If you’ve sat through more than one game of baseball or softball, especially one with a close score, you have likely seen a batter bunt the ball. Today we’re going to explain the concept of bunting and how it plays into the strategy of the games.
Let’s start off with a definition. A bunt happens when the batter intentionally hits the ball very close to home plate and on the ground.
A batter will bunt the ball.
Generally, a bunt is used when there are less than two outs and runners on base.
The strategy behind bunting is to move the runners into scoring position or to, in fact, score a run. This move is very likely to cause the batter to be called out. This is an acceptable outcome from the strategy because the larger goal, scoring, is worth the risk of the out.
Bunting is not only great for the team it is good for a player's batting average. While the batter will be credited with the runs batted in, the plate appearance will not be counted as an at bat. That means they get better statistical numbers.
As long as a runner advances into scoring position, instead of an at bat the plate appearance is scored a sacrifice when the batter is out at 1st. They have literally sacrificed their own ability to get a hit, for the sake of the team.
By moving a teammate into scoring position (2nd or 3rd base) or allowing the run to score, they have committed the ultimate batting sacrifice.
If the batter reaches base safely then it is scored a single and the at-bat counts toward their average.
It is a win-win situation for the batter with no downside. Like many aspects of the games we love, it encourages team above individual by rewarding the individual for their commitment to the team.
There are types of bunts as well as methods of bunting. Below we take you through a few of each.
The type of bunt is situational.
Sacrifice Bunt: With less than two outs, a batter hits the ball in a way that allows runners to advance into scoring position while the fielders concentrate their efforts on getting them out on 1st.
Squeeze Bunt: With a runner on 3rd, the batter bunts the ball away from the 3rd base line to make the most reasonable fielding play at 1st base. This allows the runner time to score and the batter is credited with a sacrifice and RBI.
The methods of bunting rely on ball placement.
Drag Bunt: Used primarily by left-handed hitters, this type of bunt has the batter generally running, bat in-hand, as they tap the ball ever so slightly toward 1st base. The player will naturally be in the way of the catcher’s view and ability to reach the ball quickly because, unlike a right-handed batter who has to cross over home plate, they are in the 1st base path from the box.
Keeping the ball rolling toward 1st means the pitcher will have to come off the mound and toward home to field the ball. When that happens, the catcher’s natural fielding position becomes backup to the pitcher so they too will be out of range to make any plays at 3rd or 2nd. This leaves the entire left side of the field open and the only logical play at 1st.
You would not use a drag bunt to try to drive in a run as the pitcher will be coming off the mound directly toward home plate with their momentum and, while the catcher will be off the plate, they will remain in proximity to it all the same.
Push Bunt: A push bunt is any bunt that pushes the ball past the pitcher while keeping it on the infield grass around them. In doing this, no matter where it lands, you are forcing the defense out of position to field the ball. By the time they reach the ball, chances are they will not have time to make an accurate throw for an out.
Slap Bunt: A term primarily used in softball the idea is to place the bunted ball furthest from where the out needs to be made on the field so, if you have a runner heading home, you position it toward 1st. If you have a runner trying to reach 2nd, you position it down the 3rd base line. This is, generally speaking, the idea of bunting at any rate but in softball it takes on a specific name.
Any players or coaches out there looking for a really good tutorial on how to bunt properly, here it is.