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What is a Balk in Baseball?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated May 23, 2024
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A balk in baseball is any action by the pitcher that violates the balk rule, which restricts the actions of the pitcher when there is at least one runner on base. The purpose of the balk rule is to protect the runner or runners from being deceived by the pitcher. For example, a pitcher cannot fake a pitch to the batter and instead throw the ball to a fielder to catch the runner off guard and potentially get the runner out.

When an umpire calls a balk, the ball usually is dead — which means that play immediately stops — and each runner advances one base. If, however, a pitch was thrown and the batter safely reaches first base through a hit, walk, error or otherwise and any runners safely advance at least one base, the balk is ignored, and play continues.

Here are many of the situations with one or more runners on base that would cause an umpire to call a balk:

  • The pitcher begins to make the motions typically associated with delivering a pitch but ceases during its delivery.

  • When pitching from the "set" position, the pitcher does not come to a complete stop with his hands together in front of him.

  • With his foot in contact with the pitching rubber, the pitcher fakes a throw to a base that is not occupied by a runner or fakes a throw to first base when it is occupied. Failing to complete a throw to first base after stepping toward the base or beginning to throw is ruled the same as faking a throw.

  • While his foot is in contact with the pitching rubber, the pitcher throws to a base before or without stepping toward that base. The pitcher is permitted throw anywhere after stepping off the rubber.

  • The pitcher makes a motion typically associated with his pitching motion but his foot is not touching the pitching rubber.

  • When he does not possess the ball, the pitcher takes a stance astride the pitching rubber or with his foot in contact with the pitching rubber as though he has the ball.

  • The pitcher makes a pitch before the batter has had sufficient time to get set in the batter's box. The pitch would be called a "ball" if there were no runners on base.

  • During a pitch, the ball slips out of the pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line. This would be called a legal pitch and a "ball" if there were no runners on base.

  • The pitcher delivers a pitch while he is not facing the batter.

  • After pausing in the "set" position, the pitcher removes one hand from the ball or separates his hands without making a pitch or throw.

  • The pitcher drops the ball on the pitcher's mound while his foot is in contact with the pitching rubber.
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Discussion Comments

By anon1004813 — On Apr 22, 2021

When I was a young pitcher in babe ruth I had an aggressive runner on third base. I followed all balk rules to a T, but when I came to my stop, I looked at the runner, slowly looked home, stepped toward third, threw there and picked him off. I'm right handed. The thing is I didn't look toward third when I threw it but did step directly toward third. Balk?

By anon996071 — On Jul 05, 2016

We had a situation where our Pitcher, prior to stepping on the rubber to pitch, looked at our catcher for a sign, then stepped on the rubber in the stretch position to get ready to pitch, and was called for a balk. Umpire said you can not take signs from your catcher unless you are in the set position whether it be from the stretch or windup. Is this true?

By anon955901 — On Jun 10, 2014

While coming set (has not come fully set yet), can a lefty then lift his leg up and then throw a pick-off to first base?

By gruiz — On Mar 16, 2014

If the bases are loaded and the pitcher throws in the first base direction and the first baseman is standing behind the runner, who separates more than 15 feet from the base and is picked off, is that a balk? The ball was not thrown over the base. If there a rule of how many feet away from the base the ball should be delivered?

By spwildbill — On Jun 11, 2013

@anon338032: Louman's response, while technically correct in most instances, seems more than you were requesting. One of the problems with newer pitchers is what is known as the "double stop". They become set and stop in one position, then begin a motion and stop again. Usually it is stopping the hands, say, at face level, then moving and stopping again at chest level. That is a balk. Continual motion is required. Same goes with the leg kick. If the leg comes up and the pitcher pauses "again", technically that is a balk and should be called at all levels other than MLB. In the Major leagues, it has been argued that the appearance of a "second stop" is just extremely slow movement and it gets a pass.

Also, the rules state that the ball must be stopped in front of the body. High school takes that to mean face or below. MLB takes it as a vertical line parallel to the pitcher's body, so it could be completely above the head.

I suspect you are asking the question because your pitcher got called for a balk by doing as you describe. The tighter the competition - that will be called a balk every time until he turns pro.

By louman — On Jun 11, 2013

@anon 338032: Your question is technical, which means the terms we use must mean the same. What it sounds like you're saying is that the pitcher pauses at the top of his stretch -- picture for a righty the left thigh parallel to the ground and belly high. Also picture the pitcher with both hands together well above his head, and he is stopped (paused) for an instant? For twenty seconds until the batter asks for time? I don't think this is the image you're suggesting.

The simple answer is once he starts his motion, he must continue without hesitation. Also, a pitcher cannot become set with his hands at or above his face. (kicking?) Should the pitcher's non pivot foot cross the plain of the rubber, he then can only go to second or pitch the ball. He cannot throw to another base. Please note that more experienced pitchers can slow this down and it appears as he is going home but still has enough time to whirl and throw to second legally. Deception is within the rules, and it's a beautiful thing. Hope I helped. Good luck.

By anon338032 — On Jun 10, 2013

Can a pitcher from the stretch, with a runner on second base, pick up his front leg, pause and then step directly toward home and deliver the pitch? My understanding is that a pitcher can pause at the top of his kick. Once his weight or shoulders start moving in one direction he must continue and throw the ball there (home or to second base). Am I correct?

By louman — On Jun 04, 2013

@Yanks 23: I reread your post and have some additional general comments which I think apply.

1) With runners on base, all pitchers attempt to deceive the runner or batter in one way or another; the difference is that the deception must be within the rules.

2) I go under the Federation rules, which are written for high school, if the league doesn't have a rule for an infraction. The reasons are in your examples, Major League pitching rules are, for the most part, pretty lenient compared to high school, unless the issue is an area on focus for that year. I refer to my previous post for repetitious motions.

3) I'm not sure of the specifics of your pitcher when he first takes the ball in two hands looking for his sign, but at the least these two rules would definitely apply: A) Once the pitching motion begins it must be continuous and without hesitation. B) The new high school rule reads that it is the feet that determine if the pitcher is in the set position or the wind up position. The rule reads that in the wind up position, the non pivot foot must either be even with or in back of the rubber. If the non pivot foot is in front of the rubber, then you are in the set position and those rules would apply.

Additionally, if the child is clearly in the wind up position, he cannot flow into the set without first stepping off. The rule continues that while in the set position, the entire length of the pivot foot must be in contact with the rubber. That would include the entire back portion of the pivot foot (toe to heel) and sitting within the width of the rubber also.

All this for a nine year old! So you can see the reason for my clear answer as previously stated: Change the motion to the legal motion, because the older he gets, and the farther he advances in baseball, the more often violations will not be ignored and deeper interpretations of the rules will used to call violations. Pick your battles to win the war. It seems this one clearly isn't worth it.

By louman — On Jun 04, 2013

@anonymous 337299: I agree with my colleague spwildbill, as he is the go-to guy, but would like to add a few items for further clarification. The rules of pitching begin when the pitcher is on the rubber. I'm not sure what you mean exactly when you say the pitcher was in the stretc (infers hands coming down to become set not legs stretched out).

It is my understanding when the pitcher is in the set position (looking for his sign), the batter must be in the box and ready. The pitcher must then come set with a discernible stop in order to pitch. If he does this, it is a pitch and the runner is out. If the pitcher is in the set position, he cannot throw the ball to home until he steps off (back) the rubber and becomes a fielder.

I would call a balk as the pitcher never became set. By the same token, if the pitcher decided to "run" at the base runner coming down the line, he should step off and then do so. Running at is not feinting a throw (where your non pivot foot is gaining distance to the base) and then you can run at the base runner. Although it's a little complicated, I hoped this helped.

By louman — On Jun 04, 2013

@yanks23. I feel your pain for your 9 year old. I have a little different take on it, though. Look at it from the umpire's perspective: at nine years of age, safety is paramount. I don't like it when a young pitcher goes to the rubber with his head down and never looks up while going into the set or wind up. Huge possibilities for quick pitches and safety for the ump and batter exist.

When the pitcher goes to the rubber in the set, it opens these issues even further. I don't allow it!

I do not call a balk, but I do ask the pitcher to put his arms down and start again. Although I agree that you go along if the pitcher continues an iffy delivery, this one is too extreme. When the pitcher becomes set (hands together), more restrictions follow. An example would be turning of the shoulder in the set position and the restriction once the pitcher comes set.

In summary, if this change "goofed" up the pitcher, I would let it go, but make sure my hand was up until all were ready. I would do this for every pitch he was executing. I would also explain myself to the coach and expect this to be changed for the young pitcher's sake. I would call it if he did this routine again later in the year.

By spwildbill — On Jun 04, 2013

@anon337301: The pitcher has a large freedom of motion while in the stretch and receiving signs from the catcher, but this motion is normally limited to head movements and incidental arm movements (like swinging). The only problem with the main body and the legs is the motion has to be continuous. If the pitcher is in the stretch and then adjusts his feet -- which means moving and then stopping and thus requiring additional leg movement to get to his normal set position -- that is a balk.

If the pitcher, in leaving the stretch, feints to first, for example, by stamping his foot and then continues on to the "set" position, that's a balk. The pitcher can step off the rubber at any time and thus cancel out all movements -- a sort of "start over".

The pitcher does not need to step off to step and throw to a base, however it is required that a step toward the base precedes the throw. Thus a pitcher, whether still in the stretch, or having become "set", can pivot, step and throw rather than step off, turn and throw.

By spwildbill — On Jun 04, 2013

@anon337299: You made the right call. Let's cut to the heart of the matter. A balk, by definition, is any motion by the pitcher to "trick" a base runner. In your instance, the base runner is trying to "trick" the pitcher. I am assuming the new batter has not stepped into the batter's box.

Any time during the pitcher's preliminary movements (which describes your situation) and prior to having become "set", the pitcher may throw to any base provided he steps directly toward such base before making the throw.

As I read your description, you made the correct call.

By anon337301 — On Jun 04, 2013

How much freedom of movement does a pitcher have when he is not set, and is receiving a signal from his catcher? Does he have to step off to make a throw to a base?

By anon337299 — On Jun 04, 2013

I am an umpire for 10-14 year olds. This happened yesterday. Runner on third, no outs. The pitcher strikes out the batter, and the pitcher returns to the rubber in a stretch position before the next batter came to the plate.

At this moment, the runner ran for home, and the pitcher threw the ball home from the stretch position. The runner got out, and the third base coach wanted me to call a balk. Technically, the pitcher threw to home, so I didn't call a balk. Was I correct?

By spwildbill — On Apr 18, 2013

@Yanks23: That is getting picky, but many youth league rules do not cover 100 percent of all baseball rules and never mention the specifics of "coming set".

When a rule is not mentioned, they refer back to MLB rules. In 8.01(b) the rule states that "Preparatory to coming to a set position, the pitcher shall have one hand on his side".

Failing that, a novice umpire might call a balk. An experienced umpire will probably hang his hat on "any natural preliminary motion" and determine if there was intent to deceive the runner. If the pitcher never, ever tries to pick off a runner, one can argue there is no intent to deceive, and thus no balk. My advice: teach the proper mechanics of pitching.

By Yanks23 — On Apr 18, 2013

I have a 9 year old right handed pitcher. His normal pitching motion from the stretch is to take his sign with his hands together, then he steps back and makes a discernible stop, then proceeds to make his pitch. The only problem is, the ump was calling a balk every time.

He does the exact same motion time after time: he steps back to the set position and completely stops. He is not stepping forward; he's stepping back into his set position, so whether his hands are together or not is irrelevant. Then he proceeds to make his pitch. How can any part of that process possibly be deceiving the runner, which is a definition of a balk? Again, he was doing the same thing time after time in his normal motion.

Can someone provide some insight that the pitcher must have his hands separated before he comes to the set position because I cannot find anything in a rule book or online stating that they do.

Certainly on a completely different level. but Mariano Rivera does something similar, and a reliever for the O's comes set and essentially bounces on his front leg until he pitches, but his name escapes me however.

As long as you do your normal motion over and over and come set or stop, how is it a balk and/or deceiving the baserunner? Thanks.

By spwildbill — On May 27, 2012

@#119: Assuming all other motion is correct, the pitcher does not have to come off the rubber when he fakes a throw to second. I use the word "assume" because many times the pitcher has already committed himself to go home.

While on the rubber, the pitcher can step off (which means stepping back with the pivot foot) or just pivot and throw (or not throw). A tentative step back but not completely off the rubber, followed by a pivot, would be a balk.

By anon271298 — On May 25, 2012

If the pitcher is on the rubber and turns to throw to second, does he have to come off of the rubber if he does not throw?

By spwildbill — On May 25, 2011

@#117: Too little information for an exact answer. We have to make some assumptions first. If there are no runners on base, the pitcher will not get called for a balk no matter what he does. I will assume there are runners on base. When you say "toe the rubber", do you mean taking a stance before coming "set" or do you mean coming set? With runners on base, to come set, the pitcher must move his hands together (which implies ball in the glove) and pause. While during that pause, if he removes the ball from the glove but does not continue in a pitching motion, say he puts the ball back into the glove, that is a balk.

When a pitcher first takes a stance at the rubber, the ball should be out of the glove, in the ungloved hand, with his hand at his side or behind his back. To start out with the ball in the glove, then moving his feet to a set position, then taking the ball out of the glove to get a grip on it is a very poor mechanic. To take a stance at the rubber and not planning on going set yet, a pitcher can not be careless with his hand motions like taking the ball from his glove back and forth.

Putting his hands together is a specific motion by rule and announcing to the world "I am going set". If that is not the intention of the pitcher, he needs to work on that mechanic because he will be called for a balk almost every time.

By rule, putting the hands together while on the mound is considered a pitching motion. Doing so and not having a foot on the rubber is a violation and a balk will be called. A pitcher is not allowed to perform any "pitching motion" while not touching the rubber with his pivot foot.

By anon179459 — On May 23, 2011

If a pitcher toes the rubber and then removes the ball from his glove, is it a balk?

By spwildbill — On May 22, 2011

@#115: A balk, by definition, is any action or movement by a pitcher to deceive a runner. Given that, a pitcher cannot 'balk' with no runners on base. Who is there to deceive?

Many things a pitcher is not allowed to do with base runners can be done without base runners. There are some actions and movements by the pitcher that could result in an illegal pitch (penalty is a 'ball' on the batter). Delivering a pitch, known as a quick pitch, to a batter who is not yet alert in the batter's box would be an example of an illegal pitch. The penalty here is a 'ball' on the batter. An illegal pitch with runners on base is a 'balk'.

By anon178491 — On May 21, 2011

Can a pitcher 'balk' with nobody on base. Wind-up position?

Let's say a pitcher looks in for a sign (crouched) and then comes up bringing his hands together to a stop. Then starts his motion.

By spwildbill — On May 19, 2011

@#113: You are correct. There is no such thing as a 45 degree rule. This is one of my 50 common myths in baseball. The rule states that the pitcher must step directly toward the base to which he is throwing. At what point is he stepping "directly" or not stepping directly? If the angle from home plate to pitcher's rubber to first base is 90 degrees, then certainly either side of the 45 degree angle must mean stepping in the direction of that base. If you step on the home plate side of the 45 degree angle, it could be argued that the pitcher did not step "directly" toward first base, if throwing there. But, there is no definitive rule.

It all comes back to judgment. What was the intent of the pitcher? Was everyone fooled or deceived? You have a similar grey area with check swings on a batter.

A lot of inexperienced umpires will hear this 45 degree explanation, think it logical and believe it to be a rule. It is not. However, when working the bases, if the move fools me even a little - balk! I can imagine what the runner is thinking. If I am not fooled, no call. I get more flak from opposing managers for not calling this a balk than actually calling it.

By anon177482 — On May 18, 2011

Please show me the "45 degree rule." There is none!

By spwildbill — On May 15, 2011

For #111: Ahh, the influence of new umpires on an umpire group. That happens fairly frequently. The actual balk rule to which you refer is a high school baseball rule. The pitcher must come set with his hands together and completely below the head. There is no such rule in MLB.

AAU follows high school rules. Most other organizations such as Little League, Dizzy Dean and Cal Ripken follow a modified MLB set of rules. So, it depends on what level of baseball is being played on your field and to what rules they ascribe.

Many youth umpires are not aware of all the ways in which a pitcher can balk and pick up their calls from other umpires in the group. If you are playing youth ball and the umpire group recently added someone used to umping high school ball, you will see some of the odd high school rules creep into practice.

A manager cannot argue judgment calls, and a balk is a judgment call. However, the reason for a called balk is a rule interpretation and a league board member should be consulted as to what rules are being followed.

If a called balk for a partial face cover by the glove is becoming common, where it was never called before, I would question where that "idea" is coming from. If, however, you engage in different types of play - say Little League, then an AAU traveling team, the call may actually be correct at times.

By anon175300 — On May 12, 2011

What is the specific balk rule concerning a pitcher's facing the batter with his glove covering some portion of his face? Umpires at our park are beginning to call balks if the pitcher is holding the ball in his glove hand and the top of the glove is say just below his eyes (no other issue with his delivery).

I've heard two explanations, one being the glove can't hide any portion of the face and the other being that the glove can partially hide the face but if it's determined the glove hand is over any portion of the face it is a balk.

By spwildbill — On Apr 20, 2011

For 109: There is a fundamental problem with the scene you describe. One has to disengage the rubber and not appear to be going into a regular pitch motion. Also, the pitcher must put (or leave)his throwing arm (holding the ball)to his side. Stepping back off the rubber with the pivot foot obviously disengages the rubber in a non-pitching motion. Stepping off to the side or to the front, although not specifically addressed in the rules, would be considered a confusing move or motion. And here is the rub: anything the pitcher does that confuses the runner is, by definition, a balk.

So, unfortunately, trying to disengage from the rubber by stepping in any direction but backward, would be called a balk by an alert umpire. I say "alert" umpire, because you may get away with it sometimes. Because the rule on balks also addresses the intent of the pitcher, you may find some instances where an umpire will not call this. Do not count on it. Practice good mechanics.

By anon168644 — On Apr 18, 2011

A runner occupies third base. The pitcher is in the stretch position receiving his sign from the catcher - he has not yet come set or started to come set. If the pitcher disengages the rubber not to the back but to the front or side of the rubber, is this a balk? I did this recently and was called for a balk, thus letting in a run. I was sure that this was allowed, but the umpire apparently thought otherwise. Any opinions?

By spwildbill — On Apr 15, 2011

For 107: Once he becomes set, a right handed pitcher will have his right foot touching the rubber. He does not need to step off the rubber(stepping completely off to the right) or break contact with the rubber with his right foot as long as his left foot steps in the direction of the throw (or in this case, the fake throw). But be aware that the heel of his left foot must be beyond the toe of the right foot to be considered a minimum step.

It is considered to be bad mechanics to just fake a throw to third by taking a step, when a quick step off without the fake accomplishes the same thing.

By no1rebel — On Apr 15, 2011

Is it a balk if a right handed pitcher with a runner on third fakes to third, but his right foot does not break contact with the pitcher's plate?

By spwildbill — On Apr 15, 2011

For 104: If there is a runner at third, any pitcher can step toward that base and fake a throw. At that point, taking another step to turn around takes the pivot foot off the rubber allowing the pitcher (now a fielder) to fake towards first.

However, I think you may be describing a pitcher faking a throw to third without stepping towards the base and then stepping off to pivot and fake to first. That weird move could be construed as a double stop and be called a balk before he ever gets to the point of stepping off to fake to first.

Remember, any motion that could be considered as part of the pitcher's normal delivery commits him to either go to the plate or step towards a base (throw or not). He cannot keep his feet still, fake towards third (a motion) then step off the rubber. I know it sounds and looks similar, but the step is the key.

By anon167894 — On Apr 14, 2011

Can a right handed pitcher from stretch fake throw to third, take his pivot foot off rubber then fake throw to first? I have seen it called both ways!

My understanding is that as long as the pivot foot comes off rubber he is now a "infielder" and can fake the throw to first.

By spwildbill — On Sep 16, 2010

@101: What is "normal" has too many connotations. A pitcher may pitch one way with a runner on first, another with a runner on second. Certainly the pitcher's stance is different with no runners.

If the entire motion is done continuously and is a proper pitch, say ignoring the first five pitches, then there is nothing wrong. What usually happens when a pitcher so dramatically changes his stance and delivery technique, is that he sets himself up to commit a balk.

For example, by twisting his body as you describe, it would be tough not to have his rising left foot come back across the rubber, thus forcing him to go only to home. Conscious of only the runner, the pitcher may not realize he is committed to home and turn and pivot for a pick off play. Then a balk would, or should, be called.

Until he actually commits an infraction, an altered stance or pitching motion is not enough reason to call a balk. Such an alteration is probably more troubling to a coach than to a runner.

By anon111169 — On Sep 15, 2010

In 14U travel ball, with a runner on second, a right-handed pitcher starts from the stretch. His regular motion is either slide step or raising his left leg, shoulders in line with home and second and delivers the pitch.

After four or five pitches, he alters his delivery by rotating his body toward second, his shoulders in line with first and third, then rotating back and delivering the pitch to home plate. I believe this was done to deceive the runner at second and called a balk. Nothing was wrong with his motion, only that it wasn't his "normal" motion. Was a balk call correct?

By spwildbill — On Aug 10, 2010

For #97: This is one of the most confusing of the many rules because of variations. In high school ball, the ball is immediately dead. he rules do not discuss what should happen if a pitch is thus delivered and hit. It varies by organization. Those that prefer to follow MLB rules can hang on the word "unless".

In MLB rules, a balk creates a dead ball "unless" the batter reaches first on a hit, error, base on balls, hit by pitch, or otherwise and all other runners advance at least one base in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.

Most youth leagues follow MLB rules and the homer stands. Some high school associations follow the MLB rules on this point, some do not.

AAU follows high school rules, but follows MLB rules on this point.

By anon102750 — On Aug 09, 2010

I know a balk is a dead ball, but if a pitcher is called on a balk but still pitches the ball and the batter hits the ball over the fence, is it a homerun or a dead ball?

By spwildbill — On Jul 28, 2010

For #95: Without knowing the full circumstance and based only on your comment, I would say that was a bad call.

When the pitcher goes into the stretch, he holds the ball in his free hand. He is allowed to make motion as you describe. However, if in the umpire's judgment, the pitcher is unnecessarily delaying the game, that would be a balk. In most similar circumstances, the pitcher would shake off all the signs, step back off the rubber, and the catcher would call time to go chat with the pitcher. That cannot happen every pitch. If too frequent, the umpire can refuse to grant time.

If the reason for the balk was the motion of the glove to go through the signs again, that is not a balk. I am guessing that such a situation was not isolated and the umpire was getting frustrated with delays and finally called a balk - for the delay and not the motion.

By knightguy — On Jul 27, 2010

While taking signs from the catcher, but before moving to come to set in the stretch, is it a balk for the pitcher to move his glove, say, for example, as if asking the catcher to go through the signs again? (A balk was called on my brother for doing exactly this).

By spwildbill — On Jul 19, 2010

For #92: A loaded question that may not tell the whole picture. When a pitcher has come set and stopped, then lifts his leg, that leg motion must continue to a peak and then come down in one continual motion.

In coming down, he can alter his direction and step and throw toward a base, or step and throw towards home plate. He cannot stop again, as if to wait for a base runner to commit, or lean too far and then come down stepping toward the base. Stopping a second time would be a balk.

Now if, when raising his leg, the foot veers backward, as it usually does, and goes so far as to cross back over the rubber, he is now limited to only going to home plate. If a base runner were watching closely, he might notice the pitcher raising his leg more slowly than usual - a sign to be wary. But once that foot has crossed the rubber, he can take off if that is the plan.

By Jbob2 — On Jul 18, 2010

Can a righty pick off or stop his delivery in any way after lifting his leg on the rubber and starting his windup?

By spwildbill — On Jul 09, 2010

For #90: You are walking a fine line between a balk and poor coaching. There is no requirement that says the pitcher must hold the ball in his free hand as opposed to his gloved hand when he is "in the stretch" getting his sign. However, it is not wise to do so.

The pitcher must have one hand to his side as he positions himself at the rubber. He can elect to do just about anything as a preliminary motion prior to coming set. Think of coming "set" as that one or more second stop before the pitch. You will see a lot of MLB pitchers come almost set and grind the ball into their glove for several seconds, and then come to a complete stop.

If the ball starts in the glove, and the pitcher reaches in for it and while trying to get a good grip on it removes it without pitching, it would be difficult to determine if he had stopped. He will appear to have been motionless while the hand is moving inside the glove to grab the ball.

The pitcher may think he is still in one fluid motion and has yet to come to a complete stop. That is not what the runner sees nor what the umpire sees. Perception is everything. Removing the ball from the glove while in the set position and not pitching (say putting it back into his glove) is a balk.

So, back to your original question: it is not a balk to just start the stretch with the ball in the glove, but in so doing, the pitcher may be prone to committing a balk without even thinking about it.

By anon94470 — On Jul 08, 2010

is it a balk if a pitcher while on the rubber and leaning in for a sign has the ball in his glove and does not take it out until after he comes set?

By spwildbill — On Jul 07, 2010

For #88: I am guessing you are talking about a right handed pitcher. What you describe happens a lot more than one might think and it is not a balk.

The pitcher cannot fake a throw to home, nor can he fake a throw to first without stepping back off the rubber. However, he can fake a throw to second or third (assuming there is a runner there). If he does not step towards third, his actions and motions would be weird enough that some might call a balk. If he takes a step toward third, he does not have to throw.

If a runner is foolish enough to not inch back toward third on the fake, he deserves to be thrown out at either third base or home when the pitcher comes down off the mound charging him.

By anon93898 — On Jul 06, 2010

If a runner is off the third base towards home can the pitcher come set and pick up his leg and step towards third base but not throw the ball and then take off towards the runner and then throw the ball to the catcher to get the runner out. Is that a balk or not?

By spwildbill — On Jun 27, 2010

For #86: You are close but not entirely accurate. In Little League play, any interference, including catcher's interference, makes the ball dead and no runner can be put out or advance. That does not mean they cannot try.

If the batter does get on base by hit, error, fielder's choice, or granted first by virtue of ball four or being hit by the pitch, one must look at clause two: did all other runners advance a base? If they did not, there is no choice and the interference call stands. If all other runners do advance safely, the manager does have a choice to decline the interference call and thereby accept the play. And here is the rub: the umpire does not offer the manager a choice. The umpire goes with the interference (and thus dead ball) unless the manager elects to decline the interference call which he does at the end of the play.

What that means is, if the batter/runner goes beyond first base and is tagged out, or another runner is tagged out attempting to advance more than one base, the manager sits quiet and does not decline the interference call once the entire play is over. The umpires, upon hearing no comment from the manager, have no choice but to put all runners back to their original bases at the time of the pitch, then award the batter/runner first base and any forced runner the next base.

It sounds as if you had an incorrect call and runners were called out after the play and before the ball was put back into "play". I have seen this where a grounder to short keeps a runner at second while the batter/runner beats out a throw to first. All runners must advance one base. If they do, the interference call is automatically withdrawn (no manager choice) and runners can be called out trying to go for additional bases.

The line "umpire must...give" is the biggest problem. Umpires should give no information and should not ask for decisions. I put this into the same category as an umpire advising a base coach that a runner missed a bag.

By anon92064 — On Jun 25, 2010

I have a question about catcher's interference. The rule in Little League states that when catcher's interference is called and a batter reaches first base on a hit, error, or otherwise, the play proceeds without reference to the interference. But my understanding of the rules states that the manager of the offensive team has the right to take the result of the play or the interference, whichever is more advantageous.

The umpire must stop play at the end of the play and give the manager the choice. If a runner attempts to proceed past first base be called out at the end of the play without giving the manager the opportunity to accept the interference penalty? If other runners try to advance more than one base, can they be called out also?

By spwildbill — On Jun 24, 2010

For #84: Not exactly. Certainly, he can twist his body to look and he can go through a lot of preliminary motions before coming set but he cannot feint or fake a throw to first.

If he does throw to first, he still has to step in that direction and step ahead of the throw. He cannot just whip a side-armed throw with no leg movement or anything crazy like that. The rulebook uses the words "natural motion".

Something out of the ordinary could be conceived as a ploy to deceive the runner, and in an umpire's opinion, be called a balk. However, he can pivot, step and throw a millisecond before coming set.

By anon91712 — On Jun 23, 2010

here is a question I don't see addressed: a right handed pitcher with his foot on the rubber, but before he has come to a set position, can he do whatever he wants as far as making a pick-off attempt to a runner at first base?

By spwildbill — On Jun 21, 2010

For #82: The pitcher never has to step off the rubber to make a throw to any base. This is one of the big myths in youth baseball. There are, however, restrictions.

With his pivot foot on the rubber, the pitcher always must step ahead of the throw. In your situation, if the pitcher wheeled and threw to second base without stepping toward the base, it would be a balk. The lead foot must actually step down and touch ground and be in front of, not beside, his other foot before the ball leaves his hand. Having come set does not matter.

Now if your pitcher had come set and then began his delivery, paused in his delivery (second pauses are not allowed) and then wheeled to throw to second, that would be a balk. From your description, that is not what occurred.

This is different than the slow deliberate movement.

Rarely, if ever, would the pitcher be in the windup position with a sole runner on second base. To do so would almost automatically be conceding third base to the runner. In high school rules, the pitcher cannot attempt pickoffs from the windup position. It is possible under MLB rules, although very difficult to do so to second base.

By anon91051 — On Jun 19, 2010

In a Junior Pony game that I recently umpired, a pitcher, after coming to a set position, wheeled and threw to second base in an attempt to pick off the runner. Is the pitcher required to step off the rubber prior to throwing to second base once he has come to a set position?

I believed this to be a balk and issued a warning. Was this correct? What if the pitcher was working from the full wind-up? Would the balk ruling be any different?

By spwildbill — On Jun 16, 2010

For #80: It depends on which rules are being played. MLB rules (4.03) state that when the ball is put into play, all fielders (pitcher and catcher excluded) shall be in fair territory. It is not enforced strictly until play actually is about to happen. When the pitcher is on the mound and comes set while the first baseman is not entirely in fair territory, it is a balk.

However, under high school rules, the first baseman need only have one foot in fair territory when the pitcher comes set. If the first baseman is entirely in foul territory it is a balk. AAU follows high school rules. Almost all other organizations (i.e. Little League Seniors, Dizzy Dean, Cal Ripkin, Jr American follow MLB rules).

By anon90083 — On Jun 14, 2010

Situation: Man on first base, first baseman was holding him on but standing in foul territory. Umpire calls a balk. Is this correct?

By spwildbill — On May 29, 2010

For #78: One would think that if a rightie can fake to third and then throw to first that the flip side ought to be true for lefties. Not the case.

However, from the stretch, if the pitcher steps clearly back off the rubber (in this case with the left foot) he becomes an infielder and is no longer subject to rules for pitchers. That means he can fake a throw to first and then spin and make a throw to third. The key being he must step off the rubber first.

If a left handed pitcher just steps with his right foot in the direction of first, fakes a throw, then spins quickly to throw to third - that is a balk!

Most base coaches and runners concentrate on the heel of the foot that touches the rubber. If it moves first - "Back".

By anon87183 — On May 28, 2010

Is it a balk for a left handed pitcher to fake a throw to first then throw to third (from the stretch)?

By spwildbill — On May 24, 2010

For #75: Cal Ripkin Baseball uses Official Baseball Rules modified for kids 12 and under. Only at the higher level (Majors), where lead-offs are allowed, does pitching stance and motion matter.

At that level, when a pitcher assumes the windup position, with or without runners on base, he is then allowed to take one step back and then one step forward with his non-pivot foot (the free foot).

Of course, the beginning of taking one step back with the free foot commits the pitcher to home plate no matter what. He can only do as you describe for the windup position.

By spwildbill — On May 24, 2010

For #74: It is all about motion and position and it does not matter whether the pitcher is left-handed or right-handed. I assume you mean the pitcher is starting from the set position.

Once he starts his motion to pitch he has to have continual motion. That motion does not have to be to home plate unless the the free foot comes up and, in effect, crosses back across the rubber. Once that happens, he has no more choice other than to deliver to home. If he is slowly picking his foot up, making sure the leg does not bend back across the rubber, and he does not pause, he can then step toward first and throw to first without it being a balk. What happens many times is, the pitcher sees a runner way off base or attempting to steal second, and gets confused as to what to do.

1)He sometimes tries to step back off the rubber, but he has already started his motion - balk; 2)He stops his motion to throw quickly to first and either throws before stepping or does not step to the base at all - balk; 3)He panics and throws to the second base man, even though he steps in that direction - balk; 4)He has enough control to bring down his foot in a step toward first and actually delivers a throw to first - no balk.

If the pitcher was beginning in the windup position (why would he do that with a runner on first?) as soon as his feet start to move in a manner typical of his pitching motion, he is committed to home no matter what is happening on base. Note: In High School ball, the pitcher has no choice but to go home in the windup position, while in MLB a pitcher can pivot from the windup position and throw to any base.

By anon86216 — On May 24, 2010

in Cal Ripken baseball can a pitcher who has his pivot foot on the rubber step back with his other foot then bring it forward and up and throw his pitch if it is his normal delivery pattern?

By anon85905 — On May 22, 2010

can a left handed pitcher pick up his front foot to pitch home and throw to first and it not be a balk?

By spwildbill — On May 21, 2010

For #72: Unless the pitcher did something weird before the pitch, he will not get called for a balk. What often happens though, both the pitcher and catcher see what is going on and the catcher steps too far out of the catcher's box to take the pitch, which really is not a pitch to the batter, but a pitch to the catcher in order to catch and tag the runner. In that instance, a catcher's balk will be called. What you probably hear is just "Balk!" with no explanation and some people might interpret that as the pitcher getting the balk call, when in reality it is the catcher that gets called for the balk.

By anon85454 — On May 20, 2010

with a runner trying to steal home, can a pitcher be called for a balk for throwing home?

By spwildbill — On May 17, 2010

#68: I believe this has been answered more than once, however let's make it clear. A player designated as position one in the lineup, who is on the mound and touching the rubber while holding the ball is, by definition a "pitcher."

If such player is not on the rubber (think steps back off the rubber) he is, by definition, an "infielder" who could become a "pitcher" again by stepping back on the rubber.

It is important to realize that this one player, can be described by two definitions depending on where the player stands. A "pitcher" can *not* fake a throw to first base. An infielder *can* fake a throw to first base.

By spwildbill — On May 12, 2010

Answer to #65: By definition, when a pitcher holds the ball with both hands in front of his body, with his pivot foot in contact with the rubber, he will be considered in the windup position. However, this comes in to play only when there are base runners.

A pitcher will rarely use the windup position when there are base runners, but there are times when he might. With a base runner, the pitcher has to come to a legal position, either "windup" or "set". With no runners on base, the pitcher can do almost anything (even pitch from the stretch without stopping when coming set) as long as he does not quick pitch the batter. So, without base runners, there is no need to assume a legal position (except that his pivot foot must by touching the rubber), thus the pitcher can pitch in a manner you describe.

By spwildbill — On May 12, 2010

#66: By definition, a pitcher is either a "pitcher" or a "fielder". When he is on the mound and toeing the rubber, he is a pitcher. When he steps back off the rubber, he becomes a fielder. The distinction is important for two reasons: 1) as a pitcher, he cannot fake a throw to first base. If he does throw and manages to throw the ball out of bounds, the runner is awarded one base; 2) as a fielder, he can fake to first base. However, should he throw and manage to throw the ball out of bounds, the runner is awarded two bases.

The quick answer to your question is: If he steps back of the rubber first, the pitcher can fake a throw to first base (assuming there is a runner there).

By anon83376 — On May 10, 2010

can a pitcher fake a throw to 1st base with a runner there?

By spwildbill — On May 01, 2010

#56: It depends on whether using high school rules or MLB rules. If, in MLB, a balk is called and the pitcher pitches anyway, the manager of the offensive team is given the opportunity to take the play or the balk. If he takes the play, the will be runners on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd but no run in.

If he takes the balk, the runners advance, scoring one run but whatever happened to the batter is insignificant. Most managers would take the run.

In high school ball, a balk call immediately kills the play with a 'dead ball'. There is no choice. Bases would become loaded and the batter, even though hit, continues his at bat with the previous count.

By anon80861 — On Apr 28, 2010

So, must a pitcher the pitcher hold the ball with both hands in front of him when pitching from the windup? Or, can a pitcher take the signal while in contact with the rubber, but both hands at his sides, then launch right into his motion bringing his hands together over his head?

By sharah — On Apr 26, 2010

What is the rule in high school if a pitcher starts towards home plate with no one on base and stops and never throws? Is it a ball or no pitch?

By anon79739 — On Apr 24, 2010

can a pitcher fake a throw to a base, when the fielder is not covering the runner?

By anon76777 — On Apr 12, 2010

#57 again: Think about the foot work your describing; rocks back with his non pivot foot. that's OK for a rhp. how are you leading with your right foot to the base. it would be your left foot that leads and must point toward the base. this all is before the pitcher starts in his motion. louman

By anon76776 — On Apr 12, 2010

#52: As long as this is the pitcher's typical pitching motion, even if it's peculiar. your example isn't very clear. you have to break your hand to throw anywhere. you also must point to the base your throwing to. think of all the deception on a lefty pick off motion to first base. louman

#57: Good question. Following high school rules when in the wind up position the pitcher may either deliver the ball to home or step back off the rubber.

when he steps back he can change to the set. if throwing to a base, again steps back and becomes a fielder. if starting the pitchers typical motion from the wind up position the player can only go to the plate.

for answer #53: my error, was giving the major league rule 1.04c. rule 1, section 1, article 4 for high school states that the pitch shall be illegal. if there are men on base by definition an illegal pitch is a balk. see rule 2,section 18, article 1. hope all this helped. louman

By anon76768 — On Apr 12, 2010

#44: in the vicinity is OK even at first.

#45 #46: it's a "do not do" no penalty but tell him to get both feet in fair territory. we're following high school rules, not major league

#47 for #44: louman's opinion is that it is not a balk. if it's in the vicinity or you are trying to make a play on a runner.

By anon76763 — On Apr 12, 2010

# 40: infers you can only set once.

#41: I will correct my original answer. You do not have to stop if you are throwing to a base.

#43: In the Major leagues you have your choice. Little league usually follows high school rules. Ball is dead immediately no hit batter.

By anon76311 — On Apr 09, 2010

With runners on base the pitcher goes from a stretch to a wind up pitching position. First, can a pitcher throw to a base from the wind up position?

Second, in our game the pitcher would rock back with his left foot and throw home. Next he would rock back with his left foot then step and throw to third. The ump said he could throw to thirrd as long as he led with his right foot. When, if ever, can a pitcher throw to a base from the wind up.

By anon74845 — On Apr 04, 2010

during a baseball game the pitcher was called a balk with runners on first and third, but he pitches the ball and hit the batter.

My question is: will the batter be sent to first or does he have to continue his turn at bat?

The runners have advanced one base already due to the balk.

By anon74771 — On Apr 03, 2010

Is it a balk when a pitcher wipes his hands on his sleeve?

By anon71234 — On Mar 17, 2010

when the ump calls a balk the play is dead.

By anon65918 — On Feb 16, 2010

Answer to #40: the player must have at least one foot in fair territory so the third baseman is legal see rule 1art4.

it becomes an illegal pitch if not (not a balk). The catcher is the only player that can be completely outside the fair territory.

By anon64971 — On Feb 10, 2010

Can a pitcher slowly lift his lead leg and still have the ability to throw to either second, first, or home on command? and if so can he break his hands and still throw to either base?

By anon60784 — On Jan 16, 2010

How's this for stupid? I got called on a balk today, while i was pitching from the wind up. No one could believe it. The umpire was like totally on his own program. Even the other team were like are you kidding! My first balk in five years and that's how I got it. lol

By anon41218 — On Aug 13, 2009

#43. Please see me comment below that I left for #45. The balk would be ignored in this case

By anon41217 — On Aug 13, 2009

#44. You are correct.

By anon41216 — On Aug 13, 2009

#45. If a pitcher balks but the batter puts the ball in play, this is *not* an option play. Simply, if all of the runners and the batter advance at least one base, then the balk is ignored. If even one runner does not advance, the pitch does not count, the batter returns to bat and all runners are given one base.

As for your third base question, I am not sure, but technically, this is the case for first base and is referred to as a "First Basemen's Balk", although, I don't believe it is generally enforced.

By anon38253 — On Jul 24, 2009

I just recently played in a baseball game where a 3rd baseman had one foot in foul territory and one foot in fair. Is it considered a balk if he attempts to pick you off? Also if a pitcher balks but he still follows through with the pitch and the batter makes the ball live, don't you have a choice to take the balk or the hit?

By anon35377 — On Jul 04, 2009

I had a situation with runner on third base, runner was 1/4 down line and my pitcher through over to third to my third baseman that was not playing the bag. Is this considered a balk? My interpretation of the rule is that it is not, only base it is in effect is on first base. please clarify.

By anon35277 — On Jul 03, 2009

1st & 2nd, 1 out, ump calls balk, pitcher pitches, batter singles, run scores from 2nd, 1st goes to 3rd, isn't the rule that you pick the result, meaning run scores and 1st and 3rd, or is a balk a dead ball, no run, runners on 2nd & 3rd

By louman — On Jun 30, 2009

hello beads...the balk rules are in place & followed so the pitcher does not deceive the runner. under the set position rules, prior to being in the set the pitcher is leaning over looking for his sign. the ball in his hand and the glove hand at his side. as he moves into the set position, he must do so in one continuous and uninterrupted motion. now in the set his hands are together and he comes to a complete stop. this is true whether going to first or to home. some coaches try to beat the rule going to first, saying *he had to pause* because he changed directions in throwing to first. it's not the way the rule reads though. again in real time these movements can happen quite quickly and can be easily missed if you're not watching for it.

anon...the pitcher can only set once. he can't "reset or set again" unless he steps back and off the rubber. noteworthy; when in the wind up a pitcher can legally double pump like in the 1920's. also worth mentioning, is that with nobody on, the pitcher does not have to come to a stop at all when delivering to the plate from the sign taking portion of the set and moving to put his hands together. in concluding the "taking the ball out of the glove once" means the once is upon his delivery to the plate if that's where he's going. hope I helped.

By beads848135 — On Jun 30, 2009

Our pitcher was in the process of bringing his hands together in the stretch and backed off the rubber and threw to first. The ump said he has to come to a complete stop for 1 second before he can throw to first once he starts to bring his hands together. I know that is the rule to home...but you can disengage twirl and throw to first at any point in your stretch routine, right?

By anon34625 — On Jun 25, 2009

from the set position is there a rule on how many times a pitcher removes the ball from his mitt before he pitches? our pitcher got a balk called the umpire said he could only take the ball out of his mitt once.

By louman — On Jun 11, 2009

just wanted to finish the last of the posts. *pitcher can fake a throw to third or second theoretically with his foot on the rubber.*lhp must step back off the rubber to fake a throw to first, he then can throw to third if he chooses. if he fakes to first while his foot is on the rubber it's a balk. note: a lhp has such an advantage in masking his throw to first that you rarely see a lhp step back off the rubber to throw to first as it takes much more time and the pitcher looses the advantage of still pitching home. remember the 45 degree rule and the head switching back and forth eventually facing first. Major league lhp Petit is the best at this. He probably does not adhere to the 45 degree rule but in the majors they won't call it on him. This was told to me from a colleague who had him in the minors many years ago and actually called him for a balk.

*pitcher goes into the wind up he must complete his pitch. *a pitcher may not wind up or stretch while not on the rubber. in fact to avoid the hidden ball trick a pitcher may not even be on the mound without the ball if say the first basemen has it attempting the hidden ball tag. if he stretches or winds up without the ball it is also a balk.

*for raag800...lhp holding a runner at first. from the set position it does not compute that the pitcher's free foot would ever get even or behind the pivot foot. Plus he must eventually not only look at first but also step towards first. There is an imaginary line drawn from the rubber at a 45 degree angle. the non pivot foot must land on the first base side of that line when throwing to first or it's a balk. *Jersey-Joe...that's some good stuff.

*anon15195 if you are correct in transposing the words and do not mean the stretch position then the explanation would be that the pitcher has not started his wind up yet and is probably looking for his sign. A pitcher would not be in that position unless there was at least a man on third. Once he begins the windup he is committed to throw home. *the info on the placing of the feet at the rubber in the wind up is sound. Interestingly enough when in the stretch position the free foot cannot be beyond either side of the rubber, as you can in the wind up.* even if setting at the chin or above is the pitcher's routine it is still a balk and should of never gotten that far. if the pitcher stretches in that manor with no one on it would be considered an illegal pitch and called a ball.

hope this helped...thanks

By louman — On Jun 08, 2009

i am a current umpire for 10-14 year olds. there seems to be a lot of questions concerning pick off throws to first or a fake pick off throw to first. the pitcher becomes a fielder when he steps back off the rubber. he then can fake to first base. he can do what he pleases because he no longer is under the balk rules, he is an infielder.

in the other scenario the pitcher is in the set position and throws to first he is considered on the rubber and the balk rules apply. he cannot fake to first. as a rhp and pointing towards first with his non pivot foot it becomes almost a physical impossibility to keep your pivot foot on the rubber while completing the throw to first. it is the step back with the pivot foot as the first move that is critical so that the pitcher is considered a fielder. in real time it can be done quite quickly and not noticed unless you are looking specifically at the pitcher's feet and watching for the situation.

additionally, a pitcher can throw within close proximity of first base without hesitation if the first baseman happens to not be holding the runner on.

also a pitcher must throw to an occupied base unless he is trying to get a base runner out and not deceiving the runner.

these explanations are broad strokes as there may be some technicalities to the rule, as there are to most baseball rules. the above two examples are with pitchers on the rubber not off the rubber as a fielder.

hope i cleared a few areas up for those of you interested. Thanks.

By anon33479 — On Jun 06, 2009

My confusion. Runners on first and third. Left handed pitcher. Fakes throw to first and throws to third attempting to pick off runner at third. Balk or no balk?

By rdag800 — On Jun 05, 2009

Runner on second, pitcher goes into windup once motion is created he must go home, yes that is a balk...

A pitcher may fake a throw to first if he is not on the rubber.

By anon33297 — On Jun 03, 2009

Runner on second base. Pitcher starts his motion (moves his hands)from a full windup (not from the stretch). Pitcher steps off. Balk?

By anon33296 — On Jun 03, 2009


you are not allowed to pause completely at any point in your delivery, you can move very slowly, but you can not pause at the top of your leg lift for an hour, that's a balk, but regarding the turn, a pitcher can lift his leg turn toward second with his leg, and as long as he doesn't cross his ankle over his back leg, he's aloud to continue his delivery to home without picking off to second.

By anon33213 — On Jun 02, 2009

May a pitcher fake a throw to first base, even while not on the rubber, and not commit a balk? I was taught the pitcher can only fake to third and second base, but not to first. Your input and assistance is greatly appreciated.

By jrichards — On Apr 16, 2009

Is it considered a balk when after the pitcher takes the initial stretch position on the rubber, then transfers the ball from his glove to his hand and then begins to go to the "set" position? Basically breaking his hands twice.

By rdag800 — On Mar 23, 2009

With a left handed pitcher on the mound, from the stretch position, holding a runner on first, if the pitcher raises his free leg and brings that foot behind the point of his set knee and throws the ball to first is that a balk. I've been told the only way it is not is if the free foot stays in front of the set knee.

By JerseyJoe — On Aug 20, 2008

From Behind the Plate….

In baseball most plays begin with the pitcher. His actions often raise tempers and bring shouts of “balk” from the crowd. An umpire seldom encounters a more troublesome topic.

With actions focusing on the pitcher, a clever hurler could hold a team, especially base runners, at his mercy. For this reason, our baseball ancestors limited the pitcher’s movements where trickery or deception was apparent. And, they instructed the umpire to judge the “intent” of the pitcher’s actions when he or she was in doubt. When the pitcher balked the ball became dead immediately. This move was designed to “protect” the batting team from the pitcher’s trickery. Frequently, however, and in spite of deception, the pitcher’s delivery to the batter was knocked out of the ballpark for a homerun. It was then the umpire’s unpleasant task to invoke the penalty for the balk. The umpire advanced all base runners one base, but the batter’s home run was nullified and he was sent back to the plate with the same ball / strike count. This may give readers a clue as to one reason for the umpire’s traditional unpopularity.

The Baseball Rules Committee corrected this shortcoming in the balk rule in December 1954. The new rule provided that when the pitcher delivered the ball after balking play would continue as if there had been no balk. The balk was ignored if the batter-runner reached first base on a hit, and error, a fourth ball, being hit by a pitch or whatever and further provided that all base runners advanced at least one base. If all runners, including the batter-runner, did not advance at least one base, then the balk was invoked, advancing all base runners but returning the batter to the plate with the same ball / strike count.

Although the balk rule is complex, it has these principles: (1) A balk can only occur when one or more runners are on base; (2) An illegal pitch becomes a balk with a runner(s) on base. (3) All base runners are advanced one base on the balk; and (4) the batter does not benefit in any way from the balk penalty.

The third principle seems to create most of the confusion. If the pitcher pitches after balking, the ball remains alive and a number of situations may develop involving the batter. If he hits the ball safely or a fielder commits an error on the play and all base runners advance there does not appear to be much of a problem. The balk is ignored. It is when the batter is entitled to first base because of a fourth ball or the batter being hit by a pitched ball that creates problems for some umpires. Before invoking the balk penalty, to preclude penalizing the batting team, the umpire must determine: (1) were all runners forced to advance (and did so) because the batter became a runner? If so, the play stands and the balk is ignored. (2) However, if the answer is no for any runner, the balk rule is invoked, all runners are advanced one base and the batter returns to the plate with the same ball / strike count.

The National League does however have a special ruling when a base runner is attempting to steal third base on a pitch that results in a fourth ball. The play stands if the runner is safe and the batter goes to first base on the fourth ball.

A cardinal point for the umpire to remember is that he or she let’s the play stand or invokes the balk penalty. He or she can not administer portions of both rules. If the umpire invokes the balk penalty, the batter never benefits.

By JerseyJoe — On Aug 10, 2008

CNEBAphil & Lauriej - In the batting out of turn rule, the improper batter commits an overt act, but it is the proper batter who is penalized by being called out. Likewise, there are two situations where the catcher commits an overt act with the balk charged to the pitcher:

-- Under Rule 7.07 the pitcher is charged with a balk when the catcher or any fielder interferes with the batter on an attempted squeeze play or steal of home. The result is a double penalty (the only one I am aware of). The batter goes to first base on the interference and the runner scores from third base on the balk.

-- Under Rule 8.05L intentional walk as you have indicated.

Then there is the official scorers game summary 10.02 (c) The following records for each pitcher: (15) Number of balks.

Only the pitcher can be charged with a balk. Rule 2: A balk is an illegal act by the pitcher.

By anon15195 — On Jul 04, 2008

Regarding throwing to a base from the wind up, this is directly from the MLB rules:

Rule 8.01(a) Comment: In the Windup Position, a pitcher is permitted to have his “free” foot on the rubber, in front of the rubber, behind the rubber or off the side of the rubber.

From the Windup Position, the pitcher may:

(1) deliver the ball to the batter, or

(2) step and throw to a base in an attempt to pick-off a runner, or

(3) disengage the rubber (if he does he must drop his hand to his sides).

In disengaging the rubber the pitcher must step off with his pivot foot and not his free foot first. He may not go into a set or stretch position—if he does it is a balk.

(this is my comment - therefore a RHP standing on the rubber who steps off with his right (pivot) foot is deemed to have disengaged the rubber and becomes a fielder and throw or fake a throw to any base)

Regarding anon13491's question, the answer is 'yes' the pitcher can throw to second even though it is unoccupied because he is "making a play" against a runner attempting to take that base. See rule 8.05d below:

8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when --

(d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play; (and note comment on rule 8.05 b)

Rule 8.05 Comment: Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern. However, certain specifics should be borne in mind:

(a) Straddling the pitcher’s rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk.

(b) With a runner on first base the pitcher may make a complete turn, without hesitating toward first, and throw to second. This is not to be interpreted as throwing to an unoccupied base.

By vmidoc85 — On Jun 27, 2008

Posted by: anon13491 Situation is a runner on first and the pitcher is already set and notices runner taking off while he is starting to kick up. If the pitcher hasn't started home can he pivot and go to second? I know he can do this with a runner at second already, but can he while the runner from first is going to second? I too would like to know the answer to this question.

By anon14764 — On Jun 23, 2008

can a pitcher throw the ball to an unoccupied base?

By dbaum — On Jun 17, 2008

Pitcher is left handed. Runners on first and third. Pitcher steps off rubber and fakes a throw to first, spins and throws to third, all of this after stepping back off of the pitching rubber. Is this a balk?

By anon13491 — On May 28, 2008

Situation is a runner on first and the pitcher is already set and notices runner taking off while he is starting to kick up. If the pitcher hasn't started home can he pivot and go to second? I know he can do this with a runner at second already, but can he while the runner from first is going to second?

By anon12301 — On May 03, 2008

if the third baseman is standing with one foot outside the baseline holding the runner on is this considered a balk? i was told that if the 1st baseman blocked the bag while holding a runner on it would be called a balk also is this true??

By anon11776 — On Apr 22, 2008

ya, if you set your hands above your chin it actually is a balk. My friend had his pitcher get called for a balk like 5 times during a game because it is such an uncommonly know or called balk, but it was part of his pitching routine.

By anon11292 — On Apr 12, 2008

Once the windup starts the pitcher has to throw home.

By jmendoza559 — On Apr 07, 2008

from the windup can a pitcher without stepping off the rubber make a motion to home and then throw when he is in the middle of the windup to third base to pick off a runner?

I am an assistant coach for a freshman baseball team, this was done against us on April 4, 08 at a baseball game. When I approached the umpire he stated that he did not he did not bend his knee going to third. I explained to ump that when he is in the windup he must go home once he starts the windup.



By weidro1 — On Mar 27, 2008

If a left handed pitcher wants to pick off a runner on first, does he have to step directly to 1st? I've seen cases where the pitcher, while going from stretch, will not step toward 1st but move his foot over just enough while stepping toward home, so he actually isn't throwing home then throw to first and pick off runners.

I hope this makes sense.

By kr44 — On Mar 16, 2008

Can a pitcher come set, lift his front leg, lower it and then wheel to second base as long as he does not move toward home plate?

By fore12 — On Mar 10, 2008

Anon9583 -- appeal of runner missing 1st base: the difference is stepping off the rubber (vs. throwing to 1st from the "set" position). Also, it is an appeal, not a pick-off. I think a balk should be called if the pitcher threw to 1st on an appeal play from the "set" position.

By fore12 — On Mar 09, 2008

I checked with a veteran umpire and the pitcher does NOT have to step back off the rubber in order to attempt a pick-off of a runner on 1st from the "set" position. The pitcher may not do a jump-throw, although if you watch the majors sometimes the right-handed pitchers' pick-off move to 1st looks almost like a jump-twist-throw all in one motion. Theoretically, the right-handed pitcher must pivot on the right foot and step to 1st on the left foot and throw. The pitcher can fake a pick-off to 2nd or 3rd from that "set" position but not to 1st. The pitcher can fake a pick-off to 1st if he/she first steps back off the rubber with the pivot foot.

By anon9583 — On Mar 09, 2008

batter hits ball and stops at 2b...missing 1b. pitcher toes rubber, steps off and throws to 1b to appeal runner missing 1b...balk or not? (based on the premise of throwing to an unoccupied base vs. appealing runner missing a base)

By fore12 — On Mar 08, 2008

The rules specify that the pitcher cannot jump and throw from the "set" position; the pitcher must first step toward the base and then throw. The pitcher may step back off the rubber with the pivot foot and make snap throws.

If a pitcher throws to the 1st baseman from the "set" position and the 1st baseman is not covering 1st base that is a balk because the pitcher may only throw home or to a base with a runner or to a base a runner is attempting to take from the "set" position.

I'm pretty sure I read that the "set" position requires the hands and ball to come together below the chin.

This has me nuts (and I'm a long-retired high school and college ump): in reviewing the rulebook today I found that the pitcher may from either the "windup" or "set" position:

1 - deliver a pitch to the batter;

2 - throw to a base to attempt a pick-off by stepping toward that base and then throwing;

3 - step back off the rubber and throw anywhere or fake a throw.

I thought a right-handed pitcher had to step off to attempt a pick-off at first base. I thought maybe it had to do with not moving the pivot foot except to go home or step back off the rubber, but then the pitcher is allowed to turn and step to second base to accept a pick-off. The pitcher can fake a throw to 2nd or 3rd but not 1st, so maybe there is a specific rule regarding a pick-off at 1st but I cannot find it.

By splint15 — On Mar 03, 2008

If runners are on the corners. The 1st baseman is not holding the runner on first, the 1st baseman is playing off the bag in his regular position. Can the pitcher throw the ball to the 1st baseman, who has not moved and who still is not covering the base or is this a balk?

By anon8903 — On Feb 24, 2008

a coach once told me that if you come set with the glove above your chin that it is a balk. is this true?

By CNEBAphil — On Feb 16, 2008

few answers to previous posts:

The catcher can also balk. If the catcher leaves his box before the pitcher starts his motion home, it is a balk.

Run scoring from 3rd on balk depends on who balked. If pitcher balks, earned run.

The pitcher can step towards first base as long as his foot is not on the rubber and in a set position.

If you're a righty you can just step towards 3rd base from the stretch position, the opposite of a lefty just stepping towards 1st base.

If they chew tobacco and choose not to swallow, they have to spit eventually. If chewing gum it's probably just to mimic chew tobacco or simply out of habit. Spitting with cameras monitoring you is more of an accident and cameramen try to avoid showing it.

By anon5159 — On Nov 15, 2007

when you pick up your leg and go to third you can only go to a 45 degree angle. and yes you can jump to make a throw to third but you have to jump with both feet at the same time.

By anon4633 — On Oct 25, 2007

Why do baseball players spit all the time? I know they used to chew tobacco, but now they are chewing gum. Why do they still spit, especially when they should know the camera is on them?

By anon2602 — On Jul 18, 2007

yes if there is a runner on 3rd you can pick up your front foot, and pick off the third, you may also pick up your foot, fake to third and throw to first..i also don't think you can jump off the rubber, i think that's also a balk.

By anon2200 — On Jul 02, 2007

My Father says that when you are in the stretch position on the rubber and you close your hands and feet together and lift you leg up you have to go to the plate. But if there is a person on third can't you pick up your foot with your other foot on the rubber and throw it to third?

By anon1840 — On Jun 17, 2007

Is it possible for a right handed pitcher to step directly towards first in a pick off attempt without balking? Does a right handed pitcher have to step off the back of the rubber in order to throw to first on a pick off attempt? Can a pitcher jump off the rubber and throw?

By baseballal56 — On Jun 14, 2007

That is my understanding also. Thanks for your input.

By anon1745 — On Jun 14, 2007


Yes, as long as the pitcher does not lean towards home plate or make any motion towards home, he may step with his non-pivot foot towards second and make the throw there

By lauriej — On Jun 07, 2007

can any player besides the pitcher get called for a balk?

By anon1370 — On May 27, 2007

if a runner scores from third on a balk is it an earned run or unearned run?

By baseballal56 — On May 26, 2007

Can't a pitcher from the stretch, with a runner on 2nd base, pick up his front leg, pause and then step directly toward 2nd and either throw or fake the throw? My understanding is if the pitcher does not cross his feet or start his momentum toward home, this is not a balk.

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