Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little League Rule Changes for 2013

Little League Baseball posted it's annual rules and regulations changes over the holidays. This is a big year for the international organization, as its new Intermediate (50-70) Division will begin play in the spring. Here are some other modifications recently announced:

Regulation IV (d) - Pitching:  In the seventh year of its pitch count regulation, Little League has amended it to allow regular season and tournament ("all-star") pitchers to surpass any particular pitch count / days of rest threshold (20, 35, 50, 65 or 85 for age 14 and under) during an opponent's at-bat without incurring additional days of rest. For example, a pitcher may throw his 35th pitch to a particular batter, continue pitching to that batter until his plate appearance has ended, then be removed as a pitcher, and he will only be required to rest the standard one calendar day pertaining to the 35-pitch threshold. Prior to this rule change, pitchers were only allowed to surpass their total allowed threshold (85) in order to finish a batter. While in some extreme cases, this change could create an unhealthy situation for a pitcher's arm, overall I think it's a good decision. This will speed up games by increasing the odds that a team will finish an inning without having to stop the game for a pitching change.

Tournament Eligibility Affidavit:  Language was added requiring a minimum of 12 rostered players on tournament (all-star) teams, unless the local District Administrator deems the league to have a justifiable reason for having fewer. I think this is a good rule. Not only does it mandate that leagues provide the all-star experience to more players.
It also levels the playing field a little more during tournaments. Because of Little League's mandatory play rules, teams with 10 or 11 talented players have somewhat of an added advantage over teams that choose to carry more players, and as a result may have to play those considered to be less talented players for part of each game. Now everyone should have the standard 12 players or more... unless they have a "justifiable reason." Hopefully DA's are given some clear guidance as to what constitutes a justifiable reason. If not, I think these exceptions should be decided by the Regional Directors or Williamsport.

Tournament Player Eligibility Rule:  Little League has added a provision allowing players not participating in at least 60% of their league's regular season games to be eligible for tournament (all-star) play, provided they have a doctor's note documenting an injury or illness that prevented them from doing so. The same exception is already in place for players not meeting the 60% requirement because of their school baseball season. I think adding injured players to the list only makes sense. This seems to come up every 2-3 years in our league.

There are several more rule changes, so check the Little League website for more information. Again, the biggest change this year will be the advent of 50-70 baseball for those leagues choosing to participate. One of the more interesting aspects of this added division may come this summer, when many districts have some leagues taking the 50-70 Intermediate Division (Livermore, CA) tournament path while others pursue the 46-60 Majors Division (Williamsport) tournament path. This means an easier path at the District Tournament level for certain age groups in some districts, and who knows - maybe at the State and Regional level too for teams that get there.

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