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I believe they do a jab step move or jump turn simply because it is a quicker and more effective pick off move. If they thought they could get a runner out (since runners ARE moving on the lifting of the left foot) with a throw to first upon the knee lift, they would do it. The issue, in our leagues at least, is that they are always called for a balk. Being called for a balk is one of the reasons that they don't do it regularly. One of our local umpires refers to this move as the "Roundhouse Move"...as the RHP looks like he's wheeling over to first base. He always balks it.
Now, very slowly and several times, watch the pitching mechanics of a RHP versus a LHP. When a LHP initiates his leg lift, his move to 1B or to home plate looks identical initially. His knee lifts and faces 1B. Next, look at a RHP as he initiates his leg lift. His knee lifts towards 3B initially (not 1B as with a lefty). For the RHP that lifts his knee quite high, it is obvious that he isn't moving directly towards 1B...not so obvious with the LHP. The LHP has a natural advantage for moves to 1B, while the RHP has a natural advantage for moves to 3B.
Of course, the baseball rules don't distingish between the LHP and RHP. But, given that one throws lefty and the other righty makes a difference on how they execute pitches versus pick off moves to various bases--and how balk rules (e.g., 8.05a) are applied.
FWIW, I agree with you, Glenn.
Frankly, in my 17+ years of umpiring, I've never seen a RHP try to execute a pick-off of R1 after he lifts his free foot up as he goes to his balance, even in the pros where pitchers are always trying to beat the system. There's probably a good reason for that. The move does not constitute a DIRECT step towards first, as required by 8.05(c).
Until I see an actual rule change or an authoritative interpretation that says the step doesn't have to be direct, I'm saying this is a balk. Rich mentions, "What you're missing is that virtually nobody does a direct step from the rubber anymore." I'm not sure what he means by that, because every move I've seen that doesn't get balked is done using a direct step (using the 45-degree criterion that JEA mentions).
They haven't done a "plain old just step" in decades. They do the jump turn or jab step because it's quicker. That's why you haven't seet the plain old just step move where the pivot foot stays anchored as the step is executed..
So why is a LHP leg lift OK but a RHP leg lift isn't? What's different?
The jump turn and jab step are still direct steps to first base by a RHP because the free foot moves directly towards first base in the process.
It's not the leg lift that's an issue, Rich. It's what happens with that leg after it is lifted. When a RHP does a "plain old just step" to first base, his free foot is lifted slightly while his left hip is immediately turning to make the step to first. No problems there. But when he lifts his leg straight up, keeping his hip closed, and then he turns to make a step and throw to first base, he inevitably makes an initial motion towards home. Any motion towards home without actually delivering the pitch is a balk. The same would be the case for a LHP making a similar move to throw (or feint) to third.
J/R says it's a balk when, after a pitcher comes set, "he shows movement toward home plate. Such movement includes leaning his body toward home plate, and beginning and rotating his free leg toward home plate." The free leg goes toward home when he makes the move in question, IMHO.
I was (am am still) trying to say that a plain old step with NO movement of the pivot foot is legal, though it hasn't been done for years. Thus people think it's illegal.
WAY too many people say just the act of a RHP picking up his foot is in and of itself a balk if they don't go home. That's why gnagels schools are teacing bad techniques. Not true.
I know you are a long time J/R devotee, but he's at the bottom of my list. (String theory, bounced pitch foul tip anyone?)
So if I as a RHP pick up my free foot, make no motion to HP, and step heel first toward 1B is that a balk? (Don't forget thwat PBUC said a heel first step is legal.)
I think you have described the RHP's move better than I did. It sounds like we are in total agreement on this.
The thing is that several pitchers do try to use this move at the younger levels. I manage a 14U travel team and pitchers have tried it against us in tournaments. Fortunately, it has always been balked. Runners are instructed to move once the RHP lifts that left foot. Once that happens, he's committed to the pitch...unless of course there is a runner on 3B.
Sometimes the pitcher will lift that left knee into a balanced position, then see that the runner on first is stealing. He will then try throw over to 1B to catch the runner...but it looks more like a spin or twirl when a RHP tries to make this move from his balanced position. It's balked!
One of the people teaching these "bad techniques" at clinics is Davey Lopes. I stood next to him at Spring Training a couple of years ago while he was instructing the minor leaguers. Then again, we might be talking about the degree of a leg lift...please see my next posting just below this one.
To your point, there is probably a matter of degree here. I'm thinking that if a pitcher lifts his foot high enough to have a bend in his knee...he's committed to pitch (unless there is a runner on another base). I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it's possible for a pitcher to just step and throw to first base...without moving his right foot at all. It's not easy, however, to do this without breaking the knee.
What I'm envisioning is when the pitcher lifts his left foot--generally reasonably high. At this point, a RHP's knee is naturally moving in the direction of 3B...and is the beginning of a natural delivery of a pitch. He cannot then rotate and throw to 1B. He's basically interrupted his motion to deliver a pitch.
Again, just my opinion. It's alarming to learn that this might not be accurate since it's been taught that way for at least two decades in the leagues in which I've coached!
OK, to help clear up the disagreement. Rich is correct, you can throw to first without moving your right foot in any type of jump or jab move or disengagement. The difference Manny and Rich have is the height of the left leg. Both are correct in their beliefs. There is no limit on the height except that the higher you lift the harder it is to move to first legally. If you come all the way up and straight pivot. The way to combat this is to lean back as you come around and then land in the direction of first. The less you raise, the easier it is to do.
Michael S. Taylor