Let's say you have men on first and third. The batter draws a "base on (four balls), and goes to first. The man on first is "pushed" to second, but the man on third stays where he is, because there is no "push" from second.

Now, suppose there are men on first and third. The pitcher balks. The batter goes to first, the man on first goes to second. But in this afternoon's Reds Pirates game, Homer Bailey's balk apparently sent the man on third home for a run,

Why would the rules be different for a balk than a base on balls?

  • 1
    Batter does not go to first. Aug 14, 2014 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


The reason the balk advances the runners regardless of whether they are 'forced' to advance or not is that a balk is called to protect the runners from the pitcher using deception to cause them to leave their base early, and thus be picked off. As such, when a balk is called, the game situation is treated as if the runners had been stealing a base, and they are awarded one base. This goes a bit beyond a 'return to equity' of course, as often no runners are going when a balk is called, but that is the general reason.

From the comment on the specific rule:

Comment: Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner.
If there is doubt in the umpires mind, the intent of the pitcher should govern.

Additionally, a balk never results in a ball to the batter. Instead, there are a few possible situations where a ball to the batter might be given instead of a balk, or in addition to a balk; but the term balk specifically applies only to the advancement of the runners. Note the comment to 8.05e (the Quick Pitch rule):

With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball.

And 8.02a (the Doctored Ball rule referred to by diggers), when a play occurs and the manager does not elect to accept the play's results:

(d) If the manager of the team at bat does not elect to accept the play, the umpire-inchief shall call an automatic ball and, if there are any runners on base, a balk.

In both cases, the balk and the ball are clearly separate items.

Also note that if a balk and a walk occur simultaneously - as could occur in either of the two above situations - any runners who would be 'forced' by the walk do not gain an additional base.


Here is a good article.

As Wax Eagle has stated,

A balk has a different definition from a walk.


When a batter gets 4 balls they take first base, forced runners advance safely


When a pitcher balks, a ball is issued to the batter, all runners advance 1 base.

I have to correct something:

On a balk there is no ball issued if there are runners on base and it is not a violation of doctoring the ball. If it is a violation of doctoring the ball, Wax Eagle is correct. Most of the time (not always) a balk has to do with the pitcher having trouble with the "set position" (ie not coming all the way set, coming set in an illegal way, etc.). All runners advance one base. There are a few things about a balk depending on the situation:

  1. If a pitcher balks and throws a pitch, the batter may swing and the play will be live. The runners may advance without penalty one base forward. However if the runner is tagged out after advancing safely one base, the balk is discarded and the live play is counted.
  2. If the runners advance safely throughout the completion of the play, or they are tagged out or forced out before they reach the next base, the offense may select the result of the play or the balk.
  3. The criteria for a balk with runners on and the bases empty are very different. If you want more of an explanation on this let me know.
  4. If there are no runners on, a balk will be counted as a ball to the batter. Balks without runners on are very rare.

In the situation you describe, the batter would not walk if there is a balk unless he doctored the baseball, but both runners advance and the run scores. On a walk, the man on first moves to second and the man on third may advance home at his own risk (may be tagged out by the defense for an out).

Mlb Rule 8, Pitching


A balk has a different definition from a walk.


  • When a batter gets 4 balls they take first base, forced runners advance safely


  • When a pitcher balks, a ball is issued to the batter, all runners advance 1 base.

So in a first and third situation, if the pitcher balks, the runner on first goes to second, the runner on third goes home and if it's the fourth ball, the batter takes first base. In the event of a walk, the runner on third is not forced and stays put.

  • So in a sense, a balk functions much like a "wild pitch." The batter gets a ball, and (de facto) all the base runners advance one base on a wild pitch. For a balk, it's de jure.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 19, 2014 at 19:27
  • Basically, yeah. Though on a WP it's not free, runners can still be tagged out etc (and heck, a batter can swing at it...)
    – wax eagle
    Jun 19, 2014 at 19:28
  • How do you write it on the score sheet? Jun 24, 2014 at 18:34
  • 2
    @BruceJames it's indicated as a BK for the runner who advances. Much the same way a stolen base is indicated SB.
    – wax eagle
    Jun 24, 2014 at 18:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.