A few innings ago, we talked about pitching regulations from the stretch and today we’re following it up with part 2, pitching from the wind-up. There’s not too much to discuss until we have the pitcher in the wind-up and a runner on third breaks towards the plate, then we have a real “Whoa Nelly!” moment, as the great Keith Jackson used to say. As in the stretch, the pitching regulations are as much about the feet as they are the arms.
Regarding feet, all you need to understand is the definition of the “pivot” foot,left foot for southpaw, right foot for right hander. Once intentionally engaged with the pitching plate, the only way to legally “step off” is by stepping backwards with the pivot foot first. This is assuming it is before the hands have come together and/or the hands have not been broken. This is typically where “innocent” balks happen by the pitcher stepping off with the wrong foot after he forgot about a runner and wants to switch to the stretch; we say “innocent” meaning the pitcher is not trying to deceive anyone but is just being a dope!
The pitching regulations above the waist kick in when the pitcher engages the rubber and our attention turns to what he is doing with his arms. This affects what is known as “time of pitch” or in other words, the point of no-return when the pitcher must deliver a pitch and does not have the option of stepping off. There is no restriction as to how he holds the ball but there are 3 ways to do this:
1. Engage pitching plate with both hands together, in front of his body.
2. Engage pitching plate with one hand in front, other hand down at side.
3. Engage pitching plate with both arms at side.
Bringing the hands together in the wind-up can be looked at the same way as you do in the set; the pitcher can legally step off before breaking the hands. The problem scenario is situation 3 above: moving both arms simultaneously typically will signify the start of the motion so it could be considered a balk if he then stops and steps off. It all depends on what his normal delivery is and if he typically pauses to take signs once bringing both hands together. If the runner breaks for home as the pitcher brings both hands together and the pitcher stops and steps off, we’re not sure how any 2 umpires will rule as it’s a judgment call; once again, the riddle-mystery-enigma thing rears it’s ugly mug!
So while that is all fairly perfunctory (big word for the day), lets look at a few of the more obscure things that could happen to Ace out there on the hill:
- If the ball slips out of the pitcher’s hands, if it does not cross the foul line, it is considered a balk with runners on base or no pitch if bases empty. If it does cross the foul line then it is a legal pitch, a crappy one at that.
- If a pitcher is ambidextrous, he must declare at the start of the at bat, which arm he will pitch with and stay with it for the entire at bat.
- If a pitcher throws wild on a pick-off attempt initiated while engaged with the rubber, and the ball goes out of play, all runners advance one base, but if the pitcher steps off before throwing to kingdom-come, like lefty sometimes does, then he is just another bad infielder and the runners are awarded two bases.
- Balks in pro ball are “delayed” so if the batter hits one out of the park, it’s a dinger. In high school and college, the ball is dead as soon as the balk is called so if the batter knocks it out of the park, it means nada.
- The hidden ball trick usually hinges on the pitcher completing some level of performance art to kill time in order to lull the runner to sleep. The pro rule states “straddling” the rubber without the ball is a balk while the HS/College rule says being within 5 feet of the rubber without the ball is illegal.
- While a pitcher cannot throw to an unoccupied base, he can legally throw to the next base to make a play on an advancing runner attempting to steal; this looks funny to anyone associated with the defense but it is legal.
This wraps up MaxBP’s public service announcements regarding pitching regulations; we hope it provided nourishing food for thought. Teach your pitchers basic delivery fundamentals and we’re sure it will minimize balk trouble. If you are not on our email list and would like to receive future blog entries and promos from us, please click on the link below to add your info. We appreciate all the positive feedback and email sharing of our recent syndications.
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