Can A Pitcher Fake A Throw To Third Base? (Solved!)

The duel between the pitcher and the batter is the basis of baseball. It sets off every play and dictates the rhythm of the game.

The pitcher’s performance against batters is the key to the final outcome of the ballgame.

So, the pitchers have to use all the different pitches and moves in their arsenal to deceive batters, as well as baserunners, and prevent the opposing team from scoring.

However, there are limits to how far that deception can go.

Some moves, even if sometimes unintentional, are illegal and can lead to the pitcher being charged with a balk.

Balk is one of the most confusing rules in baseball, as it can occur in numerous ways.

One of the questions that confuse the fans the most is can a pitcher fake throw to third base.

I’ll answer this question below and explain a couple of other most common fake-pickoff situations.

Can A Pitcher Fake A Throw To Third Base?

Under the current MLB rules, pitchers are not allowed to fake a throw to the third base, or perform the move commonly known as “fake-to-third, throw-to-first.”

More precisely, faking a pickoff throw to the third is illegal if the pitcher is touching the mound rubber.

In order to fake a throw to the third base, a pitcher must first step off the rubber.

For most of baseball history, pitchers were able to fake a throw to the third base. This move was rather common with the runners on both first and third bases.

Pitchers would make the move towards the third, fake a throw, and then, suddenly turn to the first and try to throw off the runner there.

However, the move was deemed to be too deceptive for the runner, so the MLB changed the rule in 2013, making the fake pickoff attempt at a third base illegal.

Is A Fake Throw To First Base Legal?

Baseball pitcher on the mound.

Similar to the pickoff throw to the third, pitchers are also now allowed to fake a throw to the first base.

To do this their feet must not touch the rubber, or, to be more clear, they have to step off the rubber first.

This is because the rule says that when the pitcher is off the rubber, he’s considered to be an infielder.

This practically means that they can do whatever they want and are not anymore restricted by the pitching rules.

So, faking the throw to the first base while off the rubber is perfectly legal. Otherwise, the pitcher will be charged with a balk.

The rule is applied both when a pitcher fails to complete a throw towards the first or just begins the throw.

If a pitcher just makes a turn towards the first base, then he must make a throw over to the base.

Is A Fake Throw To Second Base Legal?

One of the common deception plays in baseball is the pitcher fake throwing to the second base. So, this leads many fans to wonder if the fake pickoff at the second base is legal.

Unlike fake throws to first or third base, this move is completely legal, although under one condition.

A fake pickoff attempt at the second is allowed only when the base is already occupied by a runner.

Otherwise, if there’s no baserunner on the second base, the pitcher is charged with a balk.

How To Perform A Fake Pickoff At The Second Base?

Still, per MLB rules, the pitcher needs to step in the direction of the base for the pickoff attempt to be legal.

This also includes the second base, even when the pitcher is performing a spin move,

However, in the case of the second base, they’re not required to throw once they make the step. This has allowed defenses to devise a smart play to deceive their opponents.

So, to trick the runner, the whole defense takes part in the play, pretending that the ball has made it through the infield.

Commonly, when the pitcher fake throws to the second, the second basemen and the shortstop will dive for the fake ball, while the center fielder will also run to the fake passed ball.

This deceives the runner, making him think that the ball has made its way through the infield and that the path to the third base is clear.

Can A Pitcher Fake A Throw To An Unoccupied Base?

Air force falcons baseball player pitching underhand.

As I already explained, as a general rule, pitchers can’t fake a throw to an unoccupied base.

Basically, almost every throw or fake throw to a base with no runner will be called a balk.

This is also the type of ball that is the easiest for the umpires to identify.

However, as an exception to this rule, a pitcher can throw to the base the runner is running towards.

So, the rule only applies when there’s no runner on the base the pitcher is throwing to or on the base before that one.

For example, if there are no runners on the first or second base, but there’s one on the third, the pitcher still can’t fake throw to the second.

In general, a fake throw to an unoccupied base is fairly rare. The one situation it may happen is when the baserunner is trying to steal a base.


Among all the players, it seems that pitchers have the most rules they have to obey.

Some of them are fairly straightforward and easy to understand, while others may be more confusing.

The latter is certainly the case with balk rules, especially when it comes to fake throws towards the bases.

More casual fans, and also younger players, often struggle to grasp this rule in full.

In fact, faking throws towards the first or to an unoccupied base are among the most common mistakes inexperienced pitchers make.

This is why a full understanding of fake pickoff attempt rules is important.

To make things easier to remember, you should learn that fake throws to first or third base are never legal.

Faking a throw to the second is allowed, but only if there’s a runner occupying it.

Paul Hall
Paul Hall

Hello, I’m Paul, a 45 year old passionate baseball fan and the owner of this website. I hope my article could help to answer your questions.

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