How Many Ways Can a Pitcher Balk in Baseball?

Balking is a baseball term that describes an illegal pitching maneuver in which the pitcher intentionally throws a pitch without distance, with the intent of forcing an unfair walk. The pitcher attempts to force base runners to advance while avoiding strikes or balls. So, how many ways can a pitcher balk in baseball? Let me show you.

How Many Ways Can a Pitcher Balk in Baseball?

According to MLB rules, there are 13 ways to balk in baseball:

  1. The pitcher stretches out one foot while holding the ball in his glove.
  2. The pitcher takes his glove off and does not throw the ball.
  3. The pitcher takes a few steps toward the catcher and is still holding the ball.
  4. The pitcher takes his glove off and walks back to the mound, but does not throw the ball.
  5. The pitcher moves back to home plate without throwing or “stretching”.
  6. The pitcher steps off the rubber to the first-base side.
  7. After a pitch, the pitcher puts both feet in front of the rubber and doesn’t throw.
  8. The pitcher has all fours on one line with or without taking his glove off.
  9. After a pitch, he throws to cutoff man before going back to starting position.
  10.  The pitcher does not step forward with his lead foot as he goes back to deliver a pitch.
  11. The pitcher takes his glove off and keeps both feet on the rubber.
  12. The pitcher does not step forward with his lead foot as he goes back to deliver a pitch.
  13. After a pitch, the pitcher goes back on the rubber and throws without stepping forward with the lead foot.

Here are the explanations of some of them.

#1 The Bunt

The bunt is the most basic false move, and a simple bunt may be an honest mistake. The most common way to bunt is to leave 3-4 feet of space between the second baseman, and the base runner, in an attempt to make the runner believe that the pitcher will throw him out by swinging at his pitch. This is quite effective because it fools runners into expecting the pitcher to pitch them out after making their moves such as sliding headfirst into the second.

Knockdown Bunt (KDB) is an illegal, but very common, type of bunt. The pitcher is not allowed to move into foul territory or his normal pitching area before the ball is pitched. Instead, he must first step out of the box in order to reach down and attempt a bunt with the bat while still holding the ball. It is possible for a pitcher to get more than one pitch off before being called out on a KDB.

#2 The Reverse Stretch

A reverse stretch is a very deceptive move, done by starting your windup, and then stopping, while still holding the ball. When the pitcher starts his stretch, he should be close to home plate, and have the non-pivot foot next to the rubber. To do a reverse stretch you would just back away from home plate with your pivot foot until you hear and see signs that the runner may attempt to steal or take off.

NOTE: You must be close to home plate in order for the umpire to call a balk.

#3 The Deceptive Motion

A pitcher is allowed to make different arm motions than the normal windup/stretch. This can be done as long as it is not mistaken for a legal pitch or a balk. The pitcher may choose from several different types of deceptive motions, such as the hesitation pitch, the multiple-motion pitch, or even walking around the mound with a full baseball glove and tossing it up and down.


How Do Pitchers Balk – Examples

The most common balk in baseball history is the Reverse Stretch

When a pitcher pauses his windup and then proceeds to throw the ball to second base. This is often a result of a runner stealing second base, and the pitcher is frustrated with his ace trying to steal. The pitcher will “slow down” in the middle of his pitching motion, scooping up the dirt at the end of home plate with his foot, and so on. It is important that this move can only be done legally if you are within 20 feet of home plate when starting your windup.

A pitcher may also throw to a base when a runner is within 90 feet of the next base.

NOTE: The balk rule is very technical and if all the rules are not followed, it will be considered an illegal move and the pitcher will be called out.

Another common balking example is the catcher’s interference.

When a catcher picks up a ball on the ground, moves towards the second base, or takes his glove off to throw it if he is not the pitcher. This is considered a balk by rule because it deprives the runner of a chance to advance on hits, and may also result in an out.

What Happens When a Pitcher Balks?

If the pitcher performs a balk while on defense, the batter may advance to first base if he chooses to do so. If a runner is occupying first base, the play will result in an additional out at first, and runners will not be allowed to advance. The only way that runners may advance when a balk is performed on defense is when the pitcher’s motion is in progress before two outs are recorded for a single defensive inning.

Umpires called bails on balks, an illegal pitch if it is a fourth or more of the way to the plate. The umpire will throw the ball at the plate to signal that the batter should get off. The umpire will also signal that there was a balk after first or second base if it takes longer than 10 seconds for play to resume.

Is a Balk an Error on the Pitcher?

When a pitcher balks while pitches the ball and then tosses it back to the mound without calling for the ball, he is said to have committed a balk. Sometimes this is not considered a balk because the pitcher does not call for the ball after pitching the ball, when in fact it was still his turn to pitch.

How Do Pitchers Balk

Why Would a Pitcher Intentionally Balk?

Intentional balks are not used to confuse the runner. They are used when there is a force play at home base and a runner on first. If the pitcher balks, it results in the batter being called out, which means that no one can advance on the bases. Therefore, this move may be used to prevent runners from advancing.

What Is the Penalty for a Balk?

When a pitcher attempts to commit a balk and he does not do it, he will be called out. This is not considered a balk if the pitcher has already pitched the ball and then tosses it back without calling for it. If the pitcher commits an obvious balk, he will be called out on the play.

Player cautions apply to all runners, but pitchers have a particular concern for balks. If a pitcher balks and the hitter is on first base, the batter is automatically out at first base. The runner is safe at second if he does not take off when given the chance. This means that there are two outs instead of only one. No other runner may advance even if a player has scored or was on third when it happened (unless it was on first base).

Can You Balk From the Windup?

Yes, balks can occur from the windup. You cannot make a delayed hook move in a windup before you throw to first base.

Final Words

To conclude, the balk is a very difficult move to make, but it’s possible. Granted, a balk is not something that you will see every day in the Major Leagues, but there are times when you may see it. If you watch a Major League game closely, you may witness a balk which might have been unexpected