Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Many Ways to Balk?

When I included the "Baseball Lesson of the Day" at the end of my Miller Park post, I had intended it would be something I'd do for each park visit. After all, there would probably be some interesting scenario at each game to provide such subject matter. Well, for yesterday's game there was, but it was a little too much to write about in one paragraph. So, I've decided to write about it separately.

There were two guys sitting next to me at the Metrodome (a young man and his grandfather, I presume) who got into a discussion about how many ways there are for a pitcher to balk. My initial reaction was to think that there are infinite ways, but I suppose that was being too technical. I guess they actually can be broken down into categories. So, not really knowing the answer to this question, here goes, from the top of my head (you'll have to take my word, I didn't look this up).

The pitcher...
  1. Hesitates, or stops, in his delivery to home plate.

  2. While in contact with the rubber, fakes a pickoff throw to first base.

  3. Steps on the mound without the ball.

  4. While in contact with the rubber, fakes or throws to an unoccupied base.

  5. Moves from the windup to the set position without stepping off the rubber.

  6. While in the set position, fails to come to a complete stop before delivering to the plate.

  7. Fails to step directly toward the base when making a pickoff throw.

  8. Fails to step directly toward the plate when delivering a pitch.

  9. Delivers to the plate while the catcher is not in the catcher's box.

  10. Hesitates or stops in the process of coming to the set position.

  11. Drops the ball while in contact with the rubber.

  12. While in the set position, breaks his hands while not in the process of delivering to the plate, and without stepping off the rubber.

  13. While in contact with the rubber, makes any movement associated with his delivery to the plate without completing such movement (i.e. delivering a pitch).

  14. Delivers to the plate while not in contact with the rubber.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of gray area here. For instance, is #13 really just another way of describing #1. Kind of, but not exactly. #11 and #12 are pretty close as well. Regardless, these are the ways I could come up with so far. I'm not even going to discuss the infractions that can be a balk under certain circumstances, just the standard scenarios. I'll look this up eventually and update this with the complete list.


  1. Is the pitcher charged with a balk if he begins his delivery to the plate and not all of his fielders are in fair territory? For example, if there is a runner on third base and the third baseman is holding him on, but straddling the bag with one foot in foul territory, and the pitcher delivers a pitch to the plate - what is the call?

  2. All players are required to be in fair territory when the pitcher puts the ball in play. However, a fielder is considered to not be in fair territory only when both feet are in foul territory. So, in your example, the third or first baseman can straddle the line.

    I'm honestly not the definitive source on this, so I'm unclear if it's considered a balk if the pitcher throws a pitch when a fielder, other than the catcher, is in foul territory. I honestly think it's just a rule that the umpire needs to enforce, but I'll look into it further.