In baseball, a “balk” is a pitching violation the pitcher commits while on the mound. When the umpire calls a balk, it results in runners on base advancing one base without the batter making contact with the ball. Essentially, it’s a penalty assessed against the pitcher for an illegal or deceptive movement intended to deceive the baserunners.
Some common reasons a balk might be called include:
Failing to come to a complete stop: Pitchers must come to a full stop (a “set position”) when they are in the stretch position, with runners on base, before delivering the pitch. Failure to do so can result in a balk.
Deceptive actions: If the pitcher makes tricky movements that could confuse or deceive the baserunners, it can be considered a balk. This includes fake throws to a base, flinching, or sudden movements without delivering the pitch.
Not stepping directly toward the base: A pitcher must step directly toward the base they are trying to throw to when attempting to pick off a baserunner. It can result in a balk if they step in the wrong direction.
Not disengaging from the rubber: If a pitcher does not clear (remove their pivot foot) from the rubber before making a throw to a base, it’s considered a balk.
Balk rules prevent pitchers from gaining an unfair advantage over baserunners through deceptive or illegal actions. When a balk is called, all baserunners are awarded one base, and play continues. Pitchers need to be aware of these rules and execute their movements correctly to avoid committing a balk.