Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How Many Ways to Balk? : The Sequel

Since I never updated this, here are the 14 ways to balk that I came up with in my August 21 post:

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.

Here's what the rule book says:

8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—

(a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;

I covered this in #1 and #13, so maybe that was redundant after all.

(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first base and fails to complete the throw;

I covered this in #2.

(c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;

This is covered by #7.

(d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;

This is covered by #4, although I left out the "except for the purpose of making a play" part. This allows the pitcher to throw to second, for instance, when the runner from first breaks before he delivers a pitch.

(e) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch;
Rule 8.05(e) Comment: A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

I missed this one entirely.

(f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter;

This is sort of covered by #8, but not entirely. This has me a bit confused. I'm positive that, if the pitcher steps towards first, then delivers to home plate, it's a balk. It's possible that (c) also includes a delivery to the plate as well as a throw to a base, but I still think that's pretty vague.

(g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher’s plate;

#14 partially covers this, but not entirely.

(h) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;

Another one I missed entirely.

(i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch;

Partially covered by #3.

(j) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base;

Covered by #12.

(k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball;

Covered by #11.

(l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher’s box;

#9, although I left out the fact that it's only a balk when it's in the act of issuing an intentional walk.

(m) The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop.

Covered by #6.

8.05 (a) through (m) totals 13 ways to balk. This is why, I believe, one of the participants of the original conversation (at the Metrodome) that inspired this list referred to there being 13 different ways to balk. The only ways on my list that aren't covered in section 8.05 are #5 and #10. #5 is actually covered in section 8.01, which addresses the windup position, and states:

"From the Windup Position, the pitcher may...disengage the rubber. In disengaging the rubber the pitcher must step off with his pivot foot and not his free foot first. He may not go into a set or stretch position—if he does it is a balk."

#10 is definitely also a balk. However, it is essentially covered by 8.05(a) and, therefore, it was probably redundant for me to consider it a separate infraction. So, I'll count #5 as the 14th way, but not add #10 to the list. There are three additional ways, covered by the rule book, for the pitcher to balk:
  • 7.07 states that it's a balk when, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a steal, the catcher or any other fielder steps on, or in front of home base without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat. The batter is awarded first base due to interference, but the rule book also considers this a balk.
  • 8.02(a) covers illegal pitches, such as when the pitcher applies a foreign substance to, or defaces, the ball. An illegal pitch is considered a balk when there is a runner or runners on base.
  • 8.01(d) refers to when a pitched ball slips out of the pitcher's hand during his delivery. The rule book is not entirely clear, but the approved ruling is that it's considered a balk, with runners on base, if the ball does not travel half the distance towards home plate or cross a foul line.
  • So, I'm considering this a total of 17 ways to balk. As you can see, though, there is still a lot of gray area, at least in terms of how many distinctly different ways there are. Not that anyone really cared, but I'm sure this explanation did very little to clarify my original balk discussion. This also speaks to how clearly the baseball rule book is written. That is, not very.


  1. wow. this would have to be considered the ultimate blog entry on balks. or ultimate series of entries on balks.

    whoops, i think i just unnecessarily delayed the game...

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