Lay One Down
Anyone who has ever picked up a bat knows how difficult it is to hit a ball, let alone try to place where it will land. Today, we’re looking at how to do just that with bunting drills.
What’s a bunt?
A bunt is a gentle tap of the bat against a pitched ball. There is no swing involved. The goal of this style of hitting is to put the ball on the ground quickly and as far out of reach of the infielders as possible.
Why is bunting important?
Bunting allows the runners to advance more freely because the defense is forced out of position making routine plays more difficult.
How do you bunt?
1) Line up your back foot with the back of the plate. The farther back you go into the box, the less distance you have to get the bunt in so get closer to the pitcher.
2) Slightly choke up on the bat.
3) Bring the bat head around quickly and bend your knees. This is the position that allows you to direct the ball.
With a runner on first, move your shoulders back and direct the ball to first. If the runner is on second, grab the handle of the bat and rotate the head of the bat toward third.
These placements force the defensive player out of position in either situation pulling them off the bag and away from the opportunity to catch a throw for the tag.
4) Get the bat level with the strike zone.
5) Your top hand should be gently holding the bat, fingers only, not gripping.
6) Bottom hand slides up, to nearly the top of your handle, to help create leverage.
7) If the pitch is above the top hand on the barrel, it’s a bad pitch to bunt.
8) Barrel head never drops below the handle. If the ball is low, you bend your knees to meet the ball.
9) Keep your aim wide. You don’t need to be perfect in the placement, you just need to get it down and inside the foul lines.
Types of Bunts
Sacrifice Bunt – Your at bat has one purpose, advance a runner into scoring position. This is where you square yourself against the pitch in advance and tell the defense your intent. This is used, most often, in a no outs runner on second situation. Statistics prove that the sacrifice is your best option when a single run is what is needed. The sacrifice is also a great motivator for a batter in a slump because they can contribute to the game and regain some of their confidence at the plate with this results-oriented move.
Squeeze Bunt – Attempting to score the runner from 3rd. There are two types of squeeze.
a.) Suicide Squeeze – Runner takes off for home before the ball is bunted. It’s a risk if the batter fails to make contact.
b.) Safety Squeeze – Runner leaves for home only after the bunt is successful. This eliminates a play at home because the ball’s natural motion, and the play, turns to 1st.
Drag Bunt – Most often used by lefties, the drag bunt shows the bunt at the last possible moment and is directed toward the 3rd base side for righties, 1st base for left hand hitters. Element of surprise is what makes it successful so only square up if you know the pitch is a strike.
Fake Bunt – As the pitcher begins the delivery, square up the bat. The movement forces defensive players out of position. As the batter, take the pitch, no matter what it is, to help obstruct the vision of the catcher. This one movement gives base runners the opening they need to steal their way into scoring position. You give up a strike and still have the opportunity to complete your at bat.
Push Bunt – This is the most difficult bunt to execute. You show it early with the goal of pushing the ball past the pitcher.
Choosing Your Direction
Danny Litwhiler invented many items we use in baseball today, including the pitching gun and the material used to dry fields. This former MLB MVP and All Star left fielder also invented a tool for bunting. His bunting bat trainer had only a bottom half of a bat to encourage proper bunting techniques. So that’s what those guys in the outfield are thinking about. Who knew?