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RH pitcher on rubber not set throw to first


Guest Paul S

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Guest Paul S

RH pitcher is in the stretch on the rubber, not set, leaning down towards his front foot like he is getting a sign from the catcher, with the ball in his right hand. He then snap-throws to first around his front leg without stepping. Is this legal? If so, please explain why. Our league uses MLB rules. Thank you!

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The thing is that, going back to what I said above, it isn't that I or other umpires give a SH*# what is said, it's that it gives someone motivation and ammunition to argue. The call itself is go

I've never heard that term. This is a step balk. I've seen it only in younger pitchers who think they've discovered a great new move that pro pitchers haven't found yet. Often their coaches are a

Really?   This will just confuse the SH*# out of players and coaches, and invites a philosophical discussion about "distance"  (ie. how far is distance?  isn't 0.000000000001 mm distance?)   Does a pi

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It’s illegal—it has been illegal under Official Baseball Rules (MLB rules) since 1899. Here’s the actual applicable rule--

6.02 Pitcher Illegal Action

(a) Balks

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when:

(3) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;

Rule 6.02(a)(3) Comment: Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk. A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base and is required to throw (except to second base) because he steps. It is a balk if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher steps toward third and does not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. It is legal for a pitcher to feint a throw to second base.

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Since Senor Azul gave you the rule. Ill give you the short-and-sweet umpire explanation we give to coaches.

This is what we call a "distance and direction" balk. In order for it to be legal. The pitcher must do both. If he misses one. The move is illegal.

In your example, he had direction (to first). But he fails to gain distance. Thus... illegal. 

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6 hours ago, BT_Blue said:

This is what we call a "distance and direction" balk.

I've never heard that term. This is a step balk.

I've seen it only in younger pitchers who think they've discovered a great new move that pro pitchers haven't found yet. Often their coaches are as surprised as their player to learn that it's illegal.

A common, though not required, mechanic would be "Balk! Time! That's a balk! No step!"

Where there's no step at all, I don't recommend explaining distance & direction, terms which do not appear in the rule book (they're used in the interpretation of what constitutes a step). Just explain that by rule a pick from the rubber must be preceded by a step.

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7 hours ago, BT_Blue said:

Since Senor Azul gave you the rule. Ill give you the short-and-sweet umpire explanation we give to coaches.

This is what we call a "distance and direction" balk.

Really?   This will just confuse the SH*# out of players and coaches, and invites a philosophical discussion about "distance"  (ie. how far is distance?  isn't 0.000000000001 mm distance?)   Does a pitcher ever truly stop moving?  Is a tie possible at an atomic level?  Does a runner truly ever touch the base?

 

"He didn't step" is much more succinct and shuts the door.

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The MLBUM, the MiLBUM, and the Jaksa/Roder all describe what a step is—I think the Jaksa/Roder does the best. Here are their definitions of step, distance, and direction.

The step in the rule refers to the pitcher’s free (non-pivot) foot. A step to a base must have distance and direction to that base.

(a)   Distance:  In stepping, a pitcher must bring his free foot into the air and replace it on the ground in a completely different spot. Hence, movement of the free foot is only a step when there is vertical movement (i.e., lift) and horizontal movement (i.e., distance along the ground).

(b)   Direction:  In stepping, a pitcher must bring his free foot toward, and nearer to, the pickoff base.

(2019 OBR rule) 5.07 Pitching

(d) Throwing to the Bases

At any time during the pitcher’s preliminary movements and until his natural pitching motion commits him to the pitch, he may throw to any base provided he steps directly toward such base before making the throw.

Rule 5.07(d) Comment: The pitcher shall step “ahead of the throw.” A snap throw followed by the step directly toward the base is a balk.

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I'm a bit surprised i got this much push back on me referring to it as a "distance and direction" balk. It has always been how I have heard it described amongst umpires.

And yes... when talking to a coach, I have used both "he didn't step towards the base" as well as "he didn't gain direction towards the base" in explanation. 

Thinking about it. In the OP I would tell the coach that his F1 didn't step toward the base. The "distance" statement would be used more on a jump turn where F1 just spins off the ball of his foot.

I have not received a complaint for either statement.

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10 minutes ago, BT_Blue said:

I'm a bit surprised i got this much push back on me referring to it as a "distance and direction" balk. It has always been how I have heard it described amongst umpires.

And yes... when talking to a coach, I have used both "he didn't step towards the base" as well as "he didn't gain direction towards the base" in explanation. 

Thinking about it. In the OP I would tell the coach that his F1 didn't step toward the base. The "distance" statement would be used more on a jump turn where F1 just spins off the ball of his foot.

I have not received a complaint for either statement.

That's the point of the conversation. What we say to a coach and what we learn as umpires are not worded the same. We know that a pitcher has to gain both distance and direction. We tell a coach that he failed to step (and nothing more, as arguing a step balk is not acceptable.)

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On 3/31/2021 at 1:50 AM, BT_Blue said:

Since Senor Azul gave you the rule. Ill give you the short-and-sweet umpire explanation we give to coaches.

This is what we call a "distance and direction" balk. In order for it to be legal. The pitcher must do both. If he misses one. The move is illegal.

In your example, he had direction (to first). But he fails to gain distance. Thus... illegal. 

BT Blue,

He didn't step, how did he get direction?

 

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15 hours ago, BT_Blue said:

I'm a bit surprised i got this much push back on me referring to it as a "distance and direction" balk. It has always been how I have heard it described amongst umpires.

And yes... when talking to a coach, I have used both "he didn't step towards the base" as well as "he didn't gain direction towards the base" in explanation. 

Thinking about it. In the OP I would tell the coach that his F1 didn't step toward the base. The "distance" statement would be used more on a jump turn where F1 just spins off the ball of his foot.

I have not received a complaint for either statement.

100% agreed.

 

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2 hours ago, NavyChiefBlue said:

BT Blue,

He didn't step, how did he get direction?

 

What's your rating?  I'm a retired MSC(SS).

 

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I'm not one of the leaders here, so it might not be my place to chime in, but here I go anyway. I've noticed some tension (not outright hostility, but definitely tension and annoyance) between umpires in a lot of recent posts on several threads. Tells me we all need to get out and work some more baseball. Also tells me that maybe we should take a breath before we hit "Submit Reply." We are not the enemy! Those SOB's coming out to talk to us a safe distance away are the enemies 😂😂

For me, I'm grateful for the OP and all the replies, because it made me understand that a lawful " 'Step' to a base" is officially defined as "distance and direction." "Distance and direction" is the definition of "Step to a base," but is not the definition of a "step." So, I read this thread and gained a more thorough understanding of the rules, which might help me better umpire a play or manage a situation this season.

"That's a balk, no step!"  = The pitcher did not legally "step to" the base before throwing there, because he did not gain both distance and direction, even if he stepped somewhere.

"That's a balk, no distance and direction!" = The pitcher did not legally "step to" the base before throwing there, because he did not gain both distance and direction.

Funny story (maybe):  About 8 years ago I was at Jim Evans' week long Desert Classic. A great cerebral clinic by the way. So somewhere in my 1st 3 years of umpiring I ingrained "Ball's on the ground!" as a verbal with a finger point when a fielder dropped a throw. Maybe it was the LL week long in San Bernardino I had been to the previous year. Also a great clinic by the way, especially for physical mechanics. Well at least twice during the Classic I said, "Ball's on the ground." Knowing how slow I learn, it could have been three times.  Each time, Jim Evans himself stopped the drills to remind me that the appropriate verbal was, "He dropped the ball!"

To this day I still say, "He dropped the ball!"  Not because I think "Ball's on the ground!" is unlawfully wrong, but to honor and respect one of my instructors and mentors, Jim Evans. If I go to a Little League clinic or if I am ever fortunate to get up to the Portland/Vancouver area and work a game with BT_Blue, and if he says, "Ball's on the ground" while working the bases, in our post game, I'm not going to say, "You know, you said that wrong." And if I hear him say, "That's a balk! No distance and direction!", in our post game, I'm not going to say, "You know, you said that wrong." Nup!  I'm going to say, "Dude, good job grabbing that balk in the 2nd inning!"

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4 hours ago, Recontra said:

And if I hear him say, "That's a balk! No distance and direction!", in our post game, I'm not going to say, "You know, you said that wrong."

The thing is that, going back to what I said above, it isn't that I or other umpires give a SH*# what is said, it's that it gives someone motivation and ammunition to argue.

The call itself is going to piss off a coach to some extent. Communicating it in a manner that's more complicated than it needs to be just adds to it, and opens the door to separating the angels on the head of the pin. "Distance and direction" doesn't mean anything to most of them and will just confuse them, bringing them out.

On any call, stick to language that everyone understands.

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