Learning How To Effectively Bunt
If you want to be a successful hitter, it’s become increasingly important not to be one dimensional. You’ll need to be efficient in every category from base hits, hitting into gaps, power swinging to sacrifice flies, and the always underutilized bunt. Since hitting a dinger every plate appearance is not going to happen, your goal as a hitter is to get on-base or advance a runner during every at-bat.
Bunting is a key skill for both of these goals and can be a great strategy for a team in desperate need of a run late in the game. Take CoachUp’s helpful tips and guidelines with you the next time the game is on the line! Incorporate these into your hitting practice regimen as often as possible, even if it’s not glamorous, and you’ll become a much bigger all-around threat for your team moving forward.
Action versus Reaction
Special circumstances often dictate when a good time to bunt is. Pay close attention to the pitcher’s follow through, if he’s falling off the mound too far to either side, take advantage by bunting to the opposite side so his momentum works against him. In addition, be aware of the positioning of the first and third basemen. If they’re playing too deep it could be an ideal time to bunt.
Additionally, in many bunting situations, the goal is to sacrifice an out to move your players into scoring position. However, not all bunting situations are the same. In many cases, managers will make the decision to bunt that seems to go against standard baseball logic, in order to catch the defense off-guard. There are a few typical bunting situations that most teams prescribe to and each calls for a different styled approach at the plate. Here are the different kinds of bunts you can perform:
The most common type of bunt is the Sacrifice Bunt. The goal is to advance a runner that's already on-base into scoring position. The batter will square-up facing the pitcher before he releases the ball with the intent of showing everyone he is about to bunt. The most common sacrifice bunting situations are when there are no outs and a runner on first or second base. Furthermore, baseball statisticians conclude that sacrifice bunting is your best option when a single run is your goal.
A squeeze bunt is used in an attempt to score a runner from third. There are two basic types of squeeze bunts to add to your arsenal -- first, the suicide squeeze. The suicide squeeze bunt is performed by having the runner take off towards home plate before the ball is bunted. This is a risky move because if the batter fails to make contact, then the runner will be easily tagged out at home. Then you’ve got the safety squeeze, a bunt that involves the runner taking off towards home only after the ball has been hit. This eliminates the possibility of the runner getting thrown out at home after the pitch, but will give the fielders more time to tag you out.
The drag bunt is the most unique of the types of bunts as it is an attempt by the batter to get on base instead of an intentional sacrifice. It’s mostly performed by left-handed hitters as they're naturally closer to first base. An effective drag bunt is used at the last moment and typically bunted down the third base line. Make sure that the fielders on the corners are playing behind the bases, or in a similarly deep position. You want to rely on the element of surprise, so it is important to only square for the bunt if you know you can make contact.
Angles on Angles
The angle at which you hold the bat is an important factor for proper execution along with pitch type, pitch location, and your position in the batter's box. Keep the bat head up to make the ball travel downwards on contact. This will increase your odds of forcing the ball down instead of popping it up. If your intent is to advance the runner via a sacrifice bunt, get the bat out in front of both yourself and the plate. Let your arms, elbows, and wrists become “shock absorbers” to help deaden the bunt. In this scenario, you’re not trying to trick anyone, so getting it down is your first and only responsibility.
However, if your intent is to get on base, getting the bat out in front is only effective on bunts to the hitter’s opposite side -- so the right side for right-handed hitters, and vice versa for lefties. To bunt to the opposite side of the field, angle the bat with the knob of the bat pointed at the coach’s box. For example, if you’re a right-handed hitter, point the knob of the bat to the third base coach’s box to make the ball go to the right side of the field. Conversely, if you’re a left-handed hitter, point the knob at the first base coach’s box to bunt the ball towards the third base line.
To bunt to the same side of the field, angle the bat with the head of the bat pointed towards the coach’s box on the opposite side of the field if you are trying to hit to your opposite field. If you’re a right-handed hitter, point the head of the bat at the first base coach’s box to make the bunt go up the third base line. For left-handed hitter, point the head of the bat the third base coach’s box to bunt the ball towards the first base line. Controlling the direction of your bunt can be finely tuned by a slight change in your bat’s angle.
(Related: Read about playing first base efficiently as possible here.)
In order to practice these skills, try using three milk crates to create zones that will serve as targets. Place one directly in front of home base, one to the right side, and one to the left. Each should be about ten to fifteen feet in front of the batter. Practice bunting the ball into the crates, or as close to the zones as possible, in order to gain better control of the direction and distance of your bunts.
But, if you’re still struggling with bunting and want to add it to your expanding game, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers. They’ll have you laying down bunts like the Reds’ Billy Hamilton or MLB legend Ichiro Suzuki in no time! All it takes it some practice, concentrated effort, and the desire to help your team anyway you can -- what are you waiting for?