If you’re simply a fan of baseball you probably think that “pitching is easy.” It seems as if it only involves standing on the mound, one foot on the rubber, of course, rearing back and throwing a ball to the catcher behind home plate, a mere sixty feet and six inches away. But it’s really not that easy because there is always the chance of committing a balk. Now, you may be wondering: what is a balk in baseball?
By definition, it is an attempt by the pitcher to deceive the batter and base-runners, an act that, according to the Official Baseball Rules, provides the pitcher with an unfair advantage.
Put another way, a balk occurs when a pitcher utilizes any of a number of “special” motions or movements that cause an umpire to “call a balk.” These “special movements” take place when the pitcher actually pretends to deliver the ball to home plate, but has no real intention of doing so.
That’s deception that results in a balk call and a “dead ball,” (no pitch). When an umpire calls a balk, all base-runners are permitted to advance one base. So, for instance, a runner on first base is allowed to go to second base. A runner on third base is allowed to cross home plate, giving his team a run.
Of course, the batter remains at home plate and must complete his at-bat. Interestingly, the “balk rule” was enacted way back in 1898 for the express purpose of eliminating the unfair advantage the balk provided to the team playing defense.
Now, it’s worth noting that there are fifteen instances in which a balk can occur in a baseball game.Consider all of the following …
A Balk Can Take Place - In All Of The Following Ways
Casual fans of baseball often find it difficult to recognize a balk by a pitcher when it occurs. Umpires who are trained to immediately spot a balk sometimes fail to recognize it, as well. A balk is often little more than a subtle movement by a pitcher which is why it is sometimes overlooked.
Here are a few ways that a balk is committed …
- A Balk can and will be called whenever a pitcher alters or changes his pitching position from his wind-up to his “set” stance (which occurs when he is ready to deliver the ball) without actually stepping off or away from the pitching rubber. The balk can also occur when the pitcher goes from his set stance to his wind-up.
- A Balk takes place if a pitcher, while on the pitching rubber, goes through his natural delivery motion, but fails to actually release the ball and throw it to home plate. That is a “false delivery” that always results in a balk call.
- A Balk happens if a hurler (the pitcher) fails to come to complete stop while on the pitching rubber and in a “set” position. In this situation, the pitcher must bring his hands together and, once done, pitch the ball.
- An Umpire Will Call a Balk when a pitcher throws the ball to a base (not home plate) without stepping toward the base. That is an attempt to pick-off a runner using deception and it results in a balk call.
- A Balk That Advances All Base-Runners is called if a pitcher throws or “fakes a throw” to an unoccupied base while standing with one foot on the rubber. In such a case, an umpire will not call a balk if the chance for an actual play on a base-runner exists.
Here Are Five More - Commonly-Called Balks
The “balk” is one of the least-understood calls in baseball, a penalty that is often called “subjectively” by an umpire because it can be – and frequently is – interpreted differently by individual arbiters. In other words, one umpire may see a balk by a pitcher where another umpire may see no penalty at all.
Here are five more ways that a balk can be called …
- An Umpire Calls a Balk that results in a “non-pitch” anytime a hurler makes a move toward first base from the rubber, but never releases the ball.
- A Pitcher gets called for a Balk when he “quick pitches” to home plate immediately after receiving the ball from the catcher. A balk is called because, in this case, the pitcher is attempting to catch the batter off guard to gain an unfair advantage.
- A Balk gets called and hurts the team on defense whenever the hurler “flubs the ball” (mishandles it and lets it slip from his hands) while he is standing on the rubber even if “the error” is inadvertent and accidental. However, no balk will be called if the flubbed ball actually crosses the foul line after it falls from the pitcher’s hands.
- A Balk can be called during an intentional walk if the pitcher delivers the ball while the catcher has one or both feet out of the box.
Interestingly, a balk also results in a penalty if a pitcher works so slowly that he “delays the game.” The balk call will be made if the umpire believes that the pitcher is acting intentionally to cause the delay.
Of course, there are still several other ways that balks can occur. Consider the following …
Simple Pitching Errors - Can Lead To These Game-Killing Balks
By now, you know what a balk is and how it can impact a game. I’ve described ten balks and, believe itor not, there are still more ways a balk can be called. Here are the remaining balks …
- A Balk can be called any time a pitcher faces away from the batter prior to throwing the ball to the catcher.
- A Balk can be called when a hurler, while standing with his back foot on the rubber, separates his hands after bringing them together unless he pitches or throws to a base.
- A Balk happens every time a pitcher has one foot (his rear or “plant” foot)on the rubber without the ball and then makes believe (or mimics) a pitch.
- A Balk will always be called when a pitcher throws the ball to a fielder who is not standing at a base.
- And finally, a pitcher can be penalized by a Balk call if he throws to the catcher who has stepped in front of home plate during a squeeze play or when a runner is attempting to “steal”home plate.
That’s it … all of the ways a balk can be called in a baseball game at any level, from Little League to Major League.
Now, here is one more thing you need to do …
Contac Me With - Your Questions Or Comments
If you love baseball as much as I do, you want to “talk about it.” And now you can – with me. I welcomeyour questions (which I’ll answer promptly) and your comments. So … write today.