Is That a Balk?

Check out the video of Japanese hurler Ryota Igarashi posted by Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog:

OK, watch it again.

One more time, please.

Is it me, or is “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd running through Igarashi’s head when he comes to the set from the stretch position?

All that footwork ain’t gonna fly come game time. He’s balking, and umpires will call it. I vaguely remember other Japanese imports having similar hitches and hesitations in their motion, which caused problems in their MLB rookie seasons. Apparently the rules are a little different in NPB.

I don’t bring this up to be negative, but in the hopes that someone (Dan Warthen) takes note and adjusts his routine accordingly now rather than later. Left uncorrected all spring, it could turn out to be a major issue.

By the way, big kudos to Matt Cerrone for his massive, multi-channel, multimedia coverage of spring training. He’s like James Brown — the hardest-working man in the Mets blogosphere.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude February 25, 2010 at 11:59 am
    Got catch, Joseph. Though, I need to be educated a bit. Aren’t pitchers allowed to be “fidgety” before they come to the set position? If so, then Igarashi can do an Irish Jig on the rubber, as long as he does it prior to coming set. If not, then yes, this DEFINITELY needs to be spotted an corrected. Maybe Igarashi was just trying to get his feet comfortably digged into the dirt by the rubber on a freshly manicured ST mound, and will not be as fidgety under normal game conditions during the regular season. Still, it’s a bad habit to be falling into, and should be ceased ASAP.

    I also wonder, if the fidgety feet are allowed by MLB umps, if this could be a way Igarashi tips his pitches, re-planting his feet every time he alters grip on the ball in his glove. If hitters learn the sequence of grips he goes through when he’s peering in for the sign from the catcher, they could very easily discover what pitch Igarashi will be throwing just by counting his foot taps.

    With Escobar already hurting, this is a helluva time to have a work-in-progress as our de facto setup man. Just another reason to look upon the 2010 season with extreme pessimism.

  2. tarheelcoach February 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm
    I don’t see this as a balk. ‘Balking Bob’ may call it, but I doubt anyone else would see this an attempt to deceive the runner – which is what a balk is.
    That said, he’s better off getting rid of it just so there is no question about it. We don’t want it called in the 8th inning of a tie game against the Phils!
  3. wohjr February 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm
    how is it different than rivera’s toe taps?
  4. Walnutz15 February 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm
    Keeping an eye on his back foot as he comes to his set – I’d say it’s balk-worthy, also.
  5. joejanish February 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm
    Good comments from everyone.

    re: Mo Rivera’s toe-tap – first of all, he’s Mo Rivera and can do whatever he wants. Secondly, the toe-tap happens BEFORE he comes to the set position (I think).

    What I see as a problem is that Igarashi moves his feet AFTER his hands are set at his waist. I think that at least a few umpires (beyond Balking Bob, ha ha) will see this as deceiving the runner. He doesn’t actually bring his hands up and then down to the set as many pitchers do, which is where the problem can be — he simply puts his hands together directly into the set. I don’t think you can move any part of your body once your hands reach their final resting position.

    isuzudude – you bring up a very good point in regard to tipping pitches. We don’t yet know if he is or isn’t, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

  6. Walnutz15 February 26, 2010 at 9:38 am
    “I don’t think you can move any part of your body once your hands reach their final resting position.”

    ^ This…..

    Which is why any flinch, or movement after the set is a trigger. This, to me, is pretty obvious — and might draw some early attention, especially in the Spring (where it can be worked on, to modify).

    We’ll see what happens.