Friday, January 13, 2012

Things to Know About Catcher's Balk in Baseball

The catcher is the captain of the defense. He is supposed to be the equivalent of a playing coach, because he calls pitches and helps position the fielders. A good catcher secures his team, but a nervous catcher can cause problems and mistakes. Catchers can cause balks by the pitcher and technically can be called for a balk by the umpire.
Catcher Positioning
The catcher sets up directly behind the plate in an area called the catcher's box. The catcher signals to the pitcher and lets him know which pitch he should throw and the area of the plate toward which the pitcher should throw. The catcher also calls for pitch-outs and may give a pitcher a signal to attempt a pick-off. However, if the catcher lacks confidence in the pitch call or any aspect of the pitching process, he may give a late signal. The pitch-out is sometimes the result of a late signal. But If the pitcher does not feel comfortable with the catcher's moves, he might stop his motion or hesitate for an instant -- resulting in a balk call.
Catcher's Balk
The catcher is supposed to line up right behind home plate to catch the ball. He is not supposed to leave that area to catch a ball or block a pitch until the pitcher releases the ball. If the catcher leaves that area early, the rules of baseball say the umpire may call a catcher's balk. This is rule 4.03 in the Major League Baseball rulebook, but it is almost never called.
Ignoring the Rule
Catchers regularly leave the catcher's box early on an intentional walk. Catchers give the signal to the pitcher to throw an intentionally wide pitch. Instead of standing behind the plate, the catcher takes a step to his right or left, extends his glove and catches the ball. Umpires would be within their rights to call a balk, but they do not make the call. Major league umpire Tim McClelland says it is basically an arcane rule. "It is in the rule book, we haven't updated the rule book in a long time," McLelland told "If it was called recently, it would be by an umpire taking the rule book to the letter of the law and sometimes we have to kind of overlook some things to make the game run smoother."
Penalty Assessed
If a catcher's balk were called, all runners would move up one base. A runner on first would move to second and that would leave him in scoring position. If a runner were on third base, he would score if the umpire called a catcher's balk.

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