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What Is a Balk In Baseball?

Updated on July 12, 2013

What Is a Balk In Baseball?

Sometimes the word “balk” is misspelled as “bulk”. “Balk” is a sportive term used normally in baseball. In the article we discuss what is a balk in baseball and provide some technical information.

The balk rule was introduced to the Major League Baseball in late 19th century, namely in 1898.The balk stands for an illegal action made by the pitcher normally leading to the penalty. In fact there is a number of illegal moves that the baseball pitcher is likely to make and they all would fall under the balk category. However, as per the Official Baseball Rules, the balk may be left uncounted under special circumstances or lead to a delay with the dead ball under the other. But according to the U.S. Baseball Federation rules a dead ball is assigned at once after the balk.

To get a better idea of what is a balk in baseball let’s have a look into the history of this notion. The birth of the term “balk” dates back to the mid 1800s. First it was used to indicate an action made by the pitch delivering pitcher who would overstep the line at 45 feet’s distance off the home plate. It actually gives all runners on base a single base advancement. The rule reads that the ball should not be “jerked or thrown” on the bat but should only be pitched. So when the pitcher makes a movement with his hand in order to deliver the ball he should have both feet on the ground but, if he fails to do so and if one or both of his feet appear in advance of the front-line when the ball is being delivered - it most likely will be considered a balk.

According to the American Association of Baseball Clubs Playing Rules dated 1884, the balk would be considered the pitcher’s delay or failure to deliver the ball to the bat or any part of the pitcher’s body being off the position lines. When warned by the umpire, the pitcher should not continue delivery of the ball with his hand above the shoulder.

As a rule the pitcher has a limited amount of legal actions and pitching positions if he violates something in this regard while there is at least one runner on base a balk is declared. The balk will be called if: the pitcher switches the position from the set to the windup or vice versa - he may do so only after he has disengaged the rubber; has not accomplished the delivery after making a pitch related move on the rubber; would not step in the direction of the base when throwing to the base from the mound, and so on. There is a dozen of regulations defining the legal and illegal movements of the pitcher. One should know that no penalty is declared if all runners are out of base when the pitcher makes a balk. A balk can be made also by the catcher if he leaves the box before the ball is delivered by the pitcher. Actually the rule of bulk aims to stop the pitcher from confusing the batters or the runners on the base.

Balk Rules


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    • Florida Guy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks BK :-)

      Great to see you again!!!

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I cannot tell you how long this 'balk' business has bothered me. Why? you ask. Well, I've read the 'Peanuts' comic strip for ages. And one day Charlie Brown was pitching and suddenly the word "BALK" - appears in giant letters in the cartoon panel. But try and get a good answer from a baseball fan.

      So I went on with my life - raised a family, traveled much of the world, started writing on hub pages - and put it aside.

      But how timely this is because it is a major Peanuts anniversary and I am sure I will come across that comic strip again.

      Thanks a million. Oh, I'm a follower - and rated up!


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