You may have wondered what is a balk in baseball. Pitching with a runner or runner(s) on base is against the rules, and all runners are entitled to advance one base as a result.
What Is a Balk in Baseball?
Balk happens when the umpire flags a pitching motion on the mound as dishonest to the baserunner. As a result, any runners already in scoring position are awarded the next base, and the pitch is deemed a dead ball.
Section 8 of the MLB rules explains precisely what constitutes a balk, defined as an illegal pitching delivery. As a result of their deceptive maneuvers to first base, pitchers with a high rate of balks are also frequently good at picking off runners.
Any umpire who observes the pitcher making an illegal movement can be called a balk. If a batted ball is put in play on a pitch that would otherwise be a balk, the balk call will stand only if the hitter and all baserunners do not advance at least one base due to the batted ball.
Therefore, the balk call is overturned, and the game’s outcome is upheld. That’s true even if one or more of the offense’s players is taken out before making the necessary base progress.
So, let’s say a pitcher makes an error when the batter is on first base and gets out of trouble while the runner advances to second but is thrown out at third.
Because both the hitter and runner reached at least one other base before being thrown out, the balk is nullified in this instance.
However, it would be allowed to stand if a play had been made and the runner had been thrown out at second base due to that play, and the batter was still at-bat, with no additional balls or strikes added to the count.
Even if no pitch is thrown, a balk is called even if there is no runner on base. To avoid the famed “fake to third and throw to first” play, the Major League Rule Committee revealed in 2012 that it was considering making an already legal move into a balk.
This maneuver has only been effective once in a blue moon and is typically a waste of time for all parties involved.
The home crowd will always shout whenever a play is tried on the road, “In case the pitcher moves toward third but doesn’t throw, but the runner that is on first starts for a second, the pitcher can pivot and stride toward first base, and throw towards the first base.
Total Number of Ways to Balk in Baseball
As a baseball pitcher, you’ll discover 13 different ways to balk, most of which are simple and don’t involve much mental effort.
Learning a pre-pitch routine can help most young pitchers avoid most of their balks, but knowing which body parts you can and cannot move when on the rubber is an essential aspect of avoiding them.
Rule Number 1:
You can’t start and stop your pitching motion or move your body in any other way when you’re throwing.
Rule Number 2:
You can’t fool first base with a false throw.
Rule Number 3:
You can’t throw to a base on the rubber without first striving toward it.
Rule Number 4:
An unoccupied base cannot be reached by throwing or faking a throw.
Rule Number 5:
Set up in the stretch position and take a long pause.
Rule Number 6:
Quick-pitch is not possible.
Rule Number 7:
Pitching without facing the hitter is impossible.
Rule Number 8:
When you’re not on the rubber, you can’t do any component of the pitching motion.
Rule Number 9:
The game can’t be slowed down needlessly.
Rule Number 10:
Without the ball, you can’t stand on or straddle the rubber.
Rule Number 11:
Once you’ve got the hands in the proper place, you can’t move them.
Rule Number 12:
You can’t lose your footing on the rubber.
Rule Number 13:
The catcher must catch an outfielder’s pitch in the catcher’s box.
Unless the batter reaches first on a hit, a base on balls, a hit batter, and other runners take at least a base, in which case the play proceeds without regard to the balk, the ball is dead.
Every runner is supposed to advance at least one base without obligation to be put out. All runners already on base are forced to move unless the pitch is a ball four, in which case the batter is awarded first base, and none of the other runners on base are allowed to move.
If the umpires fail to keep this in mind, they purposely risk allowing pitchers to fool base runners. The pitcher’s “intent” shall take precedence if the referee is unsure. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- As long as the pitcher has no ball in his hand, any attempt to deceive the umpire will be considered an intentional balk.
- Pitchers can throw to second without hesitation when a runner is on first and attempting to steal second base. Pitching to an empty ground is not what this is about.
A runner may go beyond the base for which he’s entitled at his own risk if a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or home plate.
This rule applies to a runner thrown out on appeal after missing the first base to which they are advancing and is therefore judged to have reached one bottom.
Points to Remember
If the batter-runner is moved to first base and all other runners are forced to at least one floor, a balk is deemed invalid. Also, keep in mind that once the pitch is thrown, it still counts toward the pitch count even if the balk is canceled.
Our Final Words
We hope that now you understand what is a balk in baseball. When a pitcher intentionally throws a balk, they attempt to fool the batter or runner.
As soon as the pitcher is set, it’s possible to flinch on the mound, make an audacious pickoff attempt, or even drop the ball. Several different things can cause a balk.
All the runners advance one base when a balk is called while the hitters are on the base paths.