Pitch Counts at Koshien

» 28 August 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, pitching »

The response we received to my recent article about pitch counts reaffirmed to me that the subject is of interest to baseball fans. To continue on the topic, I will take a look at the Koshien High School Tournament, which is known to be grueling for pitchers.

49 teams representing each prefecture (Tokyo and Hokkaido with two each) qualify for the single-elimination tournament. There was a total of 48 games in the tournament. In those 48 games, 48 complete games were thrown. Naoki Itoh from runner-up Nippon Bunri was the hardest-working pitcher this year, throwing five total complete games including the final and averaged for 131 pitches per game. In the 48 complete games thrown, pitchers averaged a total of 127.88 pitches per game.

The most grueling game of the tournament was thrown by Hayato Shoji (Tokoha Gakuen Tachibana), who already had two complete games in the books when he threw 211 pitches in a twelve inning game. Ironically, Shoji had the most efficient complete game as well, with a 98-pitch effort. The face of this year’s tournament, Yusei Kikuchi of Hanamaki Higashi, threw three complete games (124, 118, 125 pitches) and was looking for more until he started suffering from back pain.

The Koshien Tournament is always an emotional dramatic event, but is it safe for pitchers such as Shoji to be throwing that much? There are handful of promising pitchers in the Koshien Tournament who will make it to the professional stage and may develop into key players in NPB or even the majors. Even though the injury suffered by Kikuchi does not look serious, evaluating a limit on  pitch counts at a high school tournament where the top teams will play up to six games in the fifteen days should be something we should consider about thinking about the future that lies for the face of Japanese baseball.

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