Baseball Rule Eight

The following baseball rule eight concerns the pitcher and discusses the Two Pitcher Positions, Balks and illegal pitches. An amateur baseball umpire must know this rule.

8.01  An umpire must know the two legal deliveries of The Pitcher

    1.  The Windup Position

    2.  The Set Position

It is important that the pitcher take his signal from the catcher with his pivot foot touching the pitcher plate (rubber).

Note:  The pivot foot is the same as his throwing arm (right or left). Please know also: to disengage after the sign the pitcher must drop his hands to his side before taking another sign (re-taking sign) from the catcher – this keeps the pitcher from delivering a quick pitch.

The York Colonial Tournament Story: by Denny Rotz

Umpires miss the dropping of the hands to the sides because it happens so quickly sometimes. The pitcher must drop his hands when he steps back and disengages from the rubber.

In a tournament game in The York Colonial Tournament (York County, PA) there was a pitcher on a team from Ohio. Pitching from the set position with a runner on second base, he stepped back off the rubber with his pivot foot and looked back at the runner. He then re-engaged the rubber and pitched to the batter.

I was part of a three-man crew that included a former minor league umpire with thirteen years experience. At the end of the inning the pro umpire called us together and asked “What just happened?” I spoke and said the pitcher balked and he agreed. He also said because it was done so fluidly we did not call it. No one complained. Thank the lord, most people do not know the rules.

Surprise is an umpire’s worst enemy! We were surprised. We learned from our mistake and agreed that this would not happen again. An umpire must learn from his mistakes “caught or uncaught”.  Denny Rotz


  (a) He can step one step forward or backward with his non-pivot foot. The pitcher is considered in the windup position when the ball is in both hands in front of his body with the pivot foot on the runner and the other foot free.

There are only three things a pitcher can do in the windup position according to baseball rule eight:

1.  Pitch to the batter

2.  Step and throw to a base to pick off a runner

3.  Disengage the rubber

  (b) If the pitcher is in the set position and there is no one on base, the pitcher does not need to come to a complete stop. If runner(s) are on base he must come to a stop or it is a BALK. The set position is usually used with runners on base but not necessarily. This motion is also called the “stretch”. This is the key word here; when in the stretch position with men on base.

  (c) The pitcher is allowed to throw to any base before coming to a set position. He must step directly to a base if he throws to that base. A quick or snap throw followed by a step is a BALK. 


1.  DISTANCE –  He must gain ground. This means he must step towards a base.

2.  DIRECTION –  He must be directing his throw to the base he is throwing to.

  (d) Any illegal pitch with no runner on base is a ball to the batter. With runner(s) on base it is a BALK!

Note:  With no runners on base the pitcher drops the ball. If it passes the foul line, it is a ball. If no runner is on base, it is no pitch. If runner(s) are on base it is a BALK! All runners are awarded one base.

  (e) If the pitcher takes his pivot foot off the rubber, he becomes an infielder and any plays he makes are governed by the rules of infielders.

Remember the award of bases – ONE FROM THE MOUND TWO FROM THE FIELD!!!!!!

An errant throw by the pitcher stepping off the rubber with his pivot foot would be a two-base award.

Helpful Hint:  If the pitcher is on the rubber and he makes an errant throw. If you make a fist with your hand, you communicate to yourself and partner that he was on the rubber. An open hand communicates he stepped off the rubber. You can verbalize it also.

  (f) Whatever hand a pitcher uses to throw to a batter, he must use that hand throughout the entire at bat.

Exception:  If the pitcher becomes injured or ill or a pinch hitter is used for the batter.

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