Friday, October 12, 2007

You Learn Something New Every Day, part I: What the heck is a Balk?

When is a pickoff move not a pickoff move?

When is a look to third or a look to second not a look?

When it's a balk, of course!

Yet, trying to figure out what's a balk and what's not a balk can be utterly confusing if you're not familiar with the rule.

So what's the deal?

A balk, quite simply, is an illegal motion made by the pitcher while there are runners on base.

Easy enough to understand, right? Now, the hard part: what constitutes an illegal motion? A lot, actually!

An illegal motion could be any of the following:

Switching pitching stance (windup/set/stretch...I think this might be next week's topic) without stepping off of the rubber.

Going from stretch to set without stopping.

This one's tricky: throwing to a base without stepping towards the base.

Throwing to the base when there's no runner there (I think this one falls under the 'what the hell were you thinking'? rule, as well.)

Stepping towards first base, but NOT throwing.

Pitches with the intent of catching the batter off guard. (Wha? Check the explanation here)

Pitches while not being on the rubber.

Drops the ball while on the rubber (also under the 'what the hell were you thinking?' rule)

Interrupting the pitching motion.

Pitching while catcher is out of the box during an intentional walk.

Removing pivot foot from the rubber while pitching, unless as a natural consequence of the motion.

Delays the game (Okay, if this is true then nearly every pitcher would be balking, as they take forever!)

Pitches facing away from the batter (okay, this one I'd like to see...)

Brings hands together while on the rubber, then separates, but does not complete the pitch.

Pretends to pitch without the ball.

Throws to first when the first basemen is not in a position to make the tag.

Wow, that's a lot, isn't it? Simple explanation: if you're a pitcher, and you step onto the rubber, you've got to pick a position, set or windup and stick to it, throw the ball to the batter and not interrupt the motion.

When there are runners on base and a balk is called, each runner is allowed to advance one base.

For a woeful illustration:

See, Curt Schilling's just completed a pitching motion...but he still has the ball! Thus, a balk is called and Derek Jeter is giddily allowed to go from second to third!

Okay, next time I'll try to make the picture a little bit prettier!

All hail the mighty Wikipedia!

Back later with ALCS preview!

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