It’s official: High school pitching distance moving back to 43 feet

Just saw a notice in an NFCA newsletter. The National Federation, the governing body of high school softball, just voted to increase the pitching from 40′ to 43′ for varsity players beginning with the 2010-2011 season. For those not sure what that means, it takes effect the year after the one coming up. So if you’re a senior, no sweat. If you’re a junior it will kick in your senior year.

The rationale is to increase the amount of offense in the game. The feeling is the extra three feet will help batters hit the ball more, which will get the defense more involved (instead of watching pitchers rack up 15 strikeouts per game) and make the game more exciting for the fans.

All of that is probably true for the better teams. But I wonder what it will do to the lesser teams — the ones whose pitchers are already struggling. It might also be a problem for those pitchers who bounce between JV and varsity during the season. Any who rely on movement rather than speed may find it difficult to stay on top of their game.

What do you think? Is this move really necessary for the quality of the high school game, or is it more to benefit the elite pitchers — to get them ready for college ball? And will it make the lower teams more competitive by helping them generate more offense, or penalize those who don’t have big, strong pitchers who can throw 60+ mph?

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on July 10, 2009, in Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi Ken, I do not know the answer, just wanted to throw out a couple thoughts. I wonder who will benefit more by this move – the faster pitchers or the ones who rely on movement? I did some math, and not promising it is right, but here it goes. For someone who throws 60mph, it takes about .978 secs to go 40ft, and about 1.051 secs to go 43 ft – a difference of .073 secs and about a 7.5% change. For someone throwing 50mph, it takes 1.173 secs to go 40ft and 1.261 secs to go 43 ft – a diff of .088 secs, also about a 7.5% change. Now we know a 60mph vs 50mph pitch is harder to hit. How much of a diff will .073 secs make? Sure, it will help the batters, but my thought is that a fast pitcher at 40ft is a fast pitcher at 43ft while a slow pitcher, isn’t much slower from 43 than at 40ft. The slower pitchers will suffer about the same amount of change as the faster pitchers. Maybe there is a magical reaction time that once slowed down to, allows batters to hit better, and maybe that time is reached with slower pitchers by moving out the distance, but that is beyond my knowledge and I cannot speculate on it, but I’m feeling there isn’t too much of a difference generated by the 3 extra ft for either type of pitcher. Now what I’m wondering is if the extra 3 ft allows a ball with movement to break even more than it does at 40ft, or gives it a chance to break when 40ft isn’t quite enough. I’m thinking that the pitchers who rely on movement, may have an advantage over the speed pitchers. So I’m not saying this is for certain, and have no way to prove how much more a movement pitch moves with 3 extra ft to work with, I’m just wondering who really has the advantage between a fast pitcher and a movement pitcher.

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  2. BTW, another way to look at it, is that a 60mph from 43ft is equivalent (in terms of time to reach the plate) to a 56mph pitch from 40ft. I know this is a big difference, but how big versus how much more movement pitches can move?

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  3. My daughter is playing on a HS team where the pitcher dominates. It is not unusual to see 15 strikeouts a game. The defensive opportunities are few. So, the pitcher seems to be the only one getting any recognition. How is a non-pitcher expected to get better? I think this is definitely a move in the right direction. Also, the pitcher on her team seems to be very satisfied with the two dominate pitches she throws, Fastball and Change up. Once she realizes that those two pitches alone won’t cut it at 43 feet, she’ll be forced to improve her other movement pitches. I see it as a win-win situation for all that is involved.The game will become more interesting for both the kids and relatives who come out to watch the girls play ball. Should have happened years ago.

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  4. Mike, I believe your numbers are wrong. I’ve done these before and the time should be more like 0.45 seconds for 60 mph @ 40 ft. The equivilent is 88ft/sec. The same argument can be made though regardless of what the actual numbers are. The speed pitcher is probably more hurt by the rule than the movement pitcher (maybe, it depends on where the movement is occuring).This is one of my pet peaves with fastpitch softball. I always hear the talk about making the game more offense oriented, which I myself would also like to see. In my opinion the best way to do this is to start calling the strike zone in more of a baseball style. Take away the strike at the shoulders and for heavens sake take away the strike that is eight inches off the plate. Bingo, you got more offense.

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  5. Hi Rich, sorry about the numbers being wrong, but I was right that it makes the 60mph from 43 seem like a 56mph from 40. So how big is that 4mph difference compared to a few extra inches of drop on a drop ball, or a few extra inches of break on a curve…? I don’t know the answer, just throwing it out there.

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  6. On the other hand, at 43 feet a pitcher who throws 56, which is more common, will look like 52. Those pitchers may get shelled. Having good ball movement definitely helps in that department, but not all pitchers have access to the training that can get that kind of movement. I see so many pitchers who claim to have a curve, or a screw, or a rise, or a drop, but if you stand behind or next to the plate and watch, they’re all just variations of the fastball with very little movement. Their pitching coaches tell them they have the pitches, but they really don’t. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. If fastpitch scores start looking more like slowpitch scores I wonder if they’ll put it back at 40′?

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  7. I think what you are pointing out here Ken is that there is a very wide range in the talent level of the pitchers, regardless of the distance of the pitching rubber. But if you want more offense, then moving the rubber back will probably help. So would calling the strike zone correctly. I just talked to an umpire this morning who seemed to be proud of the fact that his strike zone went from chalk line to chalk line. I pointed out that that was a good way to get a hitter hurt but he didn’t seem too concerned. Either that or he didn’t get it. I can live with the high strike zone more than I can the 6-8 inches off the corners, but I’d like to see both. Nothing wrong with a 14-11 game once in while.

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