If you’ve ever seen a pitcher begin to throw their ball in the typical motion, only to stop midway through, you have just witnessed what is called a ‘balk’.
Balks are considered to be a rule breaker when it comes to baseball, and means that a player has messed up their pitch.
There are quite a few reasons why balking is considered to be a big no no in baseball, some of which we will discuss below. To find out more about balks, as well as some other rule breakers, keep reading, as we take a closer look below.
What Exactly Is A Balk?
So essentially, as we mentioned briefly above, a balk is when a pitcher goes to throw his ball, but either stops or ceases the movements halfway through, or towards the end. It can be incredibly confusing for both the pitcher, and the runners.
It’s considered to be an illegal throw, because even if the intentions weren’t bad, it can be highly deceptive for the hitters and baserunners.
Interestingly, however, balks aren’t just limited to the definition above. The word balk is also used when somebody makes an illegal pitch, if a pitch is made without direct contact with the rubber, or various other deceptive practices.
It is a good method for keeping pitchers in check, and preventing any illegal actions that could sway the game. It prevents the pitcher from being able to fake a pitch, or make a pick off throw.
When Is A Balk Called?
Typically, a balk will be called when there is any kind of fluidity in the pitcher’s movement that isn’t in keeping with the throw, or if the pitcher flinches.
You’ll typically hear the baseball umpire call ‘balk’, and they will then go ahead and discuss what just happened.
When Was The Balk Invented?
Surprisingly, for many years, there were no rules or regulations surrounding balking, and many players could get away with flinching or even faking their pitches.
This practice eventually became noted in 1898, where it was written down in the Major League Baseball Rule Book, the holy grail of baseball.
Still though, players continued to do what we would deem ‘balking’ today, up until 2013. There weren’t any specific rules or guidelines surrounding players faking to third, let’s say, then throwing it to first instead.
But nowadays, this is strictly prohibited. There can be no deceit whatsoever when it comes to pitching, otherwise ‘balk’ will be called.
Interestingly, another kind of balking that might not occur to everyone, is if the pitcher drops his ball. Believe it or not, this is actually considered to be a balk.
Players who drop their ball before they make a pitch are considered to have balked in the game. This can be highly embarrassing for pitchers, and many games have actually been won by opposing teams just as a result of the pitcher dropping the ball.
Balking also happens when a player trips or slips when they’re delivering the pitch. This can be incredibly frustrating for pitchers, as it could potentially lose them their game if they make this kind of error.
How Not To Balk
Essentially, any kind of flinching or unwarranted movement is considered to be a balk. This is why there may be some degree of confusion when it comes to this rule, because most of the time, people might not even see it happening.
The movements or errors are often so miniscule that they go unnoticed.
When it comes to pitching, and avoiding the dreaded balk, you must always follow through on your movement after you’ve started.
Once the picture comes to set, the only movement that he’s allowed to perform involves his head. Movement in any other part of their body is considered to be illegal.
The only times in which a pitcher is allowed to move when they’re on set, is if they’re delivering the pitch, picking off to a base, or stepping off the rubber.
In addition, in order not to perform the dreaded balk, you must pause before delving into the pitch.
When you come to the set, it is important that you pause for a moment before delivering your pitch. You’re not able to simply roll through the set without a momentary preamble.
Is A Quick Pitch A Balk?
Again, a quick pitch is considered to be another form of balking. If a pitcher throws their ball at an increased speed before the batter has prepared themselves in the box, this will be considered a balk.
If the batter is ready, and they deliver a quick pitch, this is perfectly legal. It’s just dependent on whether or not the batter is in place or not. Some pitchers will choose to throw a quick pitch as a tactic to confuse the batter, but not normally.
Most pitchers have a particular rhythm that they’re accustomed to following, and this doesn’t usually include quick pitches.
Quick pitches can also be dangerous if the hitter isn’t ready. Most batters will look down at their feet when they step into the box in order to make sure that they’re in the correct position.
If the pitcher throws the ball at this specific moment, it could potentially be harmful to the batter in question.
To sum up, balking is any kind of movement that isn’t fluid with the pitcher’s throw. If they make any kind of miniscule movement such as hesitating their throw, or flinching, this will be considered a ‘balk’.
In addition, tripping, slipping, dropping the ball, or avoiding contact with the rubber are all considered to be examples of balking.