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.
The former home of the San Francisco Giants was notorious because of the gusty winds. According to the legend, Giants pitcher Stu Miller was blown off the mound by a gust of wind and the home plate umpire called a balk.
According to the official rules of the MLB, there are 13 ways a pitcher can balk. The ways a pitcher can balk ranges from the way they come to their set position and all the way through how they deliver the ball to home.
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.
To avoid a balk call, be sure that you step toward first base when you throw. You must “disengage from the rubber” before throwing to first base. For RHPs this means you move your back foot [the one touching the rubber] first.
Penalty for a balk: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
The word is “used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory.” In short, a runner can’t decline a balk. And, no, Heyward couldn’t have moved back to second base later in the at-bat.
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.
A balk is defined in the current edition of the Little League Baseball Official Regulations, Playing Rules, and Operating Polices (Rule 2.00 – Definition of Terms) as an illegal act by a pitcher with a runner or runners on base entitling all batters to advance one base (Intermediate 50/70, Junior, and Senior baseball …
It is now legal for a pitcher to turn his shoulders to check a runner if he is in the set position and in contact with the pitcher’s plate. However, if the pitcher turns his shoulders in the windup position to check a runner, it is a balk.
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.
Rule 5.02(a) says a catcher’s balk happens when the catcher is out of position on a pitch: “Except that when the batter is being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher’s box until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.”
If the pitcher steps towards home he must complete the delivery to the plate. In this scenario, that is an illegal pitch or balk.
Therefore, with a runner on first, first and second, or first, second and third, when a balk is called on the fourth ball, the batter goes to first base and all runners advance at least one base. If they attempt to advance more than one base, they do so at their own risk.
Under NCAA and pro rules, the ball is also immediately dead if the pitcher hesitates and retains possession of the ball when he hears an umpire say, “That’s a balk.” However, if the pitcher continues and pitches or throws to a base after a balk, the ball remains live until playing action has ended and runners may …
A balk is technically a “play” and therefore nullifies the opportunity to appeal. That said, it is not necessary for the pitcher to disengage the rubber before throwing to a base for the purpose of making an appeal.
Balks are rare.
Since 2000, there have only been 100-200 balks per season, which is roughly one every 12 to 24 games (or 648 to 1296 innings pitched) in a full 2430-game season.
I do not balk anymore and I do not strike people down without reason. Farmers often balk at the extra labor cost of doing these extra tasks. It’s easy to balk at the prices, which can be steep. Some parents balk at the idea of leaving the door open when they, themselves, are using the restroom.
What if he decides to take a hack at it? According to the rules, if the batter hits the ball after a balk is called, and gets a base hit, the play stands as if the balk was never called at all. Unfortunately, very few umpires know this, and tend to call it a “no play” or “do over”.
(I was not surprised, as he was, that the “l” in balk is silent; I’ve always pronounced the word that way on the very few occasions I’ve used it.) It turns out there’s a lot about balk that’s interesting. For one thing, it’s spelled baulk in the UK.