Sunday, January 27, 2013

MLB bans third-to-first pickoff

By Sean Gagnier

The owners have spoken, and the third-to-first pickoff move is history. While the move very rarely worked, it was a favorite of some pitchers who wanted to keep runners honest. With runners on first and third, the pitcher would fake a pickoff throw to third prior to throwing to first, in an attempt to catch the runner leaning toward second.

The rules commission has decided that this move will now be considered a balk. It was deemed a balk because of its incredibly low success rate. It was seen as being nothing more than a waste of time and the definition of a balk.

Many pitchers would use the move to buy time for a reliever in the bullpen or simply to annoy runners on base. The move so rarely worked, you could likely count the successful times on one hand, that it was used more to see if a runner could be caught off guard or a batter tip his hand.

But looking at the move in detail shows that it fits the definition of a balk almost to a T. The pitcher motions forward prior to spinning to third and then pivoting back to first. If that isn't a balk then someone needs to redefine the term.

The banning of this move will likely have very little effect on the game, as so few pitchers actually attempted it. But it could serve to speed the game up a bit and could give a slight edge to baserunners who no longer have to worry about a trick-move catching them off the bag.

With one common sense rule change made, maybe the MLB can step into the 21st century and get some instant replay like the rest of the world.

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