Sunday, June 13, 2021

In re: Shohei Ohtani's Two Balks in Arizona

In the 5th inning of Friday's #Angels-#Diamondbacks game, 3B Umpire Dan Merzel alongside home plate umpire Greg Gibson's crew motioned to both benches that Los Angeles of Anaheim's pitcher Shohei Ohtani had committed a balk. We review this call as well as a similar balk several pitches later, relative to Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a), which governs balks.

With Eduardo Escobar batting in the bottom of the 5th and two Dbacks on base (R1, R2), Ohtani balked, with umpires ruling that a subtle flinch prior to a feign to second base constituted an illegal act. The relevant rule is OBR 6.02(a)(1), which states, "If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery."

Replays indicate Ohtani moved slightly toward home plate—by perhaps a millimeter and a half—before reversing course and stepping off toward second base. This technically correct start-stop balk call set the tone for several future calls in this game.

Several pitches later, with runners at second and third, Ohtani balked an Arizona run in after he was called for violation of related balk rule OBR 6.02(a)(13): "The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop."

Bearing in mind the idealized officiating value of consistency in play-calling, we fast forward to the top of the 10th inning of this game tied at five, in which, with Angels runner Jared Walsh at second base, umpires called Diamondbacks pitcher Ryan Buchter for a start-stop balk similar to Ohtani's OBR 6.02(a)(1) call that kicked off the festivities in Arizona's 5th inning. Walsh later scored Anaheim Los Angeles's go-ahead run on an RBI groundout, and the Angels ultimately won the contest, 6-5, in 10 innings.

Key takeaway: If it's a balk in the 5th inning, it best be a balk in the 10th inning of a tied game as well.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Ohtani called for first career MLB balks before Angels win in extras (CCS)


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