What Is a Balk in Baseball? – A Beginner’s Guide

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is a balk in baseball

It’s hard to know exactly when a balk is called out by the umpire. It’s one of the most confusing concepts in a baseball game, and even professional analysts can’t seem to agree on what should and shouldn’t count.

So, what is a balk in baseball? A balk is an illegal motion by the pitcher that delays the game. Players who utilize this strategic move for their team are called “balkers”.

Balk Definition and How Does it Affect the Game’s Flow

A balk is an illegal motion by a pitcher that deceives the baserunner into thinking that he has been put out. It is also called “delayed delivery.”

The balk baseball definition appeared in Rule 8 of baseball’s official rules; it is derived from Middle English words meaning “to deceive.”

Moreover, the balk rule in baseball prevents the pitcher from making an illegal move before delivering the ball. In other words, the pitcher cannot make an “illegal motion” that hinders the batter’s timing.

This is a very common occurrence in baseball games. It can be called on the pitcher under the following balk examples:

  • when he does not step toward home plate before throwing,
  • when he steps off the pitching rubber without first stepping towards it,
  • or if he pitches from a set position on the rubber with his hands together

This illegal action results in the runner(s) being allowed to advance one base without liability to be put out.

This behavior might also discourage the baserunner(s) from stealing bases or taking any other opportunity to advance further on the same play.

The 8.05 of the Rules of Major League Baseball


In Major League Baseball, there are a number of rules that govern the game. One of these rules is 8.05, which discusses the thirteen actions that will call a balk in baseball.

The balk rule was first introduced in 1898, and it was aimed at stopping pitchers from deceiving basemen on steal attempts.

It was then amended so that if there are runners on base, they must run to occupy first base, second base or third base before the pitcher delivers.

In most games, the balk rule is one of the most misunderstood. Many people think that a pitcher can’t move their feet at all, but that’s not true.

In addition, the balk rule is not enforced if the pitcher steps off of the pitching rubber or stops his motion because of an injury or other reason. The balk rule only applies to pitchers who are in control of their body, have both feet on the ground, and are not injured.

The Major League Baseball balk rules were created to prevent a pitcher from deliberately deceiving a baserunner into thinking they will pitch when they don’t intend to do so or fake a throw to first base.

Here are some of the specific actions under the MLB balk rules:

  • The pitcher, while touching the pitching plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;
  • The pitcher feints a throw toward first base;
  • The pitcher steps directly off the pitching plate with either foot, and then makes a throw to first base;
  • Make any quick movement of his hands, arms, or feet towards home plate after he has gone past the three-foot line and before he releases the ball;
  • Throw the ball with the intent to substitute for another player in any manner;
  • Throw the ball with an intentional act of icing (i.e., intentionally throw the ball at an umpire, batter, bench area, etc.);
  • Throw more than one pitch in succession to a batter

The balk baseball penalty is that all runners advance one base, and the batter gets to go to first base.

Meanwhile, a pitcher will receive warnings from the umpire for violating this rule, and if he continues, he will be subject to ejection from the game.

This penalty can also be applied if a runner advances on an illegal pitch or if there is interference on a runner who has advanced beyond the base being defended by such a pitch.

How to Avoid a Balk


We have discussed what is balk in baseball meaning and the actions that constitute it. Now, it is important to learn how to avoid it. If a balk occurs, it results in a strike being called on the batter.

There are many ways to avoid balk:

  • One way is to have the pitcher step off the rubber before delivering the pitch, which gives him time to reset his balance and deliver an unhittable ball.
  • The pitcher should come to a complete stop while holding the ball in his hand.
  • The pitcher should not make a motion that imitates throwing towards home plate before releasing the ball to home plate.
  • The pitcher should not step off of the rubber with either foot, or take any steps in front of either foot, while making an attempt to throw to home plate.
  • It is important for a pitcher to remember that they cannot throw over three steps while on the mound.
  • Pitchers had to stop at least one foot from the pitching rubber in order for it to be considered a legal pitch.

Intentional Balking

Professional pitchers know exactly what does balk mean in baseball. However, there have been recent trends of intentionally using it as a technique.

A balk is one of nine types of illegal pitches that are called by umpires in order to maintain fair play and sportsmanship. It is often used as a deliberate strategy by pitchers who wish to disrupt their opponents’ batting rhythm.


In every sport, rules and penalties are established to ensure consistency. There is a lot to cover concerning “what is a balk in baseball” and its governing rules. While it can be difficult to determine what constitutes it, this article gave the guidelines to help you.

It may seem like a lot, but it can have a huge impact on the game. Overall, the goal is to promote fair play and honesty in the game of baseball.

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