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Why is this not a balk (assuming it's not)?


pl8ump1012

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I tried searching for an answer to this but wasn't able to really find one that makes a ton of sense to me. Also, I apologize as I sense that it's a pretty basic question. I'm getting back into umpiring after a looooong (12-year) hiatus, and this is one that in my younger days confused me, and I'm still not sure about.

R1, RHP

I understand that if the pitcher doesn't disengage the rubber, he must step directly toward a base for a pickoff attempt. I often see pitchers do what some might call a spin-step (not sure if that's the right identifier). In a weak attempt to describe it, it seems like it's all one motion, the pitcher moves his pivot foot forward (from himself, so toward the opposite base), spins (really pivots on that pivot foot), then steps directly (with his free foot) to first, and throws. 

My questions:

  1. That doesn't count as disengaging the rubber, right? He's not stepping back off the rubber, he moves his pivot foot from one spot on the rubber to another (albeit very close) spot on the rubber. So therefore, if he throws out of play, it's only one base, right?
  2. He's moving his pivot foot (hard to say if it's before or simultaneously to moving his free foot), so why isn't this a balk? If he truly kept his pivot foot planted, he'd be turning his body (and knee on the pivot leg) 180 degrees, right?

Again, sorry if this is super basic, or if I've described the pitcher's move inadequately. If it doesn't make sense, I can try to describe it differently.

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16 minutes ago, noumpere said:

IT's not a balk because interpretations have made it a legal move.

 

You are correct that by a literal reading of the rules, it would be a balk.

A. Is that a universally accepted interpretation?

B. So pitcher is still a pitcher (not a fielder), right? And an overthrow that goes out of play is only one base?

Thanks for your answers!

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From the 2017 Jaksa/Roder manual (p. 147):

There are two types of steps that are legal—jab or stutter step and a jump step.

Jab Step (of the pivot foot):  In cases of a right-handed pitcher throwing to first, or a left-handed pitcher throwing to third, or any pitcher throwing to second, a pitcher can take a jab or stutter step with his pivot foot before stepping to the base with his free foot. The motion of the stutter step and the resulting step of the free foot must be fluid and continuous; if the two motions are not continuous, there is a balk. Of course, the latter step must bring the free foot into the air and replace it on the ground in a completely different spot that is closer to the pickoff base.

Jump Step:  A pitcher can, without balking, jump (i.e., both his feet go airborne simultaneously) before his non-pivot foot retouches the ground in a different position: this is a jump step. Again, the latter step must bring the free foot into the air and replace it on the ground in a completely different spot that is closer to the pickoff base.

From the 2021 Minor League Baseball Umpire Manual (section 6.26, p. 118):

It is legal for a right-handed pitcher to begin a pickoff move to first base by first moving his pivot foot in the direction of third base provided that he makes a legal step toward first base with his non-pivot foot before throwing there and provided that the move is continuous and without interruption. A pitcher who makes such a pickoff move is considered to be in contact with the rubber when he makes his throw to first base.

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To put the good information above in laymen's terms....if it is done in one motion, not a balk.  If it is two distinct motions where the first was not disengaging the rubber, it's a balk.

And to answer your question, which you kind of answered yourself, if he did not disengage the rubber, he is still a P, and thus a ball out-of-play would be one base.

Again, laymen's terms, one motion = one base award, two motions = two base award (disengage, then throw makes him an INF = 2 bases)

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6 hours ago, kylehutson said:

And to add...

Since he's still a pitcher, and not a fielder, he can't feint to first. He must throw it, even if his back foot ends up landing behind the rubber.

This is key. especially at lower levels. Kids and some coaches think the “ jump” is a disengagement. I’ve seen too many 14-15 year olds jump turn and not throw. When the balk is called they immediately look down and proclaim “ I stepped off”. 

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10 hours ago, Richvee said:

I’ve seen too many 14-15 year olds jump turn and not throw. When the balk is called they immediately look down and proclaim “ I stepped off”. 

14-15? I've had this twice at HS varsity, and in one of those cases the HC tried to argue with me about it, too.

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On 12/1/2021 at 10:03 AM, kylehutson said:

14-15? I've had this twice at HS varsity, and in one of those cases the HC tried to argue with me about it, too.

And every pitcher does the exact same thing when you call it. Arms spread out, look down at their pivot foot that they have now placed behind the rubber,  and proclaim “ I stepped off” 

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