I mentioned yesterday that I was a Cubs fan. While extremely happy to see their 3rd win in a row last evening, I am not terribly excited that their $150 MM off season investment has the yips when attempting pick offs to first base.
Here is a play from last night’s game:
First thing what is with the Bronx cheer from the fans? We want this guy to be successful.
Now, let’s talk about some rule implications on this play.
First question – was this a balk?
Rule 8.05(b) says the following:
8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—
(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw;
There are two ways to feint a throw: not throw the ball or throw it somewhere other than first or third base. The practical interpretation of this rule is that the pitcher must throw it to a fielder near a base who has a reasonable chance of making a play.
Lester’s throw is no where near the base. Of course, he did not do this to deceive. He did this because it was a crappy throw. I would not balk this and the umpires on the field did not either.
For fun, let’s assume they did call a balk. What would happen? Interestingly, the outcome would not have changed at all.
To the book for the PENALTY to rule 8.05.
PENALTY: 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.
APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.
The second statement is the key. A runner is given an award of one base, but the ball is not automatically dead. The runner can choose to go for more bases at his own risk. In this case, Cozart tried for third and was nailed.
But, he reached one base so the penalty was satisfied. Even if there was a balk, the play would end with no mention of it since the runner got at least one base.
This is different in high school. A balk is an automatic dead ball even on wild throws. If the umpire rules balk (which again I would not on this play), the runner gets second base and the play is over.
Balks are covered on pages 21-23 of RuleGraphics.