The New York Times is reporting that, as of this summer, the ‘fake pickoff to third, throw to first’ move will now be considered a balk. It might only be a small and relatively insignificant change, but it seems like it can only be a positive rule change.
The NYT report suggests that this is just part of MLB’s ongoing effort to speed the game up, a campaign most fans will likely be happy to support. The move in question doesn’t happen all that often and, it barely needs pointing out, very rarely actually works. It would probably surprise few people if they discovered that the move was often a part of a pitcher’s arsenal when they wanted to buy time to get a reliever warmed up.
The move works so infrequently that it was always hard to view it as anything other than ‘a bit pointless’, leaving it as one of the game’s oddities that pitcher’s are happy to persevere with it; perhaps with more than an eye on the inevitable credit for ‘quick thinking’ that would come there way should it ever come off. In fact, so keen are some pitchers on using the move, that it has not been unheard of for one to try it without a running even being on third at the time.
Ultimately, it seems MLB deserve a small amount of credit here. It’s unlikely this rule change will meet with any resistance and it might go small small way to speeding up some pitchers on the mound.