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Is this a balk?


Guest Notanumpire

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Guest Notanumpire

This was a random insomnia thought… here we go; you know how if a runner is on first and he tries to go before you move towards home, you can step off and throw him out either at first or second. Generally you see the pitcher throw to first then they throw to second and the runner is generally out by a mile.

Let’s set the stage… full count, 2 outs and the runner goes early. You step off the rubber, but you throw the ball home. Instead of to first or second. The throw goes way outside to the catcher. Is that a pitch? Like ball 4 so the runner is safe by advancing to second on the walk. Or is it a live ball and the runner can be thrown out by the catcher? I’m pretty sure it’s a throw and a live ball….
Now, let’s say the throw (not pitch) to home goes near the strike zone. If it crosses the plate can it be considered a strike? I don’t think so, but what if the batter swings? And puts the ball in play? Is it live ball? Is it batters interference for swinging at a live ball that isn’t a pitch? Or would it just be a balk for stepping off and then “pitching” from off the rubber? Could this be turned into a trick play if you need a third out? If its an out on batters interference for swinging at a live ball that isn’t a pitch, I bet you could go back to the beginning of this play and step off like you’re going to throw to first at the runner, but instead you throw home. I bet there are high school batters who will panic swing at that out of reaction of a ball coming across the plate on a 2 strike count. Is there a rule saying you can’t throw to an unoccupied base? I’m generally curious how that would be ruled if the batter swings at it, or if it’s just automatically a free base like a balk. 

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Stepping off means it can never be a pitch, ever, so wipe out all of your question about ball/strike.  As soon as pitcher disengaged, he became an infielder.

Therr is a rule that you can not throw to an unoccupied base except to make a Play or drive back an advancing runner.  In your case, if they were running home, throwing to catcher is perfectly legal, and theoretically, it “should” be a quality throw, ergo it would be near the strike zone.

There also is a rule that a batter may not swing at a throw home (note word throw, not pitch) or he would be guilty of interference.

That said, if batters hear runner coming and pitcher clearly steps off, I think even a HS kid knows to get out of the way.  A step off (disengagement) must be a distinct movement off the rubber, if the pitcher does some savvy thing to make it look like he’s pitching to induce a swing, he has committed a balk

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Question, if R1/R2 tries to steal a base and the pitcher steps off and throws home, couldn't you perceive that as trying to deceive the batter and therefore a balk?  IOW, the pitcher, now infielder, throwing damn near the pitching rubber to home, mimicking a pitch, is trying to deceive the batter.

Of course, If there is an R3 trying to steal home or feints to home, then that is legal. 

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3 hours ago, SH0102 said:

Therr is a rule that you can not throw to an unoccupied base except to make a Play or drive back an advancing runner.  In your case, if they were running home, throwing to catcher is perfectly legal, and theoretically, it “should” be a quality throw, ergo it would be near the strike zone.

Throwing home is legal if they are running or not. The pitcher disengaged, so this rule is irrelevant.

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8 minutes ago, BLWizzRanger said:

Question, if R1/R2 tries to steal a base and the pitcher steps off and throws home, couldn't you perceive that as trying to deceive the batter and therefore a balk?  IOW, the pitcher, now infielder, throwing damn near the pitching rubber to home, mimicking a pitch, is trying to deceive the batter.

Of course, If there is an R3 trying to steal home or feints to home, then that is legal. 

There's no rule against trying to deceive the batter. Every umpire needs to lose the idea that deceiving the offense is what makes something a balk.

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13 minutes ago, Matt said:

There's no rule against trying to deceive the batter. Every umpire needs to lose the idea that deceiving the offense is what makes something a balk.

Agreed -- and to the extent that there is ILLEGAL deceit -- it's for deceiving the runner, not the batter.

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33 minutes ago, Matt said:

There's no rule against trying to deceive the batter. Every umpire needs to lose the idea that deceiving the offense is what makes something a balk.

Ok, I stand corrected.  But, FED 6.2.5 says .... it is a balk ... runner on base ... while he is not touching the pitcher's plate, makes any movement naturally associated with his pitch....

So take the word deceive out of there, isn't this what the pitcher is doing in my example?

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24 minutes ago, BLWizzRanger said:

Ok, I stand corrected.  But, FED 6.2.5 says .... it is a balk ... runner on base ... while he is not touching the pitcher's plate, makes any movement naturally associated with his pitch....

So take the word deceive out of there, isn't this what the pitcher is doing in my example?

Not necessarily. You'd have to see it.

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1 hour ago, BLWizzRanger said:

Ok, I stand corrected.  But, FED 6.2.5 says .... it is a balk ... runner on base ... while he is not touching the pitcher's plate, makes any movement naturally associated with his pitch....

So take the word deceive out of there, isn't this what the pitcher is doing in my example?

To expand on Matt's answer: we'd be looking for something that was distinctively a pitching motion. Throwing and pitching have many of the same motions involved, and anything in common is not illegal once F1 disengages. 

For example, he's allowed to throw to F2 when disengaged, but he can't wind up to do it.

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A batter cannot hit a throw—only a pitch. It is interference by the batter when he swings at a throw. Unfortunately, OBR (pro rules) does not specifically address this question of pitch versus throw. There is a FED (high school rules) case play and even better there is an NCAA rule that spells out precisely that it is interference.

2019 NFHS Case Book Play 7.3.5 Situation G:  With no outs and F1 in the set position, R3 attempts to steal home. F1 legally steps backward off the pitcher’s plate and throws home. B2 hits the ball. Ruling:  Typically, batter’s interference is a delayed dead ball in order to give the defense an opportunity to make an out on the initial putout attempt. Since the batter hit the ball, the defense was not afforded an opportunity to make a play. Therefore, the ball is declared dead immediately, R3 is out because of B2’s interference. (5-1-2a and dead ball table #25, 7-3-5, 8-4-2l)

2021-2022 NCAA rule 7-11v. If the batter hits, or attempts to hit, a throw made to home plate by the pitcher who is not in contact with the pitching rubber, and is attempting to retire a runner stealing home, interference shall be called and the ball is dead.

PENALTY for v.—With two outs, the batter is out. With fewer than two outs, the runner shall be out.

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From the 2017 Jaksa/Roder manual (pp. 148-149):

Pitch versus Throw to Home

If an in-contact pitcher steps toward home, there cannot be a throw--there can only be a pitch or balk (or both).

E.G.: R3 is stealing home. Without disengaging, the pitcher steps forward and pitches, whereupon the batter swings and contacts the catcher: defensive interference.

Moreover, if a pitcher who is not in-contact (or has disengaged) steps and throws home, there cannot be a pitch (unless there is deceptive imitation of a motion to pitch).

E.G.: The pitcher is in the windup position, his hands apart, and the batter is prepared to bat. As R3 dashes for home, the pitcher properly disengages the rubber and throws home. The batter swings at the ball, contacts the catcher (who is standing over home plate) and R3 slides into home without being tagged: the pitcher has not balked. The batter has interfered with the catcher's try to field the throw, and an out must be declared for his interference.

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