The minds behind Major League Baseball made several big moves in regard to the rulebook heading into 2023. The league’s pledge to crack down on balks is among the major adjustments to the game in MLB news. It’s not so much a rule change as it is a concise decision to actually enforce them. Balks may not sound like such a big deal, but several pitchers must completely revamp their deliveries to comply.
Balks aren’t a huge part of the game, but every little edge counts when we talk MLB betting. So I wanted to take a quick look at some of the pitchers who were called for the most balks in 2022 and which ones are getting called out so far in the preseason. The rule won’t dramatically move any MLB lines, but this information may be useful in specific situations during the season.
During the 2022 regular season, Richard Bleier and Will Smith led the majors in balks with three each. Ace pitchers Gerrit Cole, Jon Gray, Marcus Stroman and Jorge Lopez each had two. Not big numbers, I admit, but there is already an interesting development in the preseason.
Now that the rules are being enforced and the umpires are running a tighter ship, the preseason balk rate is way up across the league.
Three BALKS??? Runner scores from first base on three balks by one pitcher, same inning, during a single at-bat. 😮#mets #marlins #balks #RichardBleier #DonMattingly #mlb #balkpic.twitter.com/I2tGYAP07f
— Patrick Mahan (@patrickmahan) September 28, 2022
While there were only two players during the 2022 regular season with three balks, there are already four players with three during spring training. Most of these guys are averaging a balk per game in that span. Nick Avila, Brendan Cellucci, Angel De Jesus, and Matt Wisler are the guys on this list.
While I don’t expect any player to average close to one balk per game during the regular season, it’s already clear that umps are calling the infraction more often than they have been for decades.
Players Making Changes
While the rule changes regarding balks may not cause an extraordinary amount to be called in 2023, they will have a less obvious effect for some players. The fact is that some players’ deliveries were close to, or outright balks, all along. The league just decided to ignore it for many years.
Now that the focus is shifting, many of these players will have to adjust their delivery. Anyone who knows anything about professional baseball understands that changing mechanics is difficult and can be a recipe for disaster.
Among the group of pitchers who will need to make adjustments are Kevin Gausman, Kenley Jansen, Mike Clevinger, Luis Garcia, Nestor Cortes and Johnny Cueto – each for a different reason.
Luis Garcia blasts MLB’s new balk rules 👀 pic.twitter.com/hRMAGXyVLX
— FAX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFAX) February 15, 2023
Clevinger, for example, has significant movement during his windup to the point where he looks like he is dancing at times. Meanwhile, Gausman and Jansen must adjust their form out of the stretch. The former taps his front foot and does not fully come set, while the latter comes set but follows up with a hip and leg movement. Cueto is all over the place and must cut down on his shimmy move. Meanwhile, Garcia’s days of rocking the baby are over. These are not MLB predictions but changes that need to happen for these pitchers to remain in the league. While I expect most, if not all, pitchers to figure out their mechanism, it may not be a Day One thing. Several of them are struggling already in spring training, including Clevinger. I would be wary to make MLB picks on these starters for the first few games of the season until I can monitor their adjustments. Even small edges can make all the difference when betting online.