Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rule 6.02(a): It is a balk when—

"With runners aboard and Angel Hernandez umpiring, it is a balk when"—so read the parody headline by a defensive team unhappy their pitcher was called for such an infraction, turning a potential out into a scoring position, run-producing opportunity. "Balkin' Bob Davidson" had previously been substituted in the umpires' line as had Joe West, though all MLB umpires have called multiple balks during their careers, except of course for Ron Luciano, who famously wrote: "I never called a balk in my life. I didn't understand the rule."
Trivia: A balk that ends a game may be referred to as a "balk-off." Also, Rex Hudler finds balks hilarious.
Quick Link: "Balk" coverage on the UEFL, including all balk-induced ejections since 2011.

Yet since Rule 6.02(a) [formerly known as Rule 8.05], which governs the balk, specifies 13 different criteria that may be satisfied for a balk to be called, the balk rule provides abundant material contributing to one of the most misunderstood segments of the baseball rules book:
The most common infractions have video links attached, illustrating each specific balk violation.

Definition: A balk is an illegal act by the pitcher as prescribed by Rule 6.02(a).
Eligibility: A balk may only be called when there is a runner or there are runners on base.
Penalty: Runners are given a one-base award unless more advantageous objectives are achieved.

(1) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery (slips or trips [2] [3] / flinch / hesitation / shoulder turnbad step / breaks motion [2] / fails to release / steps off during motionstart-stop / swings free foot past or behind rubber). This provision is symbolically first, for the balk is all about illegal deception. Provision (a) is the so-called all-inclusive provision, which outlines and provides a framework for the remaining 12 items under Rule 8.05.
(2) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to 1st or 3rd base and fails to complete the throw. A fairly simple concept as far as balks go, with a runner on first (R1) or third (R3), a pitcher who motions to throw to 1st or 3rd base while on the rubber must complete the throw: The throw must get all the way to first base.
(3) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. Also called the "no step balk," 8.05(c) requires the pitcher to step ahead of and in the direction of his throw (e.g., not toward home plate). This provision outlaws the third-to-first "wheel" move, unless, of course, the pitcher first breaks contact with the rubber.
(4) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play. 8.05(d) authorizes the pitcher to throw to an unoccupied base for the purposes of catching a runner stealing, for instance, and prohibits the pitcher from faking a throw to an unoccupied base.
(5) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch. A quick pitch is one such illegal pitch associated with this rule. So is a pitch that never makes it to the foul line or plate or one thrown while not in contact with the rubber.
(6) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter. Hideo Nomo, for instance, was prohibited from releasing the ball while in his windup with his back turned to the batter.
(7) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher's plate. In other words, the pitcher cannot fake a delivery while off the rubber.
(8) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game. Interestingly enough, Rule 8.04 (12-second pitch timer) does not apply when runners are on base, while 8.05(h) does not apply when the pitcher is warned about delaying the game pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) (throwing to an unoccupied base when not attempting to make a play). Yet if a pitcher is ejected for delay of game, Rule 8.05(h) is also invoked.
(9) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher's plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch. Similar to Rule 8.05(g), the pitcher cannot fake a pitch. 8.05(i), however, covers the additional contingency of a pitcher pretending to pitch when he does not have the baseball.
(10) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base. Once legally positioned or set, the pitcher must keep both hands (gloved and bare) together until he pitches, attempts a pick-off or other play or steps off the rubber.
(11) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball. Self-explanatory.
(12) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher's box. Known as a catcher's balk, this call is ordinarily made when: "it must be absolutely obvious."
(13) The pitcher delivers from Set Position without coming to a stop. This is very similar to 8.05(e), the quick pitch.

(2) A pitcher cannot fake a throw to first base. False; if the pitcher comes off the rubber, he becomes a fielder and enjoys all of a fielder's priveleges, including the ability to fake a throw to any base. In fact, stepping off the rubber relieves the pitcher of nearly all balk-related restrictions (except 8.05(g), etc.). Remember, a pitcher may disengage his plate for the purpose of this rule by stepping off with his pivot foot (or "back foot").
(3) The 45-degree line formed from the pitcher's plate to the midpoint between home plate and first base along the right field foul line governs 8.05(c). This is false, there is no angle designation in the Rules Book. Like a check swing, this makes 8.05(c) "ambiguous" (Ejection 027: Mike Muchlinski (1)).
(13) The pitcher must come to a stop or pause before attempting a pickoff. This is false; a stop is not required before a pickoff. A stop is only required out of Set Position before an actual pitch.
(-) The offensive team may "choose" whether to enforce a balk or take the result of a play. This is false; the resultant play is only upheld if runners have advanced at least one base and the batter has not been adversely impacted (e.g., by having been put out, etc.). The ball is live during a balk, and runners may advance beyond the base to which they are entitled at their own peril. Refer to the Balk Penalty.


cyclone14 said...

Great post...amazing work!
Just a little confused about (b):
Does he not step off before faking the throw to first?? I'm unsure why this is still called a balk.

Anonymous said...

Based on the wording of the very last ``myth'' mentioned and the use of the word ``and'', what happens if the batter hits a sacrifice fly?

Anonymous said...

If aol runners including the batter runner advance at least one base safely the balk is nullified. The wording of the last myth is entirely deceiving because if the batter is put out at second base and all other runners have advanced at least one base safely the balk would be ignored and the out would be recorded along with any runs scored.

Anonymous said...

Ok I need some more help. Ive been getting into some arguments that I never thought I would before. I hate reading the rule book. It just confuses me.

Ok first. These are all pro rules by the way. How many mound visits can you have before the pitcher has to be pulled? I know if its the 2nd one in the inning they have to be but how many do they get if its only 1 per inning? I always thought they had to be pulled after the 3rd visit in high school and pro rules.

Manager writes down the wrong number on the line up card for a player. After he comes up to bat and gets a base it the other teams manager brings this to my attention. I just changed the # on the line up card and let it go, but im thinking i got this one wrong. Was I suposed to call him out at first base and also remove him from the ball game?

Im pretty sure I know all these rules but certain managers and other umpires always make me second guess myself. Ok help me out here please and thank you.

Your defending champion and current leader.


Lindsay said...

In pro, mound visits are covered by Rule 8.06(b): "A second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning will cause this pitcher's automatic removal from the game." There are no limits on one-visit innings in pro. In high school, NFHS Rules 3-4-a and 6-2-2-b additionally specify a pitcher must be removed after the third charged conference. If a game goes extra innings, the three-conf. limit is ignored and NFHS reverts solely to pro rules (one per inning, unlimited innings).

OBR 4.01 makes repeated reference to "whose name is on his team's batting order," as opposed to "whose number." Rule 6.01(a): "Each player of the offensive team shall bat in the order that his name appears in his team’s batting order." Rule 10.03(a) instructs the official scorer to "list each player's name and fielding position." Name, not number.
NFHS Rule 9-2-2 specifies the official scorer shall keep player # as part of the record and scorebook, while Rule 10-2-m authorizes the UIC to correct a scorekeeping error if brought to his attention before jurisdiction is terminated after the game is over. The obvious exception here is that BOO or illegal substitution is not simply a scorekeeping error, while an incorrect number is. Rule 7-1-1 specifies batting order is determined by how a "name appears on the lineup card as delivered to the umpire prior to the game," as opposed to uniform number.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gil,

I just proved myself right in both cases. I hate 2nd guessing myself and this is the best site to make sure I am right.


Lindsay said...

@cyclone14, it appears the Arredondo balk was called because he began his motion toward first base prior to stepping off the pitcher's plate, which, even though he eventually was off the plate, compelled him to complete the throw.

SJR said...

All runners (including the BR) did not advance at least once base therefore the balk is enforced. The pitch does not count and the runner on 3rd is awarded home.

Vincent Kong said...

I have a brief question re: balks and Casey Janssen. Are movements of the head exempt from balk calls? The reason I ask is that with runners on, after Janssen comes to a set position, he will at times do a dramatic head nod (without delivering a pitch) that appears to me to be an attempt at deceiving the runner. He does not do it every pitch, and will at times do it twice. As far as I am aware he has never been called for a balk for this motion.

I searched long and hard for a linkable highlight for this question, and I failed to find one, apologies. However, I *was* able to find a situation, from June 19th, Blue Jays vs Brewers, the final at bat vs Taylor Green. After 3 normal pitches (no head fake) and a pickoff attempt, on the 4th pitch Janssen sets, does a dramatic head nod, before resetting and delivering his pitch.

I've been wondering this for a long time, and any answer would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I watched the "hesitation" clip a couple extra times to savor the sight of Eddie Rap practically skipping in front of the plate to call the walk-off balk. When you're going to end a game on a balk, definitely err on the side of too much selling rather than too little!

Anonymous said...

In the Myth section, video about being able to fake to first. The announcer said that if it's one single motion, you have to throw to first. Is that true? That looked like one single motion from Loe.

Lindsay said...

@Rogue Element, movements of the head have largely been considered legal; As long as the action does not cause the body to move, head movement independent of torso movement would likely not indicate an action naturally associated with the start of a pitch sequence.

@Anonymous 11:56 PM, the one fluid motion concept in regards to balk largely relates to Rule 8.05(a) and the hesitation or start-stop balk calls. It appears to me the broadcaster's "single motion" remark relates to the pitcher feigning to first base as Motion #1, in which case, the pitcher is compelled to throw to first base. It would appear the broadcaster's "two motion" act that would relieve the pitcher from the responsibility of throwing to first base would be Motion #1: Steps off the pitcher's plate. Motion #2: Fakes to first base, as opposed to simply Motion #1: Fakes to first base.

That said, the balk call remains one of the most confusing and/or difficult aspects of the baseball rules book, which does occasionally contribute to some erroneous narration on TV or radio.

Generally, the lower-body pick-off to first base is initiated in one of two ways: 1) The pivot foot moves first, or 2) The free foot moves first. Fast pitchers create a third way: 3) Both feet move at the same time. Nonetheless, in the Loe example, it appears his pivot foot disengages the pitcher's plate prior to his feign to first base.

Anonymous said...

You cannot balk with your head.

MattAB said...

I had a funny one last year. A left-handed pitcher was in the stretch, comes set, then begins his motion home. When he began his motion the guy on first took off for second, at which point the pitcher stops, steps off, and throws to second. I immediately call the balk, and the coach comes out, and wants to argue, because he "stepped off". I'm trying to explain that it doesn't matter, once he starts delivering the pitch he cannot change his mind and nullify his motion by stepping off. The coach even at one point tried to claim, with a straight face, that it doesn't matter what the pitcher does prior to stepping off the rubber, as long as he steps off before throwing to a base. Needless to say, it was one of the most obvious balks imaginable, and a funny argument from a not very rule savvy coach.

Anonymous said...

what about the truth/myth of the shoulder turn when a righty is looking to first? I've never seen that prohibited in any rule book but so many people, umpires and players/coaches think that that is a balk.

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