Some balk rule questions


#1

Last night, we had an ump on steroids over what he thinks are illegal pitching routines…

For starters, many of the pitchers after taking their signs in the stretch proceed to come set by bringing their hands up high and lowering them to about their belt buckles before coming to the complete stop. Is this a balk? The ump stated that pitchers cannot have their hands above their eyes before coming set.

Next… pitching hand in front of the body during the stretch/lean in…

This was one that my son did… he leans forward with his pitching arm dangling straight down in front of him. I know I’ve seen that look in MLB, but never knew that could be illegal. Ump says the pitching arm must be either at the pitchers side or behind his back during the lean in part of a stretch before coming set.

Last… can there be any movement at all during the lean in stretch before the pitcher goes to the set position? Ump gave every pitcher throughout the night a warning on that. I’m thinking that up until the pitcher comes to a complete stop in the set position, this shouldn’t be an issue, but I haven’t read the rules that closely yet…

thoughts
thanks

pbp


#2

Hi PBP,

I wish I had the OBRs in front of me (I don’t)…but I’ll take a hack at some of these items:

I’m not sure if the ump is correct about taking the hands up high before coming to a stop at a lower set position. If the motion could be construed as ‘trying to deceive the baserunner’, then it is a balk.

The throwing arm can dangle in front of the pitcher’s body during the lean in–and some pitchers (Barry Zito, Heath Bell, etc) move their dangling throwing arm quite a lot while they are taking signs. The ball is in the glove when this is happening, however.

I can see that the ump might have a problem with ‘trying to deceive the runner’ again if the pitcher was leaning in to take signs and the ball was in his throwing hand and he was moving it around.

There obviously has to be movement allowed between the lean-in and the set position…otherwise the pitcher would be frozen in place taking his signs. Again, judgements about how much and what type of pitcher movements are okay probably default back to the ‘trying to deceive the runner’ question…which sucks when you think about it: Everybody else gets to carry out deception. Fake bunts, fake steals, dekes by fielders…life would be spicier if the pitchers could join in the fun.


#3

The ump was a complete control freak.

I don’t know what league or rules you were under but by Babe Ruth and HS rules he’s completely doinked. The problem is…ain’t a thing in the world you can really do about it. Unless it’s an organization that holds the ump association or paid ump accountable and then it’s follow the process.
Nothing worse than an ump who “thinks” he knows the rules.

Warning the players about movement prior to going set is only constuable as a balk IF the movement can be construed as the beginning of his move to come set…like starting then stopping, thats a balk, turning the shoulders to look at a runner, thats not a balk, the first two with the caveat La noted are just dumb.

You have the satisfaction that your instincts are correct. Carry a rule book, but even then it doesn’t always work out your way.


#4

Somewhere, at some level, in some organization, I have seen a rule about the hand and glove staying below the chin. I don’t recall where nor at what point in the delivery that rule applied.

Regarding the dangling arm (aka “gorilla arm”) while taking signs, I am believe it is NFHS rules state that your throwing hand must be at your side or behind you.

Other movement prior to coming set is allowed so long as it doesn’t mimmick the start of your delivery so as to confuse or deceive the runner (as others have said).


#5

Roger, I think you’re onto something. I remember that the ump asked my son if he plays HS ball and then stating this dangling arm rule as something he’ll see in HS…

pbp


#6

That ump is a chump.
I have read that rule very carefully, and there are no such provisions as the stuff he describes. “Control freak” is too mild a term for him. :roll:


#7

Whether it’s in a book or not, none of those should be balks. That ump is ridiculous, and is probably wasting his time on these petty issues and not paying attention to what’s important. So many umps go on power trips over little things like these and then proceed to miss calls on the bases, or have a “roaming” strike zone. Pretty pathetic if you ask me.


#8

[quote=“PalmBeachPitching”]

This was one that my son did… he leans forward with his pitching arm dangling straight down in front of him. I know I’ve seen that look in MLB, but never knew that could be illegal. Ump says the pitching arm must be either at the pitchers side or behind his back during the lean in part of a stretch before coming set.

pbp[/quote]

I had an umpire tell one of my friends that he could lean forward with his arm dangling at his side provided e didn’t have the ball in his hand. Don’t know if this is right or wrong - and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t do it.


#9

i’m pretty sure there are only three rules in the book related to a balk:

  1. you can’t deceive the runner;

  2. you have to step to the base you are throwing to; and

  3. you can’t fake a throw to 1st.

i heard about the dangling arm thing once. that is some silly interpretation. the great closer rob beck with the cubs who died last year i think, would move his throwing arm back and forth while getting his sign. amateur ball gets overboard sometimes.

once your hands come together and set, you can’t break the throwing hand and glove unless you are throwing the ball.

the hands over the head is clearly bad, satchel paige brought his hands way above his head to come set. luis tiant shook his hands comingdown to set position. the critical thing is you have to be consistent or it qualifies as deceiving the runner.


#10

Regarding the balks in this question, I’ll refer to the NFHS (High School) rules regarding these:

1st - The pitcher cannot come SET with his hands above his chin (so what you were describing was NOT a balk.) That means that SOME PART of his glove must be below his chin. When I told a Middle School pitcher about that rule earlier this season (in our middle school rules, we are allowed to warn the pitcher once,) he did the simple thing… He raised his chin for every subsequent pitch from that one on. I got a giggle out of that one.

2nd - According to NFHS rules, the pitcher, while taking his sign and his feet in the set position (both feet parallel with the pitching plate and his pivot foot on or in contact) MUST HAVE HIS PITCHING HAND EITHER AT HIS SIDE OR BEHIND HIS BACK. This is different from NCAA and OBR rules, which merely state that one hand must be at his side or behind his back.

Those are the rules, and yes, we HS umpires call it in FL. As a matter of fact, it was shown in the illustrated version of the NFHS rule book in '07. Whether we like the rule or not (personally, I don’t) is irrelevant. It’s a rule and we’re required to enforce 'em.

Lee


#11

Hi, Palm Beach!
That umpire you describe not only is on steroids, but his brain has been affected adversely by them. And “control freak” is much too mild a term to describe him. According to the Official Baseball Rules—meaning the ones governing professional baseball, including the major leagues, which is what I’m referring to here—none of what that ump describes is a balk. Maybe they do things differently in junior and senior high schools, but not in Little League, and certainly not in the majors!
I’ve seen a lot of pitchers dangling the pitching arm as they look in to get the signs—that’s not a balk. I’ve seen pitchers raise their arms over their heads before coming down to the set position—that’s not a balk. If that “bumpire” would read the rules, assuming he can read, he’ll find that a lot of things he calls balks are not.
Or maybe he hates pitchers? :stuck_out_tongue:


#12

Some umpires cover a lot of ground - Little League, high school, American Legion, summer park and recreation baseball, MSBL (Mens’s Senior Baseball), college ball, semi-pro, Independent League (professional), and a ton of other competitive environments to include - but not limited to - softball, AAU and whatever.

All these levels have their own little quirks to them - National High School Federation, NCAA immediately come to mind.

I’ve ran into cases - not many, where an umpire got confused with all the league rules that he had to remember, and sometimes miss-fired on a rule or two. Confusing? you bet.

That’s why it’s important to understand the level and protocols of play for the competition that you’re in and why these rules or protocols were put in place to begin with. The most important part of that last statement :: "
WHY THESE RULES OR PROTOCOLS WERE PUT IN PLACE TO BEGIN WITH" should be the basis for reasoning all those other rules that proceed or follow.

Coach B


#13

[quote=“PalmBeachPitching”]Last night, we had an ump on steroids over what he thinks are illegal pitching routines…

For starters, many of the pitchers after taking their signs in the stretch proceed to come set by bringing their hands up high and lowering them to about their belt buckles before coming to the complete stop. Is this a balk? The ump stated that pitchers cannot have their hands above their eyes before coming set.

Next… pitching hand in front of the body during the stretch/lean in…

This was one that my son did… he leans forward with his pitching arm dangling straight down in front of him. I know I’ve seen that look in MLB, but never knew that could be illegal. Ump says the pitching arm must be either at the pitchers side or behind his back during the lean in part of a stretch before coming set.

Last… can there be any movement at all during the lean in stretch before the pitcher goes to the set position? Ump gave every pitcher throughout the night a warning on that. I’m thinking that up until the pitcher comes to a complete stop in the set position, this shouldn’t be an issue, but I haven’t read the rules that closely yet…

thoughts
thanks

pbp[/quote]
Curious, was the ump short & stocky with brown hair.

I played in a tournament in Jupiter, Florida and received my only balk calls since high school from an ump down there.


#14

High School Rules (actually, the case book which interprets them) have made a new interpretation regarding the “gorilla move,” or dangling arm. According to this year’s case book, if a pitcher, while taking the sign, has his pitching hand dangling in front of him, SO LONG AS HE IS NOT SWINGING IT, it is legal.


#15

Nice find Leecedar.

Glad to know that, I’m sure that will help the members on here that actually have HS Baseball in their states.


#16

Thanks for that update, Lee. Do they give any indication why swinging the arm should be illegal?