What is a Balk
A balk is a delayed dead ball. When a balk is called it should be verbalized loudly. If the pitch is delivered, 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 ball is put 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 simplest sense, a balk is when the pitcher tries to intentionally deceive the hitter or runner. 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. There are many actions that can result in a balk. When runners are on base and a balk is called, 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.
Balk or Pickoff Move for Left Handed Pitchers
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 he tries coming to first he will be called for a balk. 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 a balk being called.
- A pitcher must get to a set position, where he comes to a complete stop after 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 the ball home you must land your right foot 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.
Balk or Pickoff Move for Right Handed Pitchers
- The pitcher must come set by coming to a complete stop before he throws a pitch home.
- Once the pitcher is 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 a balk will be called.
- 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.
- If you turn and make a pickoff attempt to first base and do not throw the baseball without stepping off, a balk will be called.
Penalties for balks
A penalty for 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 called and the pitch is delivered 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:
- Straddling the pitcher’s plate without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk.
- 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, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled 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.
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:
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher switches his pitching position from the windup to the set (or vice versa) without properly disengaging the rubber;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher while on the rubber, makes a motion associated with his pitch and does not complete the delivery;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher when pitching from the set position, fails to make a complete stop with his hands together before beginning to pitch;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher throws from the mound to a base without stepping toward (gaining distance in the direction of) that base;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher throws or feints a throw from the rubber to an unoccupied base, unless a play is imminent;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher steps or feints from the rubber to first base without completing the throw;
- What is a Balk? 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;
- What is a Balk? When the pitcher drops the ball while on the rubber, even if by accident if the ball does not subsequently cross a foul line;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher while intentionally walking a batter, releases a pitch while the catcher is out of his box with one or both feet
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher unnecessarily delays the game
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher pitches while facing away from the batter;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher after bringing his hands together on the rubber, separates them except in making a pitch or a throw;
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher stands on or astride the rubber without the ball or mimics a pitch without the ball; or
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher attempts to throw to a fielder in a spot not directly at a base
- What is a Balk? When a pitcher delivers a pitch during a squeeze play or a steal of home, if 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 is 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.