A balk in baseball is a pitcher’s action that violates the balk rule, which protects runners from being tricked. If a balk is called, play stops and each runner advances one base. Situations that cause a balk include faking a pitch, failing to complete a throw, and throwing before the batter is ready.
A balk in baseball is any action by the pitcher that violates the balk rule, which limits the pitcher’s actions when there is at least one runner on base. The purpose of the balk rule is to protect the runner or runners from being hoodwinked by the pitcher. For example, a pitcher may not fake a pitch to the batter and instead throw the ball to a fielder to flat-foot the runner and potentially put the runner out.
When an umpire calls a balk, the ball is usually dead — meaning play stops immediately — and each runner advances one base. If, however, a pitch has been thrown and the batter reaches first base safely via hit, pitch, error, or otherwise and any runner advances safely at least one base, the balk is ignored and the play continues.
Here are several of the situations with one or more runners on base that would cause an umpire to call a balk:
The pitcher begins making the motions typically associated with pitching, but ceases during the pitch. When throwing from the “set” position, the thrower does not come to a complete stop with hands joined in front of him. With foot in contact with the pitching rubber, the pitcher fakes a throw to an unoccupied base by a runner or fakes a throw to first when the base is occupied. Failing to complete a throw to first base after stepping to base or starting a throw is considered a fake throw. While his foot is in contact with the pitching rubber, the pitcher throws up a base before or without taking a step toward that base. The pitcher is permitted to pitch anywhere after stepping off the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher makes a motion typically associated with his pitching motion, but his foot does not touch the pitching plate. When not in possession of the ball, the pitcher straddles the pitcher’s plate. or with the foot in contact with the throwing rubber as if he had the ball. The pitcher throws a pitch before the batter has had sufficient time to position himself in the batter’s box. The pitch would be called a “ball” if there were no runners on base. During a pitch, the ball slips out of the pitcher’s hand and crosses the foul line. This would be called a legal pitch and a “ball” if there were no runners on base. The pitcher throws a pitch while not facing the batter. After coming to rest in the “set” position, the pitcher removes one hand from the ball or separates the hands without making a pitch or pitch. The pitcher drops the ball onto the pitcher’s mound while his foot is in contact with the pitching rubber.