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  1. If Verlander starts his motion by picking up his front foot, and then finishes by throwing home and hitting the batter; then shouldn’t the correct call be a live ball balk, where the offense takes the result of the play? In this situation, DeJesus would be awarded first base for being HBP, and Barton advancing to second.

    Comment by Nick — April 18, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  2. I didn’t know what the correct call was, but I was pretty sure it was the funniest thing I had seen on the mound so far this season.

    Comment by Bo — April 18, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  3. No, because after picking up his front foot he stepped off the rubber, initiating the pickoff move to first base. I’ll clarify that in the post, thanks.

    Comment by Jack Moore — April 18, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  4. It was like some kind of weird neurological experiment. Verlander had, like, six thoughts at the same time.

    Comment by Carson Cistulli — April 18, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Technically, I think the umpires got this play wrong. According to Rule 8.01(e), once Verlander stepped backwards from the rubber with his pivot foot, he becomes an infielder and the ball remains live. It is not a pitch and not a balk….. You can see he stepped huis right foot(pivot) foot backwards and thus once he did that, he becomes an infoelder.

    Comment by evil30 — April 18, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

  6. I have a question that is probably just theoretical, but I’m still curious:

    Say a man on third gets a little anxious and attempts to steal home before a pitcher has begun his windup. If the pitcher steps off the rubber and throws home to in effect pick off the runner, is it a balk? And can the batter still swing at it?

    Comment by Chris — April 18, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  7. What I think is interesting is that if he would have moved his back foot first then he becomes a fielder and can throw anywhere he wants. Thus, by throwing behind the batter it should be treated like an overthrow, be a live ball and the base-runner should run all day!

    At first, to me at least, it looked like he moved his back foot first and was yelling that the runner should go and the umps should let the play play out. But clearly his front foot moved first and they made the right call.

    Comment by Steven — April 18, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  8. The batter cannot swing because stepping back off the rubber makes him a fielder, no longer a pitcher. If the batter did swing it would be interference, but I am going to have to look up who is out, the batter or runner. I am pretty sure the batter is out and the runner goes back to 3rd but I will check.

    Comment by Steven — April 18, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  9. I was wrong, the runner is out:
    Rule 7.08 (g)
    (The runner is out if) He attempts to score on a play in which the batter interferes with the play at home base before two are out. With two out, the interference puts the batter out and no score counts

    And here is the rule on the pitcher stepping back rule (Rule 8.01(e)):
    If the pitcher removes his pivot foot from contact with the pitcher’s plate by stepping backward with that foot, he thereby becomes an infielder and if he makes a wild throw from that position, it shall be considered the same as a wild throw by any other infielder.

    Comment by Steven — April 18, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  10. Looks to me like a step-off move, making that a live ball. But once the ball hits the batter I have no idea what the ruling would be.

    Comment by TheGrandslamwich — April 18, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  11. But if the batter is in the box, how can the runner be called out? That just makes this situation that much more hilarious.

    Comment by TheGrandslamwich — April 18, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  12. My first inclination is to agree with you, but I must admit that I have never thoroughly read through the MLB official rule book. It would be nice to see which rule the umpires quoted for this to become a balk.
    vr, Xei

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 18, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  13. This was my first reaction as I saw the play. I thought it was: no pitch, no balk, live ball. Still not sure they got it right, but let’s be honest… if it wasn’t technically a balk, it may as well have been. Hilarious.

    Comment by Telo — April 18, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  14. I’m leaning back towards agreeing with you because the fact that he moves his front leg does not imply he has to pitch. This is because he is getting in the set position. The front leg always moves when the pitcher sets. However, I wonder if in “setting” the pitcher cannot step back. But I would think you can because often a pitcher will try a pick-off to first move as he is setting to catch the runner off-guard. This is usually of the ‘step directly towards first’ variety, but you would assume the step back move is legal as well. Thus, the other movement would be negated by him stepping back and he would become a fielder.

    Now I want to check what to do about hitting the batter. He is not technically in the field of play (inside the baselines). Thus I would guess it would be treated as if an on-deck hitter accidentally was hit by an over-throw by the fielder. Accidental and no interference, a live ball.

    Comment by Steven — April 18, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  15. But before Verlander stepped off the rubber he made a motion toward home plate. As soon as he stepped off the rubber with his back foot, he committed a balk. The play is dead at that point, and the penality is that all baserunners advance one base without liability (see Rule 8.05). However, in this situation, because Verlander decided to throw the ball home and the pitch hit the batter, the batter should have been awarded first base. This exact scenario is discussed in Rule 8.05. So the umpires got it wrong even though the rule book gives an example of the exact scenario that occurred. This is not unlike the botching of the “two visits” rule that gave a windfall to Bruce Boche and the Giants over the Dodgers last year down the stretch. On that play and in this one, everyone got it wrong.

    Rule 8.01(e) isn’t triggered because the balk rule trumps Rule 8.01(e). Rule 8.01(e) only applies in situations where the pitcher has lawfully stepped off the rubber.

    Comment by Greg H — April 18, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  16. Can anybody quote what rule was used for calling this a balk?

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 18, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

  17. I don’t think DeJesus actually got hit by the ball. The slow mo replay makes it look like he just managed to dance out of the way.

    Comment by Anon21 — April 18, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  18. Rule 8.05(a) and 8.05(g), although the scenario in subsection a happened first. By stepping off the rubber after he had made a motion naturally associated with his pitch (lifting his front leg), Verlander committed a balk. You can’t step off the rubber in midpitch with a runner on base.

    Comment by Greg H — April 18, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  19. IMO, Verlander is coming to the set position, thus moving his front leg back. In a still frame you can not tell which way the leg is going. He then attempts to make a pick off move by taking his back foot off the rubber, but by trying to do two things at once (get set and pick off) he has a special moment. So, by the rules quoted here, I think it is a live ball because you can attempt a pick off before coming set.

    Comment by RobL — April 18, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  20. Thanks.
    Below: Not arguing just trying to hash this out and make sense of the logic calling this a balk.

    1. Lifting his front leg is a motion naturally associated with his pitch?
    >> When I watch this animated gif, it looks to me that his front foot steps towards first base as his back foot comes off the rubber. He never does come to the set position. There doesn’t appear to be any motion with his front leg (to me) that seems associated with his natural pitching motion. The only thing that resembles pitching to me is the fact that he threw the ball towards home plate. Eveything else looked like a pickoff move to first base. And once you step off the rubber you are in a sense a fielder and no longer a pitcher and the runner(s) can advance at their own risk.

    I guess two different sets of eyes can interpret it differently. There would have to be more to the rule than what you stated above for me to rule this a balk.

    Interesting play, but I won’t lose any sleep over it either way! :)

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 18, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

  21. Gotta love the arcane rules of baseball, both on the field and on the internet.

    Comment by Black Market — April 18, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  22. Best part of that .gif: catcher looking at Verlander in disbelief after the ball gets by him.

    Comment by Bob — April 18, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  23. If you play the video on the MLB website, you can hear a sound like he was hit around the same time he jumps over the ball.

    Comment by Bryz — April 18, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  24. If you watch Verlander’s front foot, it lifts up before his back foot comes off the rubber. The balk should be called simply because of that movement.

    Comment by Bryz — April 18, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  25. I think the issue with his move is the speed of it, as Jack discusses in the article. If you step off first, you become a fielder, and may make a throw (or not make a throw, which is key) to any base. But, Verlander, like many pitchers, tried the quick, jump move pick-off to first…in essence, the move itself is a balk (but it is never called), because the back foot that is supposed to step off of the rubber never actually steps off the rubber. Instead, his foot pivots to the right side of the mound typically. Anyway, when you make that quick move, I believe that you must throw to first base, which is the problem. Verlander tripped himself up, and tried to get away with saying he stepped off first and was therefore a fielder.

    Comment by Mike — April 18, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

  26. The impressive thing is Verlander’s reaction time here. If as we suspect he recognized that he had accidentally lifted his front leg while attempting a pickoff, his movement to correct it was completely fluid. No hitch in the delivery no “oh shit” pause, it was all one big motion. That is part of the reason that the play looks odd because there is nothing in Verlander’s actions that indicate that he made a mistake and was trying to cover it. He looked like a pitcher trying a new shortstop delivery “Jump, pivot, throw”

    Comment by Jimmajamma — April 18, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

  27. You are allowed to lift your front foot up when come into the stretch position. You can lift it or slide it, whatever you want. As long as you are coming into the stretch position, which he hadn’t yet in the video.

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 18, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  28. Or … Verlander just invented a way to drill a guy without giving him first base.

    Comment by ToeKneeArmAss — April 18, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

  29. I disagree that he made a motion toward home before he was off the rubber. To me it looked like he was coming to the set (i.e. in the stretch), then stepped off.

    What happened next is hard to describe, but I think the most sensical thing is to call it a balk based on 8.05(g) (or 8.05(e)). This would be justified by saying that he attempted to deliver to the batter while not on the rubber.

    I think that the author is assuming Verlander had some sort of deceptive motive. But from his sheepish expression immediately afterward, my impression was he probably just couldn’t decide what to do before it was too late.

    Comment by David — April 18, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  30. That occurred to me too. What if Verlander had hit a totally surprised De Jesus and broken his elbow or something? In that case, it’s not even a HBP. I guess if it was ruled he hit him intentionally outside the rules of baseball, it could be considered assault and battery like that minor league pitcher in Ohio who beaned the fan.

    Comment by baycommuter — April 19, 2011 @ 12:27 am

  31. Wait till you see Valverde in a pickoff/hotdog grab mixup.

    Comment by Jerome S. — April 19, 2011 @ 1:11 am

  32. I don’t know how many right-handed pitchers can verify, but strange things have happened on pick-off plays… lot’s of base runners hit.

    Never that, though.

    Comment by Deacon Drake — April 19, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  33. Okay, but then …

    [1] Picking up his front foot would start his motion to home.
    [2] Breaking contact with the rubber would be a balk.

    That’s what a balk is … starting your motion to home and then altering/stopping it.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 19, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  34. The problem is …

    [1] His left foot started his pitching motion, but (his hands were not together yet)
    [2] He did not step toward any base (not a requirement but adds to the confusion).
    [3] He did not throw to a base where a runner was occupied. (That’s a problem)
    [4] He broke contact with the rubber before completion of the delivery. (That’s a problem)

    The balk rule is not that confusing in this sense. What is confusing is just how many things Verlander did wrong, what specific rules were broken … and in what order, and then what actions take precedent over the others.

    When umpires meet it’s usually not to discuss whether a violation occurred. It’s usually to discuss where the runners should go/stop and things of that nature.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 19, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  35. The catcher’s reactions/stare followed by hands on hips is priceless.

    Be certain tofday in practice every pitcher is working on their “Verlander Move”. I’d be prepared to see 360′s, behind the back throws, etc …. things of this nature cannot just be let go.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 19, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  36. Does his foot come off the rubber before he lifts his front foot and steps towards first base? Or does it happen at the same time? I surely can’t tell. There is early movement in his front foot, but it appears to be the pitcher coming into the set position. The motion coming into the set position is not “starting your motion to home”.

    It is hard to tell without slow motion, but to me he did the following three things in order.

    1. Lifted front foot to come into the set position
    Note: He did not finish this move before he went to the next item.

    2t. Lifted back foot off of rubber, making him a fielder.
    Note: happened same time as…

    2t.. Stepped towards first base with his front foot.

    4. Threw the ball home with foot still off the rubber.

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 19, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  37. From watching the video, I don’t agree with any of the four items you listed.

    (1) Front foot started his motion into the set position (not a balk)
    (2) He stepped towards first base (doesn’t matter because he was off the rubber)
    (3) He was off the rubber. I will agree with you if there is a rule stating you cannot throw to an unoccupied base with your foot off of the rubber.
    (4) He was never in his delivery.

    Different eyes, different interpretation. :)

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 19, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  38. The argument is whether you think it was a step off or a jump turn. I lean toward saying that it was a jump turn and therefore they got the call right. If you say he stepped off the rubber with his right foot, then you could argue that it should have been a live ball.

    Comment by timmy013 — April 19, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  39. Good points. Is there something in the rule book about a “jump turn” though? Is it even defined?

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 19, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  40. When you step off the rubber to break contact, so you can “separate your hands”, does the step off have to be behind the rubber?

    Whenever you go to the side it is more of a turn. Even then, a throw does not have to be made does it?

    His feet went one way, the throw went another.

    If it were not a balk, then the “pitch” would be considered an errant throw to 1B and the runner could advance at will. Since it hit another player on the other team (in foul territory), I’m not sure what would happen next.

    The more I watch this the more I wonder WTF Verlander was doing. None of it makes sense. His feet went “to first”, but he didn’t even look that way. I’ve seen pitchers change their mind or try to throw home after no one was covering the bag before … or a pitcher lob one really high to the base as they tried to pick off the trail runner but the fielder was not holding the guy on … but what Verlander did is just nuts.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 19, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  41. It looks as if he’s trying to “quick pitch”, which I don;t think is legal anymore.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 19, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  42. Isn’t this a simple case of a pitcher not coming to a full stop 8.01(b) resulting in an automatic balk?

    Or is this one of those cases where the simplest answer is not correct. So confused!

    Comment by Eric — April 19, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  43. It’s only a balk to throw to an unoccupied base if you are still in contact with the rubber. He had broken contact but balked before that.

    Long story short, the balk rule was created to keep the pitcher from (illegally) deceiving the batter. As soon as he moved his front foot, he had to complete the motion of coming Set before stepping off and throwing.

    The ball should have been live. I didn’t see the plate ump call Time. Barton and the first base coach may have just been waiting for the umps to award the bases in a confusing situation.

    Comment by Dingo — April 19, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  44. Exactly, Eric. Once he starts coming Set, he needs to complete the action.

    Comment by Dingo — April 19, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  45. I don’t understand this sentence in the article at all:”Once a right-handed pitcher picks up his front foot with only a runner on first base, he must throw a pitch to home plate.” HUH? What if you want to make the pickoff throw to first base; you pick up your front foot off the ground to step toward the base, so this makes no sense to me. So I don’t see how the rest of the analysis can hold water, if that part alone is wrong…

    Comment by Baseball Boy — April 19, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

  46. I thought the same thing! He simply didn’t come to the “set” position, so it’s a balk. End of discussion. No??

    Comment by Baseball Boy — April 19, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  47. I don’t believe that is the case if you step off the rubber. Only if you make a pitch. He was off the rubber when he threw home and some are stating that that makes him a fielder not a pitcher at that point. People are seeing different things on the video.

    Comment by xeifrank — April 19, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  48. You are right there are a few errors in the authors write up. It may have been a balk but not based on the logic the author laid out.

    Comment by xeifrank — April 19, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  49. A balk AND a live ball is what you are saying?

    Comment by Xeifrank — April 20, 2011 @ 1:59 am

  50. Because if the batter were called out and the run counted then you could steal runs by telling the batter to intentionally interfere with the play.

    Comment by dan — April 20, 2011 @ 5:28 am

  51. Pretty sure DeJesus said something about Verlander’s mother.

    Comment by Trotter76 — April 20, 2011 @ 11:49 am

  52. I agree with Timmy. If Verlander simply completes the throw to first, I believe it’s a perfectly legal pick-off move to first base (pending the umpire’s judgement that Verlander’s step toward first was adequate). Since he didn’t complete the throw to first, it’s a balk, dead ball. Nothing else matters.

    Comment by Wickeder — April 20, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  53. He needs to come to a full stop ONLY before he delivers a pitch to the plate. BEFORE he comes set he may attempt a pick-off in the manner he did, but once begun, he needs to complete the throw to first. He didn’t, so it’s a balk, and a dead ball. Just because his foot came off the rubber, I don’t believe what he did would ever be considered “stepping off”. “Stepping off” has to be clearly the first move that enables any other move.

    Comment by Wickeder — April 21, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  54. I disagree. He did not deliberately step off the rubber first, and he was not mid-pitch becuase he had not come set yet. He committed a balk because he made a pick-off move without throwing to first, which is the only thing that would be allowed once he abandoned his “coming set” motion.

    Comment by Wickeder — April 21, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

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