Avoiding a Balk When Stepping For a Pick-Off


Joe from the United States asks:

With runners on base and when attempting a pick-off, to what extent does the pitcher have to actually step towards the base they are throwing to without it being called a balk? Can the step be just in the general direction of the base, or does it have to be a deliberate step directly toward the base?

In order to avoid having a balk called against him, the pitcher needs to step directly towards the base in which they are throwing when they are engaged with the pitcher's plate.

When a left-handed pitcher is picking off a runner at first base, the way this is usually judged is by drawing an imaginary line from halfway down the first baseline (45 feet) directly to the mound. If the pitcher steps on the first base side of this "line" then they are fine. However, if the pitcher steps on the home plate side of this "line" while throwing to first, then it will be called a balk. This, of course, is the same when there is a right-handed pitcher on the mound attempting a pick-off at third, just mirrored to reflect the third baseline.

It is important to note that this is only a concern when the pitcher is touching the pitching plate. If a left-handed pitcher quickly, legally, disengages from the pitching plate (steps straight back) and snaps a throw to first without stepping, then this is not a balk.

Answered by: Jonathan Bravo

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