What is a Balk?

I’m balking! What just happened? After the umpire gestured towards the pitcher, the baserunner moved up one base. Did the pitcher make an illegal pitch towards home plate, which resulted in a balk? In baseball, what exactly is a balk?

What is a Balk?

Balks (illegal motions) occur when a pitcher makes a pitching motion or move that deceives the batter or runner. Balks (dead balls) can occur after a pitcher has been set up via a no pitch to throwing towards first base without stepping off the mound.

Another way a pitcher can balk is if the ball is dropped during their windup. A balk can only occur when a runner is on first base, second base, or third base. In the absence of a runner on any base, there is no penalty for a balk.

What Happens if a Balk Takes Place?

A runner on base moves automatically to the next base if a balk occurs during an at-bat. The runner will move from the first base to the second base if there is a balk, for example. In the same way, if two runners are on the bases during the balk, all runners advance one base. Third base runner can therefore come home to score now that he’s on third base.

How often Do Balks Take Place in Major League Baseball?

In 2019, there were 153 balks out of 4,858 games, according to Baseball-Reference. Balks are rare and only occur once in every 31.75 games, as you can see. Considering there are 30 Major League Baseball teams, each team commits about 5 balks per season.

Can you Argue a Balk?

When an umpire calls a balk on your performance, you can’t do much but disagree. You should, however, be careful what you say to that umpire if you disagree with their decision. Mark Buehrle was ejected for showing his displeasure with two balk calls from the infamous umpire, Joe West. This video provides a more detailed explanation of the situation from Jomboy Media.

The MLB Balk Rule in Greater Detail

In general, pitchers cannot feint a throw to an unoccupied base (meaning there is no fielder) to attempt a pickoff as this will result in a balk call. In addition to dropping a ball from the pitcher’s hand while on the mound, a balk call is made if the ball falls from the pitcher’s hand. Finally, a balk can also occur if the pitcher attempts to make a quick pitch before the batter is ready. These are some of the most common rules that right-handed and left-handed pitchers need to remember.

For Right-Hand Pitchers

  • Right-handed pitchers can attempt a pickoff attempt by stepping behind the pitching rubber with their right pivot foot and throwing to that base.
    • To pick off a baserunner, you must come to a complete stop in your pitching position. It isn’t possible to start in a windup position and then quickly change to a pick off position

For Lefty Pitchers

  • Wherever the pitcher throws the ball, their right foot should point in that direction. In order to throw to the first base, a pitcher must land with their right foot towards the base. If you decide to throw to first, there is technically a 45 angle that your foot cannot cross.
    • In order to attempt a quick pickoff move, pitchers can step off the pitcher rubber with their left foot and fire to first.

Conclusion on What is a Balk

Baseball players and fans must be aware of many rules in the rulebook, including the balk call. Pitching coaches must remember a number of things to prevent balks. There are several factors that can set off a balk, including the pitcher’s step, the pitcher’s throw, and the pitcher’s movements. The muscle memory of pitchers from High School to Major League Baseball comes into play when attempting a pickoff.

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