A balk in Baseball is a delayed dead ball. When a balk is called it should be verbalized loudly. If the pitcher is in his delivery, wait until the catcher receives the ball and then call time, announce the balk, and award bases. If on the pitch the ball is put in play, allow play to conclude.


If the baseball is in play on a balk and all runners, including the batter-runner, advance at least one base, then wave off the balk and play on. If all runners do not advance one base safely, wait for the action to conclude and then enforce the balk.


High school (NFHS) rules differ in that balks are an immediate dead ball, regardless of the outcome of the pitch.

In the purest sense, a balk is when the pitcher tries to deceive the hitter or runner intentionally.  It can be a flinch on the mound after the pitcher gets set, a deceptive pickoff attempt, or even just as simple as dropping the ball once you become set.  Many actions can result in a balk.  When runners are on base, and the umpire calls a balk, all the runners move up one base.

Since the umpire can’t read the pitcher’s mind, certain movements are considered deceptive and will be called a balk.

What is a Balk in Baseball

Left Handed Pitchers Balk or Pickoff Move

Here is the rule for a pickoff move for a lefty pitcher.  If the pitcher does not follow this rule, then it is called a balk.

First, when the pitcher starts his motion, and his right foot crosses his left knee, the pitcher has to throw home.

If the pitcher tries coming to first, a balk will be the ruling against the pitcher. Some pitchers will cross over their right knee but not cross their right foot, this can sometimes confuse a baserunner, and he can pick over to first base without being called for a balk.

  • A pitcher must get to a set position, where he comes to a complete stop. After completing his stop, he gets the sign but before he starts his motion home.
  • A pitcher’s right foot must go in the general direction he is throwing.
  • An imaginary 45-degree line goes from the pitching rubber to in between home plate and 1st base.
  • If you are pitching home, your right foot must land on the home plate side of this imaginary line.
  • If you are throwing over to 1st base your right foot must land on the 1st base side of this imaginary line.
  • This rule prevents a pitcher from intending to pitch the ball home, being surprised by a runner stealing 2nd base, and out of desperation flicking the ball over to 1st base while your feet are in the position to throw towards home plate.

Right Handed Pitchers Balk or Pickoff Move

  • The pitcher must come set by coming to a complete stop before he throws a pitch home.
  • Once the pitcher comes to a complete stop before delivering the pitch, he is considered set he can’t move his shoulders or move around unless you step off the back of the rubber.
  • Once you start your motion, you must complete it, if you stop, then that would be considered a balk.
  • If the ball purposefully or not purposefully falls to the ground when the pitcher gets set, a balk will be called.
  • Any form of deception that isn’t a straightforward pitch or picks off attempt will result in a balk.
  • Another example of a balk would be if the pitcher turns toward first base and makes a pickoff attempt but does not throw the baseball without stepping off, that action or lack of would be considered a balk.

The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk. When a balk is a call on the pitcher, and the pitcher still delivers the pitch, it will be considered neither a ball nor strike unless the pitch is ball four (4) awarding the batter first base and forcing all runners on base to advance.

Note: Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern. However, certain specifics should be borne in mind:

  1. Straddling the pitcher’s plate without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk.
  2. With a runner on first base, and the runner attempting to steal second, the pitcher may make a complete turn, without hesitating toward first, and throw to second. This is not to be interpreted as throwing to an unoccupied base.

Approved Ruling 1:

In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild. To a base or home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which is entitled. The runner is doing so at his own risk.

Approved Ruling 2:

A runner who misses the first base to which that runner is advancing and who is called out on appeal shall be considered as having advanced one base for the purpose of this rule.

Note on What is a Balk:

On any play on which a balk occurs, if action advances the batter-runner to first base and also advances all runners at least one base, the balk is nullified. Also note that if the pitch is delivered, it counts against pitch count, even if the balk is nullified.

Balk Actions

A pitcher is restricted to a certain set of motions and one of two basic pitching positions before and during a pitch; if these regulations are violated with one or more runners on base, an umpire may call a balk. The batter at home plate does not advance on a balk.

With a runner on base and the pitcher on or astride (with one leg on each side of) the rubber, under Official Baseball Rules, it is a balk when the pitcher:

  1. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher switches pitching position from the windup to the set (or vice versa) without properly disengaging the rubber;
  2. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher while on the rubber, makes a motion associated with his pitch and does not complete the delivery;
  3. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher when pitching from the set position, fails to make a complete stop with his hands together before beginning to pitch;
  4. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher throws from mound to a base without stepping toward (gaining distance in the direction of) that base;
  5. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher throws or feints a throw from the rubber to an unoccupied base, unless a play is imminent;
  6. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher steps or feints from the rubber to first base without completing the throw;
  7. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher delivers a quick-pitch, a pitch thrown right after receiving the ball back, with the intent to catch the batter off-guard;
  8. What is a Balk in Baseball? When the pitcher drops the ball while on the rubber, even if by accident if the ball does not subsequently cross a foul line;
  9. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher while intentionally walking a batter, releases a pitch while the catcher is out of his box with one or both feet
  10. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher unnecessarily delays the game
  11. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher pitches while facing away from the batter;
  12. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher after bringing his hands together on the rubber, separates them except in making a pitch or throw;
  13. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher stands on or astride the rubber without the ball or mimics a pitch without the ball; or
  14. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher attempts to throw to a fielder in a spot not directly at a base
  15. What is a Balk in Baseball? When a pitcher delivers a pitch during a squeeze play or a steal of home, and the catcher or some other player steps on or in front of home plate without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat. The ball is dead, the batter awarded first base, the pitcher is charged with a balk and the run scores. (rule 7.07)

Balk rules under other rule sets vary.

The pitcher’s acts of spitting on the ball, defacing or altering the ball, rubbing the ball on the clothing or body, or applying a foreign substance to the ball are not balks; however, it will result in the pitcher’s ejection from the game if caught.