[Baseball] Balks and Funky Pitching Motions

I’m sitting here watching the Giants beat the Dodgers. Nomo pitched a great game, but as of the top of the ninth, the Giants young Ainsworth is shutting them out.

But anyway, watching these two teams in particular reminds me of a question I’ve always wondered about; Why aren’t Robb Nen’s or Hideo Nomo’s pitching windups considered balks? Now as I understand it, a balk is an interuption of the pitching motion before the ball is released. There are other sorts of balks, like illegal pickoffs and such, but I’m concentrating just on the windup here.

As I understand it, the pitcher has to come to a set, complete stop, then begin a smooth uninterrupted windup ending with the ball flying towards the plate. Nomo completely stops during his windup and Nen has a little stutter-step. This seems to clearly go against the balk rule, but it’s never ever called on them (at least not for that reason).

Is my understanding of the balk just flat out wrong or is it a case of “Nomo and Nen get a free pass just because they’re quirky”?

I’ve gone over Rule 8 with a fine-tooth comb and I can’t find anything that would cause Nen’s or Nomo’s windups to be illegal. As long as they have come to the set position before the windup, the pitch is legal, according to my interpretation.

That said, I think Nen’s little leg move is deceptive and probably gives him an unfair advantage, but it’s not a balk, IMO.

I don’t see why Nomo or Nen should get charged with balks. You should see how they pitch with runners on base. It’s a little different.

I don’t think any runner is being deceived. Nen and Nomo are two of the easiest pitchers to steal a base on.

Bob, I don’t know that Nen really has to worry about people stealing on him. He’s usually pretty good at keeping people off base.

No, this Cardinals fan isn’t bitter about the NLCS, why? :smiley:

On a related note, Bob, do you think the “fake to third, throw to first” pickoff attempt that’s become popular is a balk? I agree with Harold Reynolds that it’s a balk, but they don’t call it.

Nomo had an even wackier wind-up when he was in Japan. If I remember correctly, that part where her turns away from the plate laster for much longer. When he came over to the states, the umpires and league checked it out and told him it would be called as a balk unless he toned it down.

All 6 runners who tried to steal off of Nen last year were successful.

In his career, base stealers have stolen 73 out of 80 times.

Nomo has given up 249 stolen bases and has had 79 runners caught stealing.

Japanese pitchers have a lot of weird windups.

Luis Tiant had an extremely strange delivery and it looked like he never paused, yet he never seemed to be called for balks.

Isn’t there also an exemption in the rule that says players must be allowed to use their “natural” delivery?

BTW, forget Luis Tiant, who was that guy on the Pirates back in the day who had a pitch called “eephus” or something like that?

The crux of a balk is “deception” on the part of the pitcher. I don’t know if that word is in the rules of the game - yet that’s how Tim McCarver has said it. Many, many times.

Any base-stealer would know ‘natural motion’ so deception is not a problem.

That was Rip Sewell, Elwood. From this page:

Of course, the great part of the Eephus is that it’s hard to hit it for power.

Doesn’t El Duque throw it occasionally?

Ted Williams (Sewell) and Tony Perez (Bill Lee) notwithstanding.

I think that Gorman Thomas hit a home run off of Dave La Roche’s “La Lob” one AB after striking out on it. Thomas then stuck out at his tongue (playfully) at La Roche as he circled the bases.