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#1
Old 10-28-2010, 03:43 PM
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Why does the Catcher's Balk rule exist?

So my friends and I last night got into the age old debate about the number of legal ways to get to first base. One of the points of contention is the catcher's balk rule. My friend pointed out that a "catcher's balk" is not actually awarded to the catcher but awarded to the pitcher as any other balk and thus only the runners would advance not the batter. I disagreed because my understanding was that the catcher's balk rule was intended to force a team to field a catcher for the first two strikes of any at-bat, as opposed to having 4 outfielders or something.

Internet to the rescue, the next day everyone looks up the applicable rules and to my surprise the 2010 mlb official rule book does indeed rule that a catcher's balk results in the penalty: BALK and nothing else. I found other various forum posts on the subject at different sites in which people quote that the batter does advance and one person even cited the 2004 mlb official rules (which I can not find a copy of).

So, I guess I have two questions. First, why does the catcher's balk exist ( I believe from the context of the rules it is to somehow prevent the pitcher from deceiving any base runners ). Two, and more importantly, what prevents me from not fielding a catcher at all, at least for the first two strikes of any given at-bat. If there are no runners on base, and there are less than two strikes on the batter then there is no foreseeable penalty to not fielding a catcher.
#2
Old 10-28-2010, 03:52 PM
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#3
Old 10-28-2010, 03:55 PM
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I believe you are refering to rule 4.03(a) which states:
Quote:
4.03 When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than
the catcher shall be on fair territory.
(a) The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his
position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play except that when the batter is
being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within
the lines of the catcher’s box until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
PENALTY: Balk.
One of the purposes of the rule is, as you suggest, to require that a team have a catcher. There is no reference here to the two-strike rule that you mentioned -- the rule applies at all times.


The 2010 official rules are available at the MLB website.
#4
Old 10-28-2010, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xcalibre View Post
One of the points of contention is the catcher's balk rule. My friend pointed out that a "catcher's balk" is not actually awarded to the catcher but awarded to the pitcher as any other balk and thus only the runners would advance not the batter. I disagreed because my understanding was that the catcher's balk rule was intended to force a team to field a catcher for the first two strikes of any at-bat, as opposed to having 4 outfielders or something.
It's being applied to the pitcher, because the pitcher is required to wait to pitch until the catcher is behind the plate. Consider a truly extreme example - no catcher on the field at all. The pitcher winds up and drills one straight into the umpire's face. Why would that be a balk on the (non-existent) catcher? You give it to the pitcher - the guy that put the ball in play.
#5
Old 10-28-2010, 04:03 PM
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There isn't a two strike rule, what I'm referring to is that if the catcher does not catch the third called strike the batter may try to run for first, thus in that situation it would behoove you to have a catcher. However, if the rules you just quoted, which I have read before, nothing in there indicates that there is a penalty for not fielding a catcher in the scenario I presented. You see a Balk only affects runners on base and not the batter, so if there were no runners I could balk all day.
#6
Old 10-28-2010, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Munch View Post
It's being applied to the pitcher, because the pitcher is required to wait to pitch until the catcher is behind the plate. Consider a truly extreme example - no catcher on the field at all. The pitcher winds up and drills one straight into the umpire's face. Why would that be a balk on the (non-existent) catcher? You give it to the pitcher - the guy that put the ball in play.
But if there are no runners, then there is no balk. Why can't I do this very thing on the first pitch of the game?
#7
Old 10-28-2010, 04:12 PM
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Doesn't the ruling of a balk nullify the pitch? If you tried this on the first pitch of the game, would the result not be a call of a balk, making the count still 0-0. Your goal with this is to put the catcher in the field for defense, but the ball is dead from the balk call.
#8
Old 10-28-2010, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by borschevsky View Post
Doesn't the ruling of a balk nullify the pitch? If you tried this on the first pitch of the game, would the result not be a call of a balk, making the count still 0-0. Your goal with this is to put the catcher in the field for defense, but the ball is dead from the balk call.
The ball is not automatically dead on a balk (in MLB. In high school, I believe it is). If there is a balk on a pitch, the pitch is neither a ball nor a strike, unless it's ball 4 forcing all runners to advance.

But the reason why this can't happen on the first pitch of the game -- because the umpire wouldn't put the ball in play without a catcher behind the plate. No ball in play...game hasn't started yet.
#9
Old 10-28-2010, 04:18 PM
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Actually, balks are only defined when there are runners on base as per section 8.05 of the official rules.

"8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—"

Furthermore, section 8.05 only defines the catcher's balk rule to pertain when an intentional walk is being performed.

"(l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is
not in the catcher’s box"
#10
Old 10-28-2010, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc1953 View Post
The ball is not automatically dead on a balk (in MLB. In high school, I believe it is). If there is a balk on a pitch, the pitch is neither a ball nor a strike, unless it's ball 4 forcing all runners to advance.

But the reason why this can't happen on the first pitch of the game -- because the umpire wouldn't put the ball in play without a catcher behind the plate. No ball in play...game hasn't started yet.
Heh, ok my point here is why is it not legal to try and gain some defensive advantage. Clearly the umpire can give the catcher the ball, then the catcher can just run off.
#11
Old 10-28-2010, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by borschevsky View Post
Doesn't the ruling of a balk nullify the pitch? If you tried this on the first pitch of the game, would the result not be a call of a balk, making the count still 0-0. Your goal with this is to put the catcher in the field for defense, but the ball is dead from the balk call.
8.01(d): If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise. A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base.

Last edited by Munch; 10-28-2010 at 04:24 PM.
#12
Old 10-28-2010, 04:36 PM
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I think that it's part of making sure that the pitcher and catcher stay in their assigned places during the pitch. Otherwise you could open a loophole in the rules where the catcher could shift his position behind the plate to allow the pitcher to throw at odd angles and confuse the batter.

Basically it's saying: "Even though it may seem silly to require the catcher to stay in his box when the pitcher is intentionally walking the batter HE STILL HAS TO. Because if we let him step outside the box in that particular circumstance, he could step outside the box in other circumstances and claim that he and the pitcher had been attempting an intentional walk."

Last edited by The Hamster King; 10-28-2010 at 04:36 PM.
#13
Old 10-28-2010, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xcalibre View Post
Heh, ok my point here is why is it not legal to try and gain some defensive advantage. Clearly the umpire can give the catcher the ball, then the catcher can just run off.
I realize this is a frivolous part of the discussion, but the rules and custom and procedure would never let it happen. If the pitcher has the ball, and the umpire puts it in play, and the catcher then runs off....the umpire calls "time" and says to the catcher, "where the f*** are you going? Get the f*** back behind the plate, idiot."
#14
Old 10-28-2010, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Munch View Post
8.01(d): If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise. A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base.
That rule has a comment attached which states that it's meant to apply to "quick pitching", the rule I posted states that it is only an illegal pitch for the catcher to be out of the catcher's area whilst performing an intentional walk.
#15
Old 10-28-2010, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Rule 2.00
The CATCHER’S BOX is that area within which the catcher shall stand until the pitcher delivers the ball.

Rule 4.03
4.03
When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.
(a) The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his
position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play except that when the batter is
being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher’s box until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
PENALTY: Balk.
(b) The pitcher, while in the act of delivering the ball to the batter, shall take his legal position;
(c) Except the pitcher and the catcher, any fielder may station himself anywhere in fair territory.

Rule 4.15
A game may be forfeited to the opposing team when a team—


(e) After warning by the umpire, willfully and persistently violates any rules of the
game;


So, if the catcher willfully and persistently fails to enter the catcher's box before a pitch, the game will be forfieted.

I suppose the balk is there for those instances where, during an intentional base on balls. the catcher inadvertantly and non-persistently violates the rule or isn't warned by the umpire.

It's also relatively rare (before and after Barry bonds) for a batter to be intentionally walked with the bases empty.
#16
Old 10-28-2010, 06:14 PM
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also, rule 4.03 seems to indicate that a catcher may leave the catcher's box at any time after the pitcher begins to deliver the ball (and efore he realses it) except when an intentional base on balls is being attempted, in which case the catcher must wait until the ball is released before leaving the catcher's box.

Basically, the ball cannot be put into play without the catcher in the catcher's box
#17
Old 10-28-2010, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by special ed View Post
also, rule 4.03 seems to indicate that a catcher may leave the catcher's box at any time after the pitcher begins to deliver the ball (and efore he realses it) except when an intentional base on balls is being attempted, in which case the catcher must wait until the ball is released before leaving the catcher's box.
But until the pitcher releases the ball, the catcher has no way of knowing that he NEEDS to leave the box to catch it.

The point is that the catcher can ONLY leave the box to go after the ball. He can go after a wild pitch when he realizes that it's a wild pitch, but he can't move outside the box in ANTICIPATION of the pitcher throwing wild. He has to stay put until he sees where the ball is headed.

The special rule is intended to cover the one situation where the catcher knows IN ADVANCE that the ball is not headed over the plate. It prevents a catcher from arguing that positioning himself off to the side before the throw should be considered "leaving his position to catch a pitch" since he knew in advance where the pitcher was throwing. And this in turn prevents the catcher from attempting to game the system by leaving the box prematurely and then claiming he was only moving into position in anticipation of a pitch intended to be a ball.

Last edited by The Hamster King; 10-28-2010 at 07:21 PM.
#18
Old 10-28-2010, 07:32 PM
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Seems like 90% of fans don't know the normal balk rule. Every time the pitcher fakes a throw to 2nd or 3rd the fans yell "balk!!"
#19
Old 10-28-2010, 07:46 PM
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There is also rule 7.07, which states:
Quote:
7.07 If, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a
steal, the catcher or any other fielder steps on, or in front of home base without possession of
the ball, or touches the batter or his bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk, the batter
shall be awarded first base on the interference and the ball is dead.
Years ago, catchers were actually charged with balks, hence the term 'catcher's balk.' Despite Tim McCarver using the term too many times, it is now a misnomer as all balks are charged to the pitcher, and have been for the last 70 or so years.
#20
Old 06-18-2014, 06:59 PM
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Balk is a ball with no runners on

The reason why you can't put your catcher in the field for the first two strikes is that there will never be a first two strikes in that case. If the pitcher delivers a pitch without a catcher behind the plate, it is a balk. If there are no runners on base, a balk results in a ball being called. So, those pitches, even if they are right through the strike zone, will be called balls.

Also, a balk does not entitle a batter to first base. Only runners on base may advance.
#21
Old 06-18-2014, 07:33 PM
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Not strictly true. An illegal pitch is a balk with runners on, a ball with no runners on. Not all balks are illegal pitches.

Example of a balk that's not an illegal pitch: (1) failure to come to a stop. (2) Not stepping towards the base when throwing over. (3) Catcher's balk.

Example of an illegal pitch (balk with runners on, ball without): (1) pitching without the foot on the rubber. (2) A quick pitch.
#22
Old 06-18-2014, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obeseus View Post
There is also rule 7.07, which states:


Years ago, catchers were actually charged with balks, hence the term 'catcher's balk.' Despite Tim McCarver using the term too many times, it is now a misnomer as all balks are charged to the pitcher, and have been for the last 70 or so years.
To be fair, McCarver was catching 70 years ago.
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