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Rocker step from the set - balk?

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I've searched the U-E forums and found a few threads that addressed my question, but I haven't been able to discern a definitive answer from them.

I'll be calling some 12U games in the coming weeks, and I'm unsure how to interpret a particular pitching style that some of the kids are using.

Pivot foot is in contact with the rubber, free foot is in front of the rubber, and hands are apart at his sides. Basically a standard set position prior to the stretch, though I guess it could also be considered the wind-up per 8.01(a)Comment. Anyway, he brings his hands together and comes to a stop. The pitcher then takes a rocker step with his free foot, goes into his knee lift, and delivers the ball. Almost identical to what Cliff Lee sometimes does with no runners on base. Since this is OBR rules, I've got no problem with this when there are no runners on base. With runners on base, is this motion now a balk? I don't think so, but I'm not sure. My thinking is that he's (unwisely IMHO) pitching from the wind-up, and the rocker step is part of his normal pitching motion. So once he starts the motion with the rocker step he is now committed to pitch. If he does anything other than pitch once he takes the rocker step, I now have a balk, but the rocker step itself is not a balk.

I'm looking for some guidance from the gurus. I want to make sure I get this one right if a coach hollers "that's a balk".

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Posted · Report post

I've searched the U-E forums and found a few threads that addressed my question, but I haven't been able to discern a definitive answer from them.

I'll be calling some 12U games in the coming weeks, and I'm unsure how to interpret a particular pitching style that some of the kids are using.

Pivot foot is in contact with the rubber, free foot is in front of the rubber, and hands are apart at his sides. Basically a standard set position prior to the stretch, though I guess it could also be considered the wind-up per 8.01(a)Comment. Anyway, he brings his hands together and comes to a stop. The pitcher then takes a rocker step with his free foot, goes into his knee lift, and delivers the ball. Almost identical to what Cliff Lee sometimes does with no runners on base. Since this is OBR rules, I've got no problem with this when there are no runners on base. With runners on base, is this motion now a balk? I don't think so, but I'm not sure. My thinking is that he's (unwisely IMHO) pitching from the wind-up, and the rocker step is part of his normal pitching motion. So once he starts the motion with the rocker step he is now committed to pitch. If he does anything other than pitch once he takes the rocker step, I now have a balk, but the rocker step itself is not a balk.

I'm looking for some guidance from the gurus. I want to make sure I get this one right if a coach hollers "that's a balk".

Absolutely positively legal in Little League rules in the 12U age groups. It's in their rules manual. For the older kids it shuld be balked because it's a step to a base (one of the three legal options), not a pitch. He has then pitched without re-starting.

Don't know what other orgs have to say.

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Posted · Report post

The local youth program uses Cal Ripken / Babe Ruth rules. I'm not sure if that changes things.

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Posted · Report post

The local youth program uses Cal Ripken / Babe Ruth rules. I'm not sure if that changes things.

If there are leadoffs then the move you describe should be a balk.

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Posted · Report post

I would not balk this.

Even if there is a "technical" or "mechanical" balk here, this is a perfect example of properly applying the phrase "Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner." I know we give guys crap for citing deception as a reason to call a balk. However, IMO, the deception factor should be used to disregard "technical" balks in which there can be zero deception.

PU clearly has F1 winding up here. Once F1 starts this windup, he is actually putting himself at a disadvantage, in that he has committed himself to deliver and cannot play on a runner who now has PLENTY of time to reach the next base.

For those who have even a "technical" or "mechanical" balk, which rule is being violated?

If you believe it is a step to a base, how is this different from a traditional windup where F1 steps to the side "toward" a base during his windup?

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Posted · Report post

I would not balk this.

Even if there is a "technical" or "mechanical" balk here, this is a perfect example of properly applying the phrase "Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner." I know we give guys crap for citing deception as a reason to call a balk. However, IMO, the deception factor should be used to disregard "technical" balks in which there can be zero deception.

PU clearly has F1 winding up here. Once F1 starts this windup, he is actually putting himself at a disadvantage, in that he has committed himself to deliver and cannot play on a runner who now has PLENTY of time to reach the next base.

For those who have even a "technical" or "mechanical" balk, which rule is being violated?

If you believe it is a step to a base, how is this different from a traditional windup where F1 steps to the side "toward" a base during his windup?

This is the thought process that I went through to arrive at the same conclusion that it isn't a balk. F1's rocker step is putting himself at a serious disadvantage in trying to hold the a runner. Once he starts the rocker step, he's committed to pitch. If he takes the rocker step and stops his delivery, or takes the rocker step and throws to a base, then I have a balk. I'm seeing the rocker step as his normal pitching motion from the windup.

If there are leadoffs then the move you describe should be a balk.

They are playing 50/70 with leads.

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Posted · Report post

Or

If he steps toward 1B and doesn't throw there it's a balk. Clearly. Unequivocally. Indisputably. 8.05(b )

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Posted · Report post

Is this what you're describing as a rocker step?

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Posted · Report post

Been a long time since I have done any 12U short diamond, but doenst he go home anyway? At 12 U LL you can't lead off, If I am remembering correctly. So, no reason for the kid to throw to a base because there is no lead.

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Posted · Report post

Is this what you're describing as a rocker step?

Yes, that's it. I'm thinking its okay without runners, but with runners is it a balk or just a poor pitching decision? I'm going with poor pitching decision.

The 12U kids are playing 50/70 with leads (Cal Ripken). The pitchers are learning how to hold the runners.

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Posted · Report post

Poor pitching decision.

Your assertion that he is pitching from the windup with runners on base is correct.

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Posted · Report post

Your assertion that he is pitching from the windup with runners on base is correct.

Maybe I've been digging too much into FED rules lately but what makes this qualify as a windup position?

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Posted · Report post

Your assertion that he is pitching from the windup with runners on base is correct.

Maybe I've been digging too much into FED rules lately but what makes this qualify as a windup position?

The fact that he has made a "natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter (which) commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration" which in this case, is the backwards-moving rock step.

Holding the ball, hands together and stopped in front of the body can be a component of both the set and windup, but is only required in the set.

Don't get caught up in the windup's requirement to stand "facing the batter" because that is also a requirement of using the set position ("Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter...") even though in the traditional set, the pitcher is usually facing 3B (RHP) or 1B (LHP).

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Posted · Report post

Or

If he steps toward 1B and doesn't throw there it's a balk. Clearly. Unequivocally. Indisputably. 8.05(b )

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This from the WUM p118:"P120: R1, one out, no count. The pitcher engages the rubber indicating the Set Position. After his "stretch," the pitcher comes to a stop. He then takes a step backwards on the first base side of the rubber with his non-pivot foot (almost like he is in the Wind-Up Position), and then delivers the pitch to the batter.

Ruling: As long as the pitcher does not step directly to first base in his delivery, there is no penalty for this violation. It is not a balk. Since the pitcher must continue any motion to deliver a pitch, after starting that motion, the defense" (sic, I believe they meant offense) "actually may gain an advantage when the pitcher makes this move to the plate. It is very similar to a pitcher delivering a pitch from the Wind-Up Position with runners on base."

I think this is convoluted and would just say there is no restriction on free foot position in OBR and F1 can wind up from what looks like the set as Cliff Lee does. That being said, that windup won't work in FED and NCAA.

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Posted · Report post

Your assertion that he is pitching from the windup with runners on base is correct.

Maybe I've been digging too much into FED rules lately but what makes this qualify as a windup position?

Yep, the FED rule is different. This is illegal in FED.

The reason this is a windup in OBR is because there are very few requirements for the windup in OBR, and Cliff Lee meets them all.

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This from the WUM p118:"P120: R1, one out, no count. The pitcher engages the rubber indicating the Set Position. After his "stretch," the pitcher comes to a stop. He then takes a step backwards on the first base side of the rubber with his non-pivot foot (almost like he is in the Wind-Up Position), and then delivers the pitch to the batter.

Ruling: As long as the pitcher does not step directly to first base in his delivery, there is no penalty for this violation. It is not a balk. Since the pitcher must continue any motion to deliver a pitch, after starting that motion, the defense" (sic, I believe they meant offense) "actually may gain an advantage when the pitcher makes this move to the plate. It is very similar to a pitcher delivering a pitch from the Wind-Up Position with runners on base."

I think this is convoluted and would just say there is no restriction on free foot position in OBR and F1 can wind up from what looks like the set as Cliff Lee does. That being said, that windup won't work in FED and NCAA.

Jimurray, thank you for this example. That is exactly what I was looking for. I've been trying to get my hands on a WUM for myself. I was told that it would be available for sale on the Wendelstedt School website sometime in April. I'm hoping that's true.

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Posted · Report post

The fact that he has made a "natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter (which) commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration" which in this case, is the backwards-moving rock step.

I think I see what you're saying. But what stops him from bringing his hands together without stopping and going through with the pitch and claiming it was from the windup? Or is that allowed as long as it is obvious he's going to be pitching such as in this case taking a rocker step?

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The fact that he has made a "natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter (which) commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration" which in this case, is the backwards-moving rock step.

I think I see what you're saying. But what stops him from bringing his hands together without stopping and going through with the pitch and claiming it was from the windup? Or is that allowed as long as it is obvious he's going to be pitching such as in this case taking a rocker step?

When they changed the pitching rules in (07?) this is where the distinction between windup and set fell apart for me.

SO, this is what I do.

IF F1 does not take a rocker step, I interpret that to be a pitch from the set, and I require a stop.

IF F1 stops after a stretch, I let him pitch, or windup and pitch.

From this "free foot in front" position, I require EITHER a step back or a stop. I cannot back that enforcement up by rule.

Yes, I understand a backward step is not technically required in the windup.

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Posted · Report post

The fact that he has made a "natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter (which) commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration" which in this case, is the backwards-moving rock step.

I think I see what you're saying. But what stops him from bringing his hands together without stopping and going through with the pitch and claiming it was from the windup? Or is that allowed as long as it is obvious he's going to be pitching such as in this case taking a rocker step?

Its allowed, just like it would be legal if he had his hands completely at his side when he took the rock step. What you described is something similar to a mechanism I employed to disguise the fact I was changing my grip on the baseball to deliver a pitch other than a 4-seam FB when I was still pitching.

A well coached runner isn't reacting to the bringing together or the hands as much as they're reacting to the backward movement of the free foot when the pitcher is in the wind up.

SO, this is what I do.

IF F1 does not take a rocker step, I interpret that to be a pitch from the set, and I require a stop.

IF F1 stops after a stretch, I let him pitch, or windup and pitch.

From this "free foot in front" position, I require EITHER a step back or a stop. I cannot back that enforcement up by rule.

IMO that's a pretty damn good synopsis.

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Posted · Report post

Thank you, gentlemen. I am now a little more enlightened.

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Posted · Report post

Remember, if he steps on and settles with his hands at his sides, if he comes up and sets in front of him he is in a set position. If he then rocker steps I would balk him. I he comes up and puts his hand and glove in front of him as part of his settling then he is in the windup and can use the rocker step. It isn't just a bad pitching decision, it can be illegal.

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Posted · Report post

I took another look at 8.01 in my 2012 Babe Ruth (based on OBR) rule book and I noticed something that I missed before.

8.01(a) The Windup Position. The pitcher shall stand facing the batter, his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate and the other foot free. ...

8.01(b ) The Set Position. Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter with his
entire
pivot foot in contact with, and his other foot in front of, the pitcher's plate, holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop. ...

Note the use of the word entire (emphasis mine) in 8.01(b ). In the Cliff Lee video example, only the heel of his pivot foot is initially in contact with pitcher's plate, not his entire foot. The video doesn't start early enough to determine the initial position of his hands. But I think we all agree, that Lee is starting from the windup in the clip.

I've been trying to figure out how to differentiate between the Windup and Set given that they can appear very similar before any motion is started. So between what MST pointed out with regards to F1's hands when engaging the rubber, and the position of the pivot foot as pointed out in the rules, I think I have my answers.

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No you don't. The youth leagues have not kept up with the OBR changes. But, call it how your youth league wants it. In advanced OBR you don't have to differentiate anything. OBR has eliminated "entire" from the set foot positon requirement. Reading and undertanding the current OBR rules (available via download to whatever, PC or IPAD) will allow you to apply what your league rule book requires with the understanding of what your league hasn't changed versus what OBR has changed.

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