The Official Baseball Rules clearly state that when a balk is called and the pitcher delivers the ball (either to the catcher or to a fielder) the play is dead as soon as the catcher (or fielder) catches the ball. If the throw is wild but the ball stays in play, runners may advance beyond the base awarded by the balk but at their own risk.
Here is a list of scenarios that can occur if a play follows a balk.
The Big Nine
- If a play follows a balk and all runners, including the batter, advance one base on the play, the balk is nullified.
(ex: Runner on second and the batter singles to left following the balk. The runner on second scores and the batter reaches first base. The balk is nullified because the batter and the runner both advanced at least one base. Same play…the batter singles to left and gets to first base but R2 thinks the ball is dead because he heard the umpire yell “balk” and remains at second base. Because only the batter-runner advanced one base on the play, the balk rule is invoked. R2 would be awarded third base and the batter-runner would remain at bat with the same count prior to the pitch.)
- It’s not true that the offensive team has the option of taking the play or penalty when a balk is called. The only two situations when the manager of the offensive team has this option is when catcher’s interference occurs and all runners, including the batter-runner, have not advanced at least one base during the play and the other is when a pitcher delivers a doctored or defaced baseball when all runners, including the batter, did not advance one base.
- When a pitcher throws to a base following a balk, or pitches to the catcher, the ball is dead as soon as the fielder or catcher catches the ball. The balk penalty is then enforced with the runner/runners being awarded one base.
- In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.
- When a pitcher delivers a pitch following a balk, if the batter is put out before reaching first base, the ball is dead immediately the moment the batter is retired and the balk rule is enforced. For instance, if the batter hits a fly ball that is caught, the ball is dead the moment the catch is made and the balk penalty is enforced with runner/runners being awarded one base. The batter remains at bat with the same count prior to the pitch. If the fly ball is dropped, and all runners including the batter, have advanced at least one base, the balk is nullified.
- If possible, the batter should always swing and run to first base following a balk call. It’s a “free swing.” If he hits safely and all runners advance one base, the balk is nullified. If he doesn’t hit safely, he remains at bat with the same count prior to the balk. All runners should attempt to advance to the next base after a balk is called since they are protected by the balk penalty if they are thrown out unless they attempt to advance beyond their awarded base. In essence it’s a free attempt to advance one base and if the runner goes on the crack of the bat he may score on the play or place himself in a position to score.
- If a pitcher balks and does not throw the ball, the umpire should yell, “That’s a balk! Time.” Then the runner/runners are awarded one base and the batter remains at bat with the same count prior to the balk.
- If the balk is followed by a “ball four” pitch that is caught, the umpire should call “Time” and enforce the balk unless all runners advance one base because of “ball four.” This can happen when there is a runner on first or runners on first and second or first second and third. In that case the batter would be awarded first base because all runners would be forced to move up one base because of the batter occupying first base on “ball four.”
- If the balk is followed by a pitch that strikes the batter, the umpire should call “Time” the moment the pitch strikes the batter. The balk rule is then enforced. The batter remains at bat unless the hit batter’s placement on first base forces all runners to advance one base in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
Insider Reports: Pitcher Balks
Do you know the rule about the timing of a dead ball after a balk is called? Rich Marazzi details two professional games where a balk was called and a controversial play followed. Read about it and learn from this excellent Insider Report.
Batter Hit-by-Pitch After Pitcher Balks
In a play where there is a balk called and the batter is hit by the pitch, what does the umpire call? Read this Insider Report for the answer.