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1st & 3rd Balk?

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by UmpCoach » Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:05 am

Scenario: Runner on 1st and 3rd with a Right handed Pitcher in the set position. As the Pitcher is ready to come to the plate, runner on 1st takes off... the pitcher then does the spin mode where he kicks his leg and left knee points toward 2nd and stops his delivery to try to get the runner going to 2nd...wouldn't this be a Balk? I heard different answers to this but not with any clarity.
I always believed you cannot throw to an unoccupied base but someone said they heard as long as the pitcher is making a play he can do this...I thought he would have to step off the pitchers plate in order to make a play on this runner and not be in motion in his delivery to the plate then all of a sudden do the typical "spin move" as if there was someone on 2nd Base leading off. Any help???
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by VTHokieUmp » Sat Mar 24, 2018 5:46 pm

A pitcher cannot throw to an unoccupied base except to make a play. Attempting to retire R1 stealing second base would be a play and the move to second, if otherwise legal, would not be a balk.

OBR Rule 6.02 Pitcher Illegal Action
(a) Balks (4) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;

There are a couple of differences depending on the rule set. OBR requires it to be an actual steal attempt as opposed to a bluff. If the runner only fakes an attempt to steal second base and F1 throws to second, that could be ruled a balk. But if R1 makes a legitimate steal attempt, F1 can legally throw to second base ahead of the runner in an attempt to put him out. In high school, F1 can throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to retire a stealing runner or to drive him back to his base. High school gives the pitcher a little more leeway.

Baseball rules are generally based on common sense and fair play. Prohibiting F1 from throwing to an "unoccupied" base to attempt to retire an advancing runner would not be in keeping with that doctrine.
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