Justin Verlander's Balk Was Weird

I've seen thousands of baseball games and I've never seen what happened in the fifth inning of the Tigers game on Saturday night. Justin Verlander, in the set with A's Daric Barton on first, stepped off the rubber to attempt a pick-off, but instead of turning and throwing to first -- because Verlander said he couldn't get his body to torque -- he threw it home. The ball wound up hitting (or coming really close) to hitter David DeJesus' foot. DeJesus, Tigers' color-man Rod Allen, and just about everyone else in the world watching, wondered WTF? The umpires ultimately called it a balk, rewarding Barton second base. Have a look:

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Typically, when there's a balk called, the hitting team has the option of choosing the result of the play or the balk. That's why hitters are always taught to approach a pitch after a balk call just as he would any other pitch because if he, say, hits a home run they can take the home run instead of the balk (whereby runners move up a base or a ball is added to the count when there are no runners on). In this case, because Verlander disengaged the rubber, the A's didn't have the option of taking the result of the play, which appears to be a hit by pitch. It wound up not making any difference anyway, as DeJesus walked.

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A's skipper Bob Geren, who said he hadn't seen anything like that in his 30 years of coaching, sided with the umpires on the call:

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"That was the strangest [thing] I've ever seen," Geren said. "I had to ask everybody what they saw, too, because everybody was like, 'Did I see that right?' It took like six coaches to try to figure out what he did. It was the most bizarre balk, or illegal pitch or whatever. Explanations were sketchy, everything. Ultimately, he did step off the mound, so it wasn't a pitch. You could not get a hit batter."

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