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Fielders Balk


aaluck

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My son had a situation last week and we need some clarification. Perfect game-Fed rules (although they all pitch in the hybrid-down to 12u). 

R1 and F3 is covering first with one foot in fair territory and one in foul territory--to be clear his foot (in foul territory) may or may not be on chalk as, quite frankly, he wasn't looking that close from PU. 3rd base coach (yes, not 1st base coach) starts in about that being a balk. Guy apparently lost 14-3 and followed them to the ump changing room to complaint to tournament director, blah blah.

My understanding is that both feet would need to be in foul territory for this to be a balk. If one toe is on the line and the other foot out of play is he in or out for the purpose of this rule? Also has anyone ever called this? What is the supposed advantage, the only thing I can think of would be the left or right fielder coming in for a pick at 1st or 3rd or putting a fielder behind the catcher to prevent passed ball?

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Fed rules only require one foot be in fair territory. Touching the line is in fair territory. In Fed, both feet must be completely in foul territory at the time of pitch... it is an illegal pitch... with runners on it would be a balk... I'm not looking at the defender's feet at first base at time of pitch... especially as the PU.

 

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@Rich Ives is 100% correct. The rule says he has to be in fair but there is no specified penalty for not complying. I’m not gonna sweat it unless a coach complains and in which case I will be sure to enforce the rule equally for both teams. At this point if F3 or F5 refuses to follow orders he is subject to ejection. Again, this is OBR. Sorry to drift from fed rules. 

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1 hour ago, The Short Umpire said:

@Rich Ives is 100% correct. The rule says he has to be in fair but there is no specified penalty for not complying. I’m not gonna sweat it unless a coach complains and in which case I will be sure to enforce the rule equally for both teams. At this point if F3 or F5 refuses to follow orders he is subject to ejection. Again, this is OBR. Sorry to drift from fed rules. 

More specifically, in OBR the rule states the fielder needs to be in fair territory when the ball is put into play - so it's on the ump to ensure all fielders are properly positioned before he puts the ball in play...there can't be a penalty if he incorrectly does so.

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2 hours ago, JSam21 said:

Fed rules only require one foot be in fair territory. Touching the line is in fair territory. In Fed, both feet must be completely in foul territory at the time of pitch... it is an illegal pitch... with runners on it would be a balk... I'm not looking at the defender's feet at first base at time of pitch... especially as the PU.

 

If he's in foul territory before the pitch, I'm asking him to move to a legal position.  If he's in foul territory during the pitch, I'm not looking at it (especially as PU).  So, it should "never" be called in FED.

 

I'm sure the coach had it called on him by some uninformed umpire and now wants it called on others.  Two (at least) people need to be properly instructed.

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I wrote an answer covering this exact topic on Quora. Please note, this is somewhat diluted, and in layman’s terms, due to Quora being a broad, general Q&A forum.

———————

Question: How can a first baseman cause a balk?
A first baseman (abbreviated as 1B, or in fielding notation F3) can cause a balk to be called, but it’s not for the reason you, and several other questions here on Quora allude to, think of. Also, this is not attributed to the F3 in the official scorebook, thus, it is not a “first baseman’s balk”; a Balk can only be ascribed to the pitcher.

By rule, a pickoff attempt by a pitcher must be thrown directly to a base for the purposes of making a play on a Runner either occupying that base, or attempting to advance (steal) to that base. If no play is applied, attempted, or judged to have been attempted, then the throw is illegal. And with (a) runner(s) on base, an illegal throw by the pitcher is a Balk.

main-qimg-d708ecf53b4bab083bf5fe77945989e7

Here’s a great example (a shame it happened to my favorite team):
KBO DFS ACCOUNT 씨발 on Twitter (silly Tweets, can’t embed them)

Watch carefully. Brandon Woodruff makes a pickoff throw to 1B, and Eric Thames receives the throw by stepping well away from the bag (towards the mound and home plate), and neither acknowledges Wong’s (the runner) retreat to the base, nor makes any gesture, even a cursory one, that would constitute a tag attempt. Thus, this is judged to be illegal, and a balk. Now, there are several things Thames could have done that would have made this just a routine, legal pickoff attempt:

  • Thames could have been closer to the base. A reach’s distance, approximately 3 feet.
  • Thames could have received the throw, and simply have turned his head and upper body, gauging and preparing to tag Wong as he retreated to the base.
  • Thames, had he been closer to the bag, wouldn’t necessarily have to look at Wong. He could have nonchalantly brush-tagged Wong after he had retreated to the base.

Any of those three acts could have been judged as routine, and negated the Balk. Is Thames the cause of the Balk call? Yes. Is the Balk, though, ascribed to him? No, the Balk is ascribed to Woodruff, the pitcher.

Now, with that said, let’s cover one of the biggest myths in baseball – the “First Baseman’s Balk” for being in Foul Territory. The Rules state that all fielders, other than the catcher, shall be in fair territory at time of pitch so as to make it a legal pitch. Is a pickoff attempt a pitch? No, it is not a pitch. Thus, it doesn’t matter where, exactly, the first baseman is positioned prior to a throw, so long as he is attempting to make a play on the runner. So, can he stand in foul territory, just beyond the base, and receive a pickoff attempt throw? Certainly. Can he stand there, in foul territory, when a pitch is delivered? No, technically not.

However, a Balk is a judgement call based on “technical qualifying factors”. Pitchers must stop, or pause, when coming set, prior to delivering the pitch (with runners on). What constitutes a “stop”? Who defines it? The umpires do, in their judgement. I’m going to tell you, nobody is watching the particular positioning of the first baseman’s feet while a pitch is being delivered; and, if they are, no umpire worth their salt, especially at the professional levels, is going to call Time at the end of a pitch, penalize the pitcher for a balk, and award a base. They (We) just. won’t. do. it. Because, if we want to get technical, how does the first baseman’s left foot being in foul territory affect that pitch the pitcher just pitched?

It doesn’t. Simple.

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20 minutes ago, MadMax said:

I wrote an answer covering this exact topic on Quora. Please note, this is somewhat diluted, and in layman’s terms, due to Quora being a broad, general Q&A forum.

———————

Question: How can a first baseman cause a balk?
A first baseman (abbreviated as 1B, or in fielding notation F3) can cause a balk to be called, but it’s not for the reason you, and several other questions here on Quora allude to, think of. Also, this is not attributed to the F3 in the official scorebook, thus, it is not a “first baseman’s balk”; a Balk can only be ascribed to the pitcher.

By rule, a pickoff attempt by a pitcher must be thrown directly to a base for the purposes of making a play on a Runner either occupying that base, or attempting to advance (steal) to that base. If no play is applied, attempted, or judged to have been attempted, then the throw is illegal. And with (a) runner(s) on base, an illegal throw by the pitcher is a Balk.

main-qimg-d708ecf53b4bab083bf5fe77945989e7

Here’s a great example (a shame it happened to my favorite team):
KBO DFS ACCOUNT 씨발 on Twitter (silly Tweets, can’t embed them)

Watch carefully. Brandon Woodruff makes a pickoff throw to 1B, and Eric Thames receives the throw by stepping well away from the bag (towards the mound and home plate), and neither acknowledges Wong’s (the runner) retreat to the base, nor makes any gesture, even a cursory one, that would constitute a tag attempt. Thus, this is judged to be illegal, and a balk. Now, there are several things Thames could have done that would have made this just a routine, legal pickoff attempt:

  • Thames could have been closer to the base. A reach’s distance, approximately 3 feet.
  • Thames could have received the throw, and simply have turned his head and upper body, gauging and preparing to tag Wong as he retreated to the base.
  • Thames, had he been closer to the bag, wouldn’t necessarily have to look at Wong. He could have nonchalantly brush-tagged Wong after he had retreated to the base.

Any of those three acts could have been judged as routine, and negated the Balk. Is Thames the cause of the Balk call? Yes. Is the Balk, though, ascribed to him? No, the Balk is ascribed to Woodruff, the pitcher.

Now, with that said, let’s cover one of the biggest myths in baseball – the “First Baseman’s Balk” for being in Foul Territory. The Rules state that all fielders, other than the catcher, shall be in fair territory at time of pitch so as to make it a legal pitch. Is a pickoff attempt a pitch? No, it is not a pitch. Thus, it doesn’t matter where, exactly, the first baseman is positioned prior to a throw, so long as he is attempting to make a play on the runner. So, can he stand in foul territory, just beyond the base, and receive a pickoff attempt throw? Certainly. Can he stand there, in foul territory, when a pitch is delivered? No, technically not.

However, a Balk is a judgement call based on “technical qualifying factors”. Pitchers must stop, or pause, when coming set, prior to delivering the pitch (with runners on). What constitutes a “stop”? Who defines it? The umpires do, in their judgement. I’m going to tell you, nobody is watching the particular positioning of the first baseman’s feet while a pitch is being delivered; and, if they are, no umpire worth their salt, especially at the professional levels, is going to call Time at the end of a pitch, penalize the pitcher for a balk, and award a base. They (We) just. won’t. do. it. Because, if we want to get technical, how does the first baseman’s left foot being in foul territory affect that pitch the pitcher just pitched?

It doesn’t. Simple.

Unless you have been reading a poorly indented older Triumph version of OBR rules there is no Balk penalty for any fielder not to be in fair territory when the ball is put in play, pitch or pickoff. Why would you say "we won't do it"? It's not in the rules in OBR. Where do you get your OBR reference to "time of pitch?

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In most books, if the fielder's foot is touching the line, that's enough to be completely in fair territory.  (The Fed interpretation is listed above.)

But if it isn't, call time and fix it.  "Don't do that!"  (As Rich pointed out.)  If the situation persists, the fielder can be ejected.

Mike

Las Vegas

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24 minutes ago, Vegas_Ump said:

In FED and NCAA, if the fielder's foot is touching the line, that's enough to be completely in fair territory.  (The Fed interpretation is listed above.) In OBR both feet must be in fair territory if it comes to the point where an umpire would address.it

But if it isn't, call time and fix it.  "Don't do that!"  (As Rich pointed out.)  If the situation persists, the fielder can be ejected.

Mike

Las Vegas

fixed your post

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On 7/8/2020 at 1:06 PM, beerguy55 said:

More specifically, in OBR the rule states the fielder needs to be in fair territory when the ball is put into play - so it's on the ump to ensure all fielders are properly positioned before he puts the ball in play...there can't be a penalty if he incorrectly does so.

You are referring to a different situation. Yes, as long as the first baseman is in a location as to field his position(i.e. one foot fair, one foot foul then you can certainly start with no need of penalty. However, by rule, there is a penalty if the ball is put into play with less than 9 fielders. This can be altered by different leagues who allow you to play with 8 fielders, but in any pro ball, any playing action that occurs with less than 9 fielders is nullified. So if someone hits a home run over center field and everyone realizes that there is no center fielder, guess what, HR doesn't count... that, in addition to costing the umpire, is the penalty for umpire incorrectly putting the ball in play...

 

On 7/8/2020 at 3:13 PM, Jimurray said:

Unless you have been reading a poorly indented older Triumph version of OBR rules there is no Balk penalty for any fielder not to be in fair territory when the ball is put in play, pitch or pickoff. Why would you say "we won't do it"? It's not in the rules in OBR. Where do you get your OBR reference to "time of pitch?


Minor League Baseball Umpire Manual 5.2 First Baseman Playing In Foul Territiory

"Official Baseball Rule 5.02 provides that when the ball is put in play at the start of or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory. In particular, when holding a runner on first base, the first baseman shall position himself with both feet in  fair territory. there is no penalty specified for violation other than the first baseman shall be instructed to keep both feet in fair territory if brought to the attention of the umpire, or - if blatant or recurring violation - upon immediate direction of the umpire. If a player, after so directed by the umpire, blatantly refuses to comply, the player is subject to ejection."

 

There is no balk penalty for this at any time. It also does not say specifically "time of pitch" But when holding a runner on the first baseman needs to have both feet in fair territory, and he is usually holding on around "time of pitch". 

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9 hours ago, The Short Umpire said:

 

 

There is no balk penalty for this at any time. It also does not say specifically "time of pitch" But when holding a runner on the first baseman needs to have both feet in fair territory, and he is usually holding on around "time of pitch". 

I know there is no balk penalty for this. I'm asking @MadMax why he would say we wouldn't call this, inferring that there is a balk penalty in the rule but we shouldn't call it. One possibility is that he only has reference to an older Triumph OBR hard copy that does not indent the "Penalty balk" in line with the (a) paragraph, leading a few umpires to believe that penalty also applies to: "4.03 When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory".

To be clear, most F3s are going to a fielding position at the actual TOP. I don't think TOP should be referenced when discussing the rule.

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