A pitcher cannot throw to an unoccupied base if he is still standing on the rubber. Throwing to an unoccupied base is similar to a pickoff move. The pitcher can only begin his move or throw once he has stepped off the rubber. If he moves while still on the rubber, this will be called a balk, and all runners will advance to the next base. The pitcher can only throw to an unoccupied base if the runner makes an attempt to advance.
- A pitcher cannot throw to an unoccupied base if he is still standing on the rubber.
- The pitcher can only begin his move or throw once he has stepped off the rubber.
- If a runner tries to steal early but returns to his original base, the pitcher can throw to the unoccupied base he was heading for.
- A team never wants to just give them away by throwing balls that end up being costly for his team.
The rules of throwing to an unoccupied base
The pitcher will have a foot on the rubber most of his time on the mound. For him to make any throw besides a pitch to home, he must step off before doing anything else. He cannot turn his head, flinch his hand, or even buckle his knee. Any movement of the body while on the rubber will result in a balk being called by the umpire.
The only reason a pitcher would make a throw to an unoccupied base is if there was a threat of a runner advancing to this base. For example, a runner on first base pretended to steal but turned around and went back to first. The pitcher can throw to second to protect against any further opportunity. However, he must step off the rubber before he makes this throw.
A pitcher can also do this if he is anticipating a trick play or a delayed steal by the baserunner. He must have a reason to throw to the base for it to be legal.
The benefits and risks of throwing to an unoccupied base
A pitcher can always throw to an unoccupied base to protect himself from any runner advancing. If a runner tries to steal early but returns to his original base, the pitcher can throw to the unoccupied base he was heading for.
He can also do this to deceive a runner who is ahead of the other one. For example, if there are runners on first and third, he can throw to second in hopes of catching the runner on third off-guard. You never want to allow a runner to easily advance a base. Runs can be hard to come by in baseball. A team never wants to just give them away.
A pitcher can protect himself by throwing to an unoccupied base in case of an attempt at advancing. One risk a pitcher faces by doing this is potentially balking. A pitcher could forget to step off if a runner makes a move to advance, which ends up being costly for his team.
Another outcome is a bad throw to the unoccupied base. The ball may go all the way into the outfield, which could lead to runs being scored for the other team. It is dependent on how many runners are on base. Either way, the result can be detrimental to the defense.
If a pitcher chooses to make a throw to a base, he must be sure to step off and make an accurate throw. Pitchers usually make mistakes in these types of situations when they rush things—they either rush the step-off or rush the throw. Both of these things will result in the play’s failure. Indeed, throwing to an unoccupied base has its benefits as well as its risks.
Examples of pitchers throwing to an unoccupied base
Many pitchers are famous for catching runners off-guard. Andy Petite had a great pickoff move, as well as being able to throw to unoccupied bases. He did so in the right situation and never rushed things. His ability to recognize the situation allowed him to control the game and the base path. If he saw a runner break toward first and hesitate, he would throw to the unoccupied base ahead of him. It was a smart choice every time.
Other pitchers have mastered this technique as well. They are all able to slow down the game and control every part of it. Once you control the game as a pitcher, you have done your job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a pitcher fake a throw to an unoccupied base?
Yes, if he steps off the rubber, he can fake a throw to an unoccupied base. However, he must have a valid reason to do so.
Can you pickoff to an empty base?
No, you cannot legally pickoff to an empty base. It will be ruled a balk.
Can a pitcher throw to a base without stepping off the rubber?
No, the pitcher cannot move his body at all until he steps off the rubber or pitches the ball. Any movement besides a pitch while on the rubber will be called a balk.
Can a pitcher balk with the bases empty?
Yes, if he does, the batter will be given a ball. For example, a balk on a 0-0 count would be a 1-0 count.
Does a pitcher have to come set with nobody on base?
No, if there is no runner on base, the pitcher is not bound by the rules to come up every time.
Pitchers must control the base path during a baseball game. If they don’t do so, they risk allowing the offense to run all over them.
Doing things such as throwing to unoccupied bases keeps the base runners on their toes. It is crucial for a pitcher to keep this in the back of their mind. If a runner breaks toward a base, go ahead and throw to the unoccupied base. You are making the right choice as long as the throw is accurate. Executing techniques like these is what separates good pitchers from great pitchers.
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