May 16, 2023

“Balk/Walk” Rule Misinterpreted

Controversial balk called because the pitcher did not come to a stop before delivering the pitch

“Balk/Walk” Rule Misinterpreted

The Blue Jays hosted the Mariners on April 30, 2023. In the bottom of the fourth, Whitt Merrifield was at bat with a 3-2 count and two outs facing Penn Murfee. Vlad Guerrero, the runner on first, took off with the pitch that was “Ball Four.” One of the umpires on plate ump Mark Carlson’s crew called a balk on Murfee because he did not come to a stop before delivering the pitch. Guerrero was allowed to stay at second because of the balk but lost his stolen base.  Merrifiled incorrectly was not awarded first base and remained at bat with a 3-2 count. He subsequently struck out.

Ruleball Comments

  1. The umpires failed to properly interpret rule 6.02 (a) Penalty when a balk occurs. It reads,  The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
  2. In the above play, because Merrifield would have reached first base via a base on balls, and this would have forced Guerrero to second base, the balk is nullified. If Guerrero was on second or third base at the start of play, the umpires should then enforce the balk penalty because Merrifield’s advance to first base on “Ball Four,” would not force Guerrero to the next base. If there were runners on first and third, or second and third at the time the pitch was delivered, or if the pitch was strike three, the balk penalty would be enforced because Merrifield would not force all runners to the next base.
  3. The only way Merrifield should have remained in the batter’s box is if strike three was called. In that case, the balk penalty would be enforced and Merrifield would remain at bat with a 3-2 count.
  4. I don’t understand why the four umpires did not huddle and rectify the situation.
  5. Blue Jays manager John Schneider should have asked for a RULES Check.
  6. Would broadcasters be able to explain this rule to their viewers?

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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