Balk (BK) & Disengagement Violation (2023 rule change)
A balk occurs when a pitcher makes an illegal motion on the mound that the umpire deems to be deceitful to the runner(s). As a result, any men on base are awarded the next base, and the pitch (if it was thrown in the first place) is waved off for a dead ball.
In September 2022, Major League Baseball announced three rule changes that were approved by the league’s Competition Committee.
The Pitch Time rule change stipulates the following around disengagement violations:
- Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
- A third disengagement, or a disengagement violation, would result in a balk.
- For example, if a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
- Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts do not count as a disengagement.
- If a team has used up all five of its allotted mound visits prior to the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.
Exactly what constitutes a balk is summed up in section 8 of the MLB rules, which describes a legal pitching delivery.
Pitchers with high balk totals are also generally adept at picking runners off, this being because their moves to first base are typically so deceptive that they border on being illegal. Any umpire, if he notices an illegal movement by the pitcher, can call a balk.
The specific rules for balks were first introduced in 1898 to prevent pitchers from intentionally deceiving baserunners. Without balk rules, pitchers had any means of fooling baserunners, who had to act conservatively on the bases as a result.
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