How to Call a Balk in Baseball? A Definitive Guide

How to Call a Balk in Baseball?

Balk is one of the tricky rules of baseball. This specific rule has a long list of layouts. A balk happens when a pitcher makes an illegal motion that the umpire reckons to be swindling to the runners. 

As a result, any man on the base gets the next base, and the pitch gets waved off for a dead ball. This particular rule is elaborated in section 8 of the MLB rules that describes a legal pitching delivery.

If you are concerned about how to call a balk, you must know,

The umpire calls a balk when the pitcher drops the ball while trying to deliver the pitch. It doesn’t happen when the pitcher is in his set position and throws the ball to a base. Hyping is a way to an effective pick-off throw. And when the umpire notices such illegal movement by the pitcher, he calls it a balk.

How Many Ways Can You Balk in Baseball?

Balk in Baseball

Well, there are several ways to balk in baseball that include:

  • The pitcher starts his natural pitching movement and stops or performs extra body movement. So no matter the reason, the pitcher can’t stop his motion.
  • The pitcher fakes a throw to first base when touching the rubber but fails to throw the ball. It happens when lefties or righties perform their first-base pick-off move without stepping off the rubber. 
  • The pitcher fails to step towards the base before throwing the ball to the base. The pitcher can’t step after throwing the ball. They have to step far enough to first base. Only then the umpire deems that the pitcher has stepped toward first instead of stepping towards home. 
  • This pitcher fakes or throws the ball to an unoccupied base. So, the pitcher can’t throw to a base where there will be no runner. Instead, they can throw a ball to the base where a runner will run. 
  • The pitcher must come set and pause completely for at least one second before delivering the pitch. The pitcher can’t roll through the coming set. 
  • The pitcher can’t perform a quick pitch. Pitching from off the rubber is illegal. However, there are legal and illegal types of quick pitches. 
  • The pitcher can’t pitch while not facing the batter. However, this type of balk is quite rare.
  • The pitcher can’t perform the pitching motion while not on the rubber. This rule is quite obvious as the pitcher can’t deceive the batter or runners.
  • The pitcher can’t delay the game unnecessarily. This balk way is also quite rare. But it is present in the rule book.
  • The pitcher can’t straddle or stand on the rubber without the ball. The pitcher can’t deceive runners by making them think he is about to pitch. So when the pitcher straddles on the rubber, he must have the baseball in his gloves or hands.
  • The pitcher can’t separate the hands once in the set position. So, once the pitcher comes set, his hands come together for the first and last time before delivering the pitch. Before separating the hands, the pitcher must step back off the rubber. 
  • The pitchers can’t drop the ball while on the rubber. Somehow if they drop the ball, it will be a balk.
  • The catcher has to be in the catcher’s box for a pitch. A catcher must start in the catcher’s box and then move outside after the pitch delivers the ball.

So, these are the thirteen ways considered balk in baseball. You can also read Why Do Some Baseball Players Wear Long Pants?

Why is it Called a Balk in Baseball?

Balk in Baseball (2)

In 1898, the balk rule was introduced in Major League Baseball. It stated that if a pitcher has to throw the ball to a base, he makes a motion in that direction. The following year, the balk rule was improved. 

According to the improved rule, a pitcher couldn’t fake a pickoff throw. Through several years, the rule has been adopted by the players. As a result, it results in a rise of balks in the year of the adaptation.

In 1950, a new rule was implemented: the pitcher had to stop for one second before delivering a pitch.

Later in 1963, the National League cracked down on balks. According to this rule, umpires had to clamp down on balks, resulting in twenty balks.

The most significant rise in balks was in 1988. This year, a new version of the rules was replaced. The intention of this change was to make balk calls more uniform throughout the MLB.

What is the Penalty for a Balk in Baseball?

In baseball, the penalty for a balk is that all base runners will be awarded one base. For an illegal pitch, the penalty is awarding one ball to the batter. It happens unless the batter reaches first base safely on the pitch. 

A balk is considered a delayed dead ball. Under the Official Baseball Rule 6.02 (a), the penalty for a balk should be that the ball is dead. 

Each runner should advance one base without accountability to put out unless the batter reaches the first base on a hit, a base on balls, or an error.

What Causes a Balk in Baseball?

In the easiest sense, a balk occurs when the pitcher tries to hoax the runner or hitter intentionally. It may be a flinch on the mound after the pitcher gets set, an intricate pick-off attempt. 

Balk also happens when the pitcher drops the ball when on the rubber. So, there are various actions that may result in a balk. When the runners are on base, and the umpire calls a balk, the runners move up one base. 

If the umpire can’t realize the pitcher’s mind, then certain movements are tricky, and those will be a balk.

What is Considered a Balk in Little League Baseball?

Balk in little league

In Little League Baseball, a balk is considered illegal by the pitcher with a runner on base, denominating all the batters to advance one base.

Prior to this, a balk was not called in the Little League Major Division or softball as a base runner can’t lead off a base. Checkout a whole guide to baseball rules for kids. Therefore, the balk didn’t exist before in Little League Baseball as there was no situation where the pitcher could mislead the base runner.

What are the Balk Rules?

In baseball, a balk is an illegal act by the pitcher with the hitter or a runner on the base. It awards the runners to advance one base, and it is a delayed dead ball. Here, we must say that there will be several possibilities if the ball is pitched and the batter hits the ball. 

So if the balk happens, the pitcher must be aware of all the possibilities. So, if the umpire calls the balk early and loud enough, the pitcher must stop his motion, and they don’t need to deal with the adverse possibilities.

The purpose of the balk rule is to prevent a pitcher from feigning the runners. However, there will be obvious circumstances where the determination is specifically made for the pitchers. Also Read What is the Dropped Third Strike Rule in Baseball?  But there are some marginal situations. When such a situation occurs, the umpire judges whether it is intentional or the pitcher has deceived the runner.

How to Avoid a Balk in Baseball?

How to avoid a balk in baseball

In baseball, to avoid a balk, a pitcher who is standing on the rubber can’t raise his foot from the ground towards the home plate unless he delivers the ball. If the pitcher somehow drops the ball while attempting to deliver the pitch, the umpire calls it a balk. 

The balk doesn’t occur if the pitcher remains steady in his set position while throwing to the base. Hoaxing is another way to make an effective pick-off throw. 

However, a pitcher can’t be so deceptive that the umpire can’t notice it. There are some ways to avoid a balk that include:

  • When the pitcher is in the set position, he must take the sign from the catcher with his foot on the rubber. Also, the pitcher’s hands must be separated visibly.
  • When the pitcher gets the sign, he must bring his hands together and pause for one second before attempting the delivery. 
  • The pitcher can only move his head while in the set position. If he moves his hands, legs, or shoulders, the umpire can warn him for a balk. 
  • If the pitcher swings his striding foot past the rear portion of the rubber, he must deliver a pitch.
  • The pitcher always has to step directly towards the base that he is throwing to. He can step and fake a throw, but he can’t fake a throw without stepping off the rubber.
  • If the pitcher makes any move towards a base, he must throw to it. He must complete the movement that he has started without an interruption until he is in the set position. 
  • The pitcher shouldn’t make a pitching motion until he has the ball.
  • If the pitcher wants to move out of the set position without a balk, he must step off the rubber.
  • Last but not least, the pitcher must not drop the ball during the delivery. 

 A balk can be avoided in baseball by keeping these points in mind. 


We have answered you with the proper information about how to call a balk in baseball. Dont forget to checkout Can a Pitcher Pause in his Delivery? blog, it is an important rule to know. Besides, the added information will let you have a clear idea about how you can avoid a balk and what are the rules for it. Whether you are a baseball fan or want to get involved in this game, this information will be helpful for you.

Scroll to Top