Without a doubt the rule that confuses most fans is balks. I will admit balks are among the toughest things for me to call as well. Why are they hard to call? A couple of reasons including:
- They usually happen very quickly
- They usually look awkward but awkward is not illegal – an extra second is needed to process what happened
- If the call is not made right away, the “moment” is lost
- There are a lot of borderline cases
- Fans and coaches think almost every pitcher move is a balk
I thought the above video was interesting for one reason – I think the manager is legitimately seeing a balk that is not called. He believes the pitcher is violating the step rules of the bulk.
A review of the rule book sees that a pitcher must “step directly to the base before throwing”. A pitcher also cannot throw or fake to an unoccupied base if no play is being made.
What is this pitcher doing? It looks like he is taking a slight step to 3rd with his front foot before turning and throwing to 1st. That would be a balk.
Again being totally honest, I did not see it until the super slow mo replays. I am very impressed the manager saw it (or maybe he saw it on video previous to the start). I also don’t fault the umpires because it happened so quickly.
The pitcher, David Phelps, has been called for 3 balks in his 87 major league games. He also got nabbed for 7 in his 93 career games. Funny thing is he got called for 3 in 17 games at AA. This must have been when Mr. Phelps was perfecting his “move”.
Given their complexity, balks get three pages in RuleGraphics (21, 22 and 23).