Topic: RH pitcher and balk to 1st reviewed once again

mjbsc    -- 06-27-2005 @ 3:52 PM
  I hope I can describe this pickoff attempt well enough without the aide of photos.

As the season has progressed we have been working with the pitchers to keep the runner at first off balance with step offs and throws to first.   Otherwise, it is so common for 13 & 14 yr olds to run on first movement.

After reviewing the balk rules and working with our LH pitcher it dawned on me that a RH pitcher should be able to do a similar move without balking.  So we worked on a move where the RH pitcher differed from his delivery to home only by the following:

    Normally, our RH pitcher will come set, lift his front knee until his thigh is almost parallel with the ground and the foot is dangling relaxed directly below the knee.  Then the pitcher would push off toward home plate to deliver the ball to the batter.

    With this move the RH pitcher would lift his knee to bring his thigh almost parallel to the ground, but his knee would be flexed so the front foot is pointing back toward 1st base.  Then the pitcher would do a drop step directly toward 1st and throw.

We did the move in a game and we were called for a balk.  I asked for an explanation.  Basically, I was told once the pitcher starts what appears to be a delivery home he must continue.  I asked if he noticed how the foot was pointed back toward 1st on the knee lift versus hanging straight down.  He didn’t notice, but said it wouldn’t matter anyway.

We continued our conversation after the game.  I used the analogy of the LH pitcher raising his knee and the only difference being a pickoff to 1st and a delivery to home was the direction of his foot.  If he was throwing to 1st it was coming to first.  After doing the RH move slower he agreed that the foot was coming toward 1st the whole time.  However, he said he would still call it a balk!  His rationale was because, he will give the LH the move to 1st and give the RH the move to 3rd, but any other moves must be a direct and deliberate step to the bag.  This move was not direct and deliberate!

I honestly don’t know if this is a balk or not.  However, if it is, I am hoping someone can offer a better explanation.  

Jim_Thompson    -- 06-27-2005 @ 3:57 PM
  Forget your move. It is impossible for a right handed pitcher to lift his non-pivot foot and then throw to first without making a move toward first.When his leg comes around and he throws to first he has made a move toward home.


greybeard    -- 06-27-2005 @ 4:12 PM
  In your description of both of your examples, the pitcher has started his pitching motion towards home. The dangling/non-dangling free foot is irrelevant. The RHP can get away with what you describe on a pickoff at third (same with a LHP going to first) because they can step to those bases without making any motion of going home. They never have to open their front knee or hip up towards the plate.  For a RHP to "lift his front knee until his thigh is almost parallel with the ground" and then swing his free foot around towards first, that is the start of his pitching motion. A batter would believe he is about to be pitched to in that scenario as the front knee and hip open up towards home.

Teach your RHP's  the jump step in which the free foot jabs quickly and directly towards first before there is any significant lift of the knee. If that knee comes up, and then opens up towards home, the pitcher is committed to going home and a throw to any base, third included, will likely get balked.

DelawareBlue    -- 06-27-2005 @ 8:05 PM
  I honestly don’t know if this is a balk or not.

As Mr. Thompson and Greybeard have stated, it's a balk.  Don't try to compare what a LHP and a RHP can do to the same base.  A LHP has a natural advantage when throwing to first base and a RHP has that same advantage when throwing (or feinting) to third.

The explanation I've heard is that the technical reason the move is a balk (when done by a RHP throwing to first) is that the pitcher failed to step directly toward first base before making the throw.  But I have no problem with either Mr. Thompson's or Greybeard's explanation.  

If the move you described was legal, you'd see it in the Major Leagues.  You don't because the pitching coaches know it's a balk.  There's very little new in baseball, especially when it comes to pick-offs.

This message was edited by DelawareBlue on 6-27-05 @ 8:06 PM

Jim_Thompson    -- 06-27-2005 @ 10:03 PM
  Hey guys!!! My Dad was Mr. Thompson. I'm Jim.I'm assuming that we're all friends.


DelawareBlue    -- 06-27-2005 @ 10:10 PM
  I'm Jim.

I can't help it...I'm a Virginian and Southern (and proud of it).  It's a show of respect for the venerated moderator of this forum.

greybeard    -- 06-28-2005 @ 8:50 AM
  I agree with Mr. Thompson as well as DB's good Southern manners.

stylemismatch    -- 06-28-2005 @ 8:56 AM
  How about if the leftie makes a big show of rotating his shoulders and upper body while at the same time lifting his knee, then throwing to first.  Seems like that's the start of his pitching motion and is committed to go home, I'd like to hear what the umps have to say.


DelawareBlue    -- 06-28-2005 @ 4:58 PM
  How about if the leftie makes a big show of rotating his shoulders and upper body while at the same time lifting his knee, then throwing to first.

Some balks are easy to discuss online - a stop or hesitation, failing to complete a throw to first base without disengaging, standing on or astride the pitcher's plate without the ball, etc.  

Other moves are more difficult to discuss and must be fully described (which still leaves a move open to interpretation) or they must be seen.  It depends on what is meant by ...rotating his shoulder and upper body...  If he's rotating or leaning toward the plate and then throwing back to first, it's probably a balk, but difficult to call without seeing.  If the umpire judged the pitcher showed motion toward the plate but failed to deliver the pitch, it's a balk.  

Also, don't go by what you see pitchers in MLB get away with.  Pro umpires often let things go in the Majors that would get balked at lower levels (unless you pitch for the Orioles).

greybeard    -- 06-28-2005 @ 5:13 PM
  A big rotation by a lefty will usually cause his free foot to break the plane of the rubber. If he does that, he is committed to going home.

Most runners are not going to fall for that move as the LH pitcher is looking right at them with every opportunity to throw over.

I agree with DB about what major league pitchers get away with.  I always liked watching Mike Remlinger, he had a great move to first and runners rarely stole on him.

stylemismatch    -- 06-29-2005 @ 12:14 AM
  I always liked Steve Avery's snap throw to first.  I think his move was one of those that was legal - just barely.

The kid I was talking about really did a sell job that he was throwing home, his left knee came behind the rubber but he usually managed to keep his foot in front of the rubber.  He rotated his entire upper body and shoulders, started to lean, started his motion, and at the last insant threw to first.  I talked to the umps after the game, all they were keying on was his free foot not crossing behind the rubber.  

DelawareBlue    -- 06-29-2005 @ 6:43 AM
  ...started to lean...

Leaning toward the plate is a motion to the plate.  That can (and should) get the move balked.  With a LHP, you've got to focus on the entire picture and not just one aspect (such as the foot breaking the plane of the back edge of the pitcher's plate).

This message was edited by DelawareBlue on 6-29-05 @ 6:45 AM

bigcardsfan    -- 06-29-2005 @ 7:53 AM
  a right handed pitcher can while engaged and set can throw directly to first base without the jump step as long as his left foot swings straight to the base without lifting the new wheras it looks like a pitch can throw directly to first from the rubber as long as you dont bring the lead leg up to where it looks like a pitch.??????

greybeard    -- 06-29-2005 @ 8:52 AM
  I'd have to see the move, but in theory, what you describe would not be a balk. The left foot, left leg, and left hip better all go directly to first and not have any lift to them that resembles the start of a pitch.

DelawareBlue    -- 06-29-2005 @ 12:27 PM
  ...a right handed pitcher can while engaged and set can can throw directly to first from the rubber as long as you dont bring the lead leg up to where it looks like a pitch.??????

Yes.  In fact, he can step and throw to first at any point prior to, during, or after coming set.  Contrary to what many people (including a lot of coaches) think, a RHP can throw to first base without disengaging.  He must step to first base (gain distance and direction with the free foot) before the throw and the lift of the leg cannot be higher than necessary (in the umpire's judgment) to accomplish the step.  A RHP who brings the leg up to what is commonly referred to as a "balance point" and then throws to first base is most certainly a balk.  (The same would be true of a LHP throwing to third base.)

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