July 26, 2022

David Ross Ejected for Arguing Double Set (Balk)

Controversial balk calls (or non-calls) in MLB in 2022

David Ross Ejected for Arguing Double Set (Balk)

The Mets and Cubs played at Wrigley on July 14th. In the bottom of the fourth inning the Cubs had Nico Hoerner on first base with two outs when Cubs manager David Ross claimed that Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco was making a double Set which is a balk. Ross argued with third base ump John Tumpane and was ejected.

Ruleball Comment

  1. In my opinion Carrasco “might” be balking. But this is a Set position and delivery that the league needs to review and issue a memo since there is some gray area as I explain below.
  2. Carrasco initiates his delivery of the pitch from two different Set positions: (a) from his belt with arms extended down, and (b) from the front of his chest. That could very likely be by design (intent) to trick the runner into taking off once he sees the glove move from the belt to the chest.
  3. It’s not too deceptive with a runner on third base but is very deceptive to a runner on first base which is what we have in this situation.
  4. In the Set Position, a pitcher is allowed to make any natural preliminary motion before assuming the Set. When Carrasco delivers from the chest after “appearing” to stop at his belt, is that part of a natural preliminary motion? I say no IF he has already stopped at the belt after he took his sign with one hand on his side.
  5. If Carrasco is considering the independent jiggling of his free foot as part of his stretch, he is complicating matters and giving umpires more fuel to call a balk.
  6. The best view of his pre-Set and Set is seen at the 54 sec. mark of the video.
  7. Apparently, this is a series of moves that Carrasco has worked on to deceive the runner/s and the batter. All Mets opponents should be aware of this and might want to alert umpires of this Set and delivery.  It might also be a good idea to send video to MLB for evaluation.
  8. The ejection of Ross raises another question. A manager may come out and question the reason for a balk call (other than a step balk) and shall not be ejected for his visit to learn why the balk was called. The manager may be ejected if he argues the call after the explanation. (See section 66 (f) in the most recent 2021 Major League Baseball Umpire Manual). It looked like a professional meeting between Ross and Tumpane, but who knows what was said or demonstrated from the dugout?   

Other Balk Controversies in MLB in 2022

Castillo short step balk

In the May 14th  Reds-Pirates game, Reds’ pitcher Luis Castillo was called for a balk. Home plate umpire, Lance Barrett, saw the infraction when Castillo made a short step toward third base before stepping back-off the rubber and throwing to first. The balk cost the Reds a run in a game they eventually lost 3 – 1 to the Pirates.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Rule 6.02 (a) (3) requires the pitcher, while touching the rubber, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. Under the rule, he is required to throw to first and third base, but not second base.
  2. In the above situation, Castillo made a jab step toward third with his non-pivot free-foot before disengaging the rubber with his pivot foot. It is illegal to fake to third.
  3. If Castillo initially disengaged the rubber before making a move with his free-foot, he would have been legal and throwing as a fielder, not a pitcher. It appears that was his intent.
  4. If a pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, jumps into the air with both feet simultaneously and his non-pivot foot lands in a step toward the base before he throws to the base, he has made a legal move.
  5. It is legal for a right-handed pitcher to begin a pick-off move to first base by first moving his pivot foot in the direction of third base provided he makes a legal step toward first with his free-foot before throwing. The move must be continuous without interruption. Even though the pitcher is not in contact with the rubber, for the purpose of the rule, he is considered to be in contact with the rubber.

Crew Chief Rules Check

Can a batter be awarded first base when a pitcher balks before delivering the pitch? The answer is “Yes,” if there is an automatic base award such as “Ball Four” or “Hit by Pitch” and all runners on base are forced to advance because the batter becomes a runner and legally occupies first base.   It appears the following play had the umpires scratching their heads.

The D’backs and Cardinals played at Busch Stadium on April 29th. In the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals had Harrison Bader on third and Yadier Molina on first and one out, when it appeared that Paul DeJong walked on a 3-2 pitch from Luis Frias. But a balk was called and for some reason the umpires conducted a Crew Chief RULES CHECK.

Why a RULES CHECK?  Based on the reply from the Replay Official, I have concluded the umps were a bit confused as to what to do with DeJong after the “Ball Four” pitch that followed the balk. Should be given first base or remain at bat with a 3-2 count?

Ruleball Comments

 I believe third base umpire Carlos Torres called the balk because Frias made a move to the plate without delivering the pitch. He then made a second step with his free foot. The rule invoked was 6.02 (a) (1). It reads, “It’s a balk with a runner or runners on base when the pitcher while touching his plate makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery.”

  1. The balk itself was not the reason for the RULES CHECK because balk calls are not reviewable. Based on the reply from the Replay Official, it is my opinion the RULES CHECK was whether or not DeJong should be given first base on “Ball Four” despite the balk.
  2. Here’s the answer from the Replay Official: Per 6.02 (a) (PENALTY): 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, andall other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.”
  3. The answer from the Replay Official did not address the balk itself. Instead, he focused on the placement of the runners involving a situation when a “Ball Four” pitch follows a balk. In my opinion, the umps were unsure as to whether or not DeJong should be given first base or remain at bat because “Ball Four” came after the balk. When that occurs, there’s the possibility that the batter will be awarded first base despite the balk. But for that to happen, any runner/s on base would have to be forced to move up one base because of the base-on-balls to the batter.
  4. In this scenario, only one runner would be forced to the next base because of the base- on- balls. That would be Molina, the runner on first. The walk to DeJong would not affect Bader, the runner on third. So, Bader, the runner on third scores, and Molina, the runner on first, goes to second. DeJong remains at bat with a 3-2 count.
  5. For DeJong to be awarded first base on the base-on-balls, there would have had to have been just a runner on first, or runners on first and second, or runners on first, second, and third. On a Ball Four Balk, the batter-runner must force ALL runners to nullify the balk.
  6. If DeJong put the ball in play and all runners including DeJong advanced at least one base, the balk would be nullified. Example: DeJong singles to center field. Bader scores from third, Molina reaches second, and DeJong gets to first. The balk is nullified. If Molina attempts to advance to third and was put out, the out would stand, and the balk would still be nullified because all runners advanced at least one base on the play.

 

Rich Marazzi

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

Comments

Jerry Maffia

The Major League guys let so much go, especially the double (or more) set. It really makes our job as amateur umpires that much more difficult because the kids emulate the ML pitchers.

Ron Gable

The umpires let pitchers get away with so much movement when they are in the stretch that it is almost shocking when they do enforce any balk rules. That really needs to change and rules should be enforced as written.

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