Definition. A balk occurs when a pitcher makes an illegal motion on the mound that the umpire deems to be deceitful to the runner(s). As a result, any men on base are awarded the next base, and the pitch (if it was thrown in the first place) is waved off for a dead ball.
According to the rules of baseball, a balk is “an illegal act by the pitcher with a runner or runners on base, entitling all runners to advance one base.” The purpose of the balk rule is to preserve a balance between runners attempts to steal bases and the defense’s attempts to retire them.
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.
Why is a balk illegal? The balk rule exists to limit the pitcher’s ability to deceive the batter and any base runners. The balk rule consists of specific actions a pitcher is unable to make and these actions are illegal because they help level the playing field between the pitcher and the offense.
The intentional balk is a tactic used in baseball. It involves the pitcher deliberately balking in order to move a baserunner from second base to third base, in order to prevent sign stealing.
The ol’ fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff move, a pitcher’s trick that fooled only the most gullible base runners, will now be a balk.
If you step back off the rubber, first, a fake is legal. If you perform a pick off move where the first move is NOT a step back, off the rubber, then a fake is NOT legal – it is a balk.
(Under current rules, the only base a pitcher may feint to is second.) Umpires should indicate balks called under Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(3) (no step) by slapping the side of their leg after calling the balk. This indicates the balk is for failure to step directly towards a base.
If no runners are on base and the pitcher commits an otherwise balkable action, there generally is no penalty. However, delivering a quick return or pitching while off the rubber (which constitute balks when runners are on base) results in a ball being called with the bases empty.
The pitcher may fake a throw to second or third base from the rubber, but not to first base. This may be done from the windup or the set position. (You do not have to step off the rubber to fake to 2nd or 3rd. Only if you fake to 1st.)
The penalty for a balk provides that if a batter reaches first base safely on a hit or error, base on balls, or otherwise on a pitch on which a balk is called, the batter shall be entitled to first base only if all other runners have advanced one base or more on the play, in which case the balk is disregarded.
If the pitcher drops the ball while in contact with the rubber and the ball does not break the plane of the foul line, that is a balk. If the ball crosses the foul line, that is a wild pitch and the ball remains live.
Baulk is a British variant of balk. In British publications, balk and baulk are used interchangeably, and both spellings appear about equally often. Canadian writers favor balk, and Australians favor baulk.
However, if in the umpire’s judgment, the pitcher has thrown this ball to the shortstop in this case – legally or not, in such a manner that delays the game, then a BALK shall be called on the pitcher and ALL runners advance one base.
A pitcher may change to another position only once during the same inning in NFHS and pro, but only once per game in NCAA (NFHS 3-1-2; NCAA 5-5b, NCAA 9-4e; OBR 5.10d Comment 1).
The actual definition in the MLB rulebook states “The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw” (Rule 6.02(a)). In other words, it is simply not allowed to fake a throw to first or third base while touching the pitching rubber.
By rule, a batter can not cause a pitcher to balk. A balk is the result of an illegal action by the pitcher while any base is occupied. If the batter leaves the batter’s box with both feet during the pitch and the pitcher delivers the pitch, two strikes are called on the batter.
It’s not a balk because he’s not in his set position yet.
In professional baseball, under Rule 6.02(a)(9), a balk occurs if the pitcher is standing on or astride of the pitching rubber without the ball. As play after a foul ball, hit batsman, or time out, must not resume until the pitcher is on the pitcher’s mound, the infielder cannot use these times to obtain the ball.
8.04 When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”
It’s legal if the pivot foot turns or slides as the pitcher pushes off the rubber, providing there is no loss of contact with the rubber. The pitcher may also legally slide the pivot foot across the pitcher’s plate. If contact with the rubber is maintained, that sliding is not considered a step and is allowed.
It can become monotonous when a pitcher makes throw after throw after throw to first base in a vain attempt to pick off a pesky baserunner. This rule will limit pitchers to just two “step offs” or pickoff attempts per plate appearance.
From the windup position, any natural movement associated with delivering the ball commits the pitcher to pitching the ball in a single, continuous motion. This includes any motion by hand, arm, or legs. Failing to deliver the pitch is a balk (with runners on base).
There have been 21 walk-off balks in MLB history and at least one instance of an intentional balk. In 2019, Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen intentionally balked against the Chicago Cubs to move Jason Heyward from second base to third base.
In baseball, it is illegal to pickoff to an empty base. Performing a pickoff to an empty base violates the rule about throwing to an unoccupied base. Therefore, a balk will be called when a pitcher tries to pickoff an empty base.