Bill James: 'I'd get rid of the balk rule'
Boston Red Sox senior advisor of baseball operations Bill James, also one of the most respected stats gurus of his time, wants to see the balk rule lifted from baseball.
On Friday, as part of a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, James spoke about getting rid of the rule, which he believes slows down play.
"I’d get rid of the balk rule," James told reporters. "You may think it’s a silly answer, but it’s not. The balk rule interferes with the way that baseball should be played at such a profound level when you think about it. The game constantly stops. Why does it stop? It all goes back to the balk rule.
"Pitchers should be able to stand on the mound and do whatever the hell they want to do. You wouldn’t have to take a set position. The batter would have to be ready. What the balk rule does is (like), if you had a rule in basketball that you couldn’t have a fast break."
The rules surrounding a balk state "a pitcher is restricted to a certain set of motions and one of two basic pitching positions before and during a pitch; if these regulations are violated with one or more runners on base, an umpire may call a balk."
James - considered a forward thinking, "out of the box" type - foresees dropping the rule as a way of moving towards what other sports allow as fakes.
"What I envision is kind of live-ball baseball," James explained. "The ball is always live because you don’t have to stop the game to restart it for the next pitch, because the pitcher can do what he wants to on the mound. If he wants to have a fake double-move, all right. There’s no reason we can’t. We don’t ban fakes anywhere else in the sports world. You can’t say, ‘I’m sorry, you faked that shot, you can’t do that.’”
Although the history of the balk isn't completely clear, the first mention of one in baseball rules was found in Alexander Cartwright’s 1845 Knickerbocker Rules, according to Baseball Almanac.