Friday, May 14, 2021

When a Player Calls a Balk - Illegal Disengagement

Can a player call a balk? Although the answer is generally not, Chief Joe West's umpire crew in Colorado appeared to call the pitching infraction after Rockies baserunner Alan Trejo pointed out that Reds pitcher Luis Castillo had balked in the second inning on Thursday.

The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Rockies batter Chi Chi Gonzalez squared to bunt as Reds pitcher Luis Castillo delivered a 1-0 fastball high for ball two...or was it? Rockies baserunner R1 Alan Trejo pointed toward Castillo and appealed to 1B Umpire Bruce Dreckman that the pitcher had committed a balk. Dreckman called the crew together and Crew Chief Joe West emerged from the umpires' conference with a subtle gesture to award Trejo second base on Castillo's balk.

After a brief discussion with Reds manager David Bell, West again convened his crew before donning the headset to Replay Review HQ in New York, eventually resuming play with runner Trejo on second base and a 1-0 count on batter Gonzalez.

The Rule
: Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(1) states it is a balk when "The pitcher, while touching their plate, makes any motion naturally associated with their pitch and fails to make such delivery" while OBR 6.02(a)(4) calls for a balk when, "The pitcher, while touching their plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play" and 6.02(a)(5) bluntly calls it a balk when, "the pitcher makes an illegal pitch."

With replays indicating that pitcher Castillo disengaged the rubber (stepped off with his back or pivot foot) after having already started his delivery, one could call this a 6.02(a)(1) balk for Castillo's failure to deliver the baseball while still engaged (or touching the pitcher's plate). Alternately, if one were to deem Castillo's actions a pickoff throw while disengaged, as in a jump-turn, OBR 6.02(a)(4) would apply since home plate by definition is an unoccupied base (remember, the batter is not a runner until such time as the batter becomes a batter-runner by putting the ball in play, ball four, etc.).

And if neither of those sound appealing, OBR 6.02(a)(5) is a catch all under the "illegal pitch" banner.

Getting the Call Right? Ideally, one would prefer that an umpire get this call in real-time.

As discussed in Jim Reynolds' ejection of Craig Counsell on Thursday, "The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don’t hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as 'being right.'" (OBR 8.00 - General Instructions).

That said, an umpire must weigh the value of a player or coach's comments—lest a plate umpire consider changing ball/strike calls during nearly every at-bat over the course of a game. In this situation, Dreckman upon hearing Trejo's complaint clearly felt it had merit and consulted his crew, in the spirit of the rulebook's General Instructions to Umpires. This isn't always the appropriate course of action, but with a ruling of this overt nature, getting the call right comes first.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Umps West, Dreckman, Lentz, and Additon Convene to Call a Balk (COL/CCS/CIN)


Post a Comment