You might get a one-word answer if you’ve ever asked your kid how their day was. Expect the same thing with sports.

“Does anything hurt?” They will probably just say “no.” It is your job to dig a little deeper. I can’t tell you how many parents whose children had shoulder surgery in high school say they wish they’d paid more attention to their child’s pitch count when they were younger. 


Pitch Count For Ages 9-12

Age Pitches Per Game0 Days Rest1 Days Rest2 Days Rest3 Days Rest4 Days Rest5 Days Rest
9-10751-2021-3536-5051-6566+N/A
11-12851-2021-3536-5051-6566+N/A
MLB Pitch-Smart Pitch Count Chart

The 9-12 age group guidelines are very similar to 8 & under. The focus should be on learning the game’s rules, improving your skills in all areas, and, most importantly, having some fun. Your baseball career could be over by 18 so just enjoy this time with your friends. It goes by so quickly.

The only difference between 9-12 and 8 & under is the combined innings during 12 months. For 9-12, try not to exceed 80 combined innings. After reading the Pitch Smart Little League Pitch counts chart, ages 9-10 should not exceed 75, and 11-12-year-olds should not exceed 85 pitches per outing.

Like the 8 & under group, make sure you are taking at least four months off from throwing every year, with at least 2 to 3 of those months being continuous.

little league pitch count
Little League Pitch Counts

Pitch Count For Ages 13-14

Age Pitch Count / Game0 Days Rest1 Days Rest2 Days Rest3 Days Rest4 Days Rest5 Days Rest
13-14951-2021-3536-5051-6566+N/A
MLB Pitch-Smart Pitch Count Chart

Usually, pitchers will go through puberty and get bigger and stronger. Their velocity will most likely increase, and this is the age when they begin throwing breaking balls. With the increase in strength, the workload will also grow.

With the different mound distance paired with new pitches and an increased workload, there’s potential for a more significant strain on a youth pitcher’s arm. Pitchers need to rest their arms to heal correctly, especially as the games become more competitive and meaningful later in the season.


Pitch Count For Ages 15-18

Age Pitch Count / Game0 Days Rest1 Days Rest2 Days Rest3 Days Rest4 Days Rest5 Days Rest
15-16951-3031-4546-6061-7576+N/A
17-181051-3031-4546-6061-8081+N/A
MLB Pitch-Smart

The same recommendations mentioned earlier also apply to this age bracket. The only difference is the total number of pitches increases from 95-105.


Injury Risk Factors for Youth Pitchers

  • Overuse is the most significant risk factor for youth pitchers
  • Lack of recovery time in between outings
  • Pitchers who also play the catcher position
  • Throwing breaking balls and sliders at a young age
  • Pitch speed
  • Mound height and distance to home plate
  • Single sport athletes – those who only play one sport year-round tend to have an increased risk of injury.
  • Player showcases are extremely popular when trying to get noticed by recruiters.

Tips for Youth Pitchers to Prevent Injuries

  • Ensure pitchers are adequately conditioned before throwing full speed or pitching competitively.
  • Use a proper stretching and warm-up program before throwing.
  • Develop and maintain arm strength by implementing a year-round throwing program.
  • Rest your arm for four months per year
  • Begin building strength through supervised weight training and incorporating resistance bands. Our favorite is the Jaeger J Bands. 
  • During practice or warming up before a game, try to limit the amount of throwing.
  • Dress for the weather. If it’s cold, make sure the pitcher isn’t out there in short sleeves. During hotter days, hydration is the key to preventing heat exhaustion and muscle fatigue.
  • Understand pitch counts by age and the rest guidelines put out by MLB. 
  • Proper mechanics

How long should you run after pitching?

Running is important for pitchers’ recovery, both immediately after pitching and the next day if soreness persists. It enhances nutrient flow to the shoulder, aiding in healing. Initially, I believed in icing post-pitching, but research shows running is more effective as icing can restrict blood flow and nutrient delivery.

Tom House, a pitching expert, suggests combining ice with active recovery, following a 2:1 exercise-to-icing ratio. Ice is better suited for injuries with swelling, not just soreness, which might indicate issues with strength or pitching mechanics.

To maintain range of motion, pitchers should engage in light band work, mobility exercises, cardio, and minimal throwing both on the day of pitching and the following day.


Final thoughts

I hope this article was helpful and has answered your questions about the Little League pitch counts and rest recommendations for young pitchers. If you are making an effort to read this blog, it’s because you want what’s best for your ballplayer. Use this to help you make educated decisions about how to approach pitching. 

So remember, every time your young pitcher throws, they put wear and tear on their joints. Our bodies can repair an average amount, but if that exceeds the body’s ability to repair, it could lead to severe damage to the muscle tissues. 

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.
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