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).


One thought on “Balk!!

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