New balk rule might make baseball more exciting!

Al Bello

With the apparent demise of the ol' fake-to-third, throw-(or-fake)-to-first pickoff move, you might think the only change will be a little less wasted time, and slightly fewer catcalls from the stands when a visiting pitcher does it.

Ah, but there might be more. Here's Jon Paul Morosi:

Nuisance eliminated. End of story. Right?

Wrong.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said over the weekend that eliminating that move from a pitcher’s repertoire could change the way baseball is played. "Watch the stolen bases jump this year," Showalter predicted.

He has a point.

--snip--

The upshot: Runners at first base will enjoy a strategic advantage they didn’t have in years past, turning average runners into legitimate threats to cause mayhem — if not stealing second, then acting as a decoy to score the runner from third. MLB games could see some of the first-and-third hijinks normally associated with the teenage PONY or Senior leagues.

--snip--

So, what might Showalter’s Orioles do in an attempt to take advantage?

"It’s limitless," Showalter said.

I don't really understand why stolen bases will jump much, except the runners on first base can presumably get a slightly better jump when alighting for second base. I feel like I'm missing something. But if Showalter's right, isn't this a good thing? Won't all this mayhem and hijinks make the games a little more interesting?

Granted, my guess is that Showalter (with an assist from Morosi) is overstating the impact of this change. Most baseball people are reflexively conservative. Showalter can't be the first baseball guy who's considered the consequences of outlawing the fake-to-third-throw-to-first gambit, and if the other guys thought the change would materially, adversely affect play, they probably wouldn't have supported it.

Supposedly, the intended consequence of the rule change is less "wasted" time; fewer moments when nothing of consequence is actually happening. But if another consequence, where intended or unintended, is that more guys are running and more guys are making emergency throws around the diamond? The possibilities might not be limitless, but it sounds pretty exciting.

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