Whether you hit for power, hit for average, or have trouble hitting, you can always help your team in critical situations by laying down a successful bunt. Many players, both novice and experienced, have difficulty laying down a good bunt. If you want to be a complete hitter that can help his team in any situation, you need to spend the time necessary to become a good bunter. Good technique and practice is all that's required to become a quality bunter. You never know when you may be asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt for the team or when a good drag bunt will provide an easy base hit. Prepare yourself during practice as if you are going to be asked to bunt in a critical situation in the next game either for a base hit or to help the team. It really comes down to desire, if you want to become a complete ball player than you will want to work at becoming a good bunter.
The purpose of the sacrifice bunt is to move a runner into scoring position. It's often used in late innings and critical situations. So why is it that so many players are not very skilled at laying down a sacrifice bunt? The primary reason is poor technique.
There are basically two methods of laying down a sacrifice bunt, either pivoting or squaring around towards the mound. The most important thing is balance, comfort, and confidence. Experiment with both methods to see which technique works best for you. No matter which method you use, the way you grip the bat will be the same.
Most younger players are taught to grip the bat with the upper hand by sliding the hand up the barrel towards the trademark and gripping the bat between the index finger and thumb. This keeps the fingers behind the bat and reduces the chance of the fingers being hit. The negative part of this grip is the loss of control over the bat. As you get older you will want to change your grip to one that puts the bat in the palm of your upper hand. Your fingers and thumb will be wrapped around the bat and you will have greater bat control but your fingers will be exposed to being hit by the ball. Once you become a confident bunter you won't worry about your fingers being hit by the ball.
Many times players will leave their bottom hand on the knob of the bat. While this may work for you, experiment with sliding the back hand up on the grip 5 or 6 inches. You may find that this will increase your bat control and with it your ability to have the bunt go where you want it to go.
With the pivot method, you will pivot on the foot closest to the mound and take a small jab step towards the plate with the back foot. At the same time you must get the bat in the proper position to bunt (Barrel of the bat higher than the grip, top of the strike zone, not to close to the body). One method of getting the bat in the proper position is to swing the bat forward from your back shoulder like you were using an ax. It's a small movement that will get the bat out in front of your body at approximately the right angle and at the top of the strike zone.
Whether you square-around or pivot, you want to make sure you are in a comfortable and athletic position to bunt the ball. Your knees should be bent and your bat should be held out in front of your body. The barrel of the bat should be at the same height as your eyes and at the top of the strike zone.
As the ball approaches use your knees to adjust to the height of the pitch. Many people believe it's difficult to bunt a high pitch. In actuality, the opposite is true. If you remember not to bunt any ball that is higher than the bat, then you are in great position to bunt the high strike. The lower pitch on the other hand requires you to drop down to be able to bunt it. To keep the barrel of the bat higher than the grip of the bat, you must use your knees to adjust to the low pitch. Never drop the bat head to bunt the ball. Use your knees and both arms to put the bat in the proper position to bunt the low pitch.
Focus on the top half of the ball as it approaches. Many people will talk about deadening the ball with bat as you make contact. All this means is that you will allow your arms to act as shock absorbers as contact is made. This is something to work on as you become more confident, but is secondary to being able to lay the bunt down in the direction you want. Determine the direction of the bunt with your lower hand. This keeps the location of the barrel of the bat in the same approximate location, no matter where you are going to bunt. This will help for consistency. If you're a right-handed hitter and you want the bunt to go towards third base, then pull your lower hand in towards you to provide the proper angle. For first base, push your lower hand out towards the mound to give the bat the proper angle.
Finally, be sure to always bunt the ball first and then run. When a sacrifice bunt is called, your job is to move the runner not to get a base hit. Lay down a good bunt and then run.
1. Move up slightly in the batters box. This will give you more fair territory to work with.
2. Start your bat at the top of the strike zone. Take any pitch that is higher then you bat.
3. Angle your bat so the barrel is higher than the grip. That way any foul will be fouled off to the side and not straight back towards the catcher.
4. Bend your knees to adjust to the height of the pitch, don't drop your bat head to meet the ball. The barrel of the bat should always be kept higher than the grip even when bunting a pitch lower in the strike zone.
5. Bunt the ball out in front of your body.
6. Only bunt strikes.
Why do many players have trouble bunting?
Maybe it's lack of coaching and practice.
How many times do you see a batting practice where a player squares to bunt a couple of times and whether he lays the pitches down successfully, fouls them off, or flat out misses them, he then proceeds to start swinging the bat. Rarely will you see a coach correct poor bunting technique and many times those two attempts are the only bunting practice that player gets during practice.
Want your players to become good bunters? For each bunt they don't lay down take away a swing. So if you require each player to lay down two bunts during batting practice before they get ten swings, just subtract the from twelve swings the number of times it takes the player to lay down two successful bunts. If you consistently do this, it won't take long before your players will understand the importance you place on their ability to bunt.
The purpose of the drag bunt is to get a base hit. This bunt brings the third baseman in to defend the drag bunt, and gives you a better chance of hitting the ball by him. Often, faster players use the drag bunt, but a well-placed drag bunt provides a base hit for even slower players, especially at the high school level and below. Let's say you successfully laid down 5 drag bunts out of 10 during the course of a 20 game season. Those 5 bunts could turn a .300 batting average into a .325 batting average. 5 out of 10 is a conservative number; most good bunters would be closer to 8 or 9 out 10.
Defense dictates the opportunity to drag bunt. If you have a drag bunt in your offensive arsenal, pay attention to both the third baseman and the pitcher during the pre-game infield and ask yourself these questions:
How well does he field and throw the ball?
Can he charge the ball and throw well on the run?
Is the pitcher a good athlete that can field his position well?
Does he fall off the mound toward the third base or first base side of the mound?
Is he in a good fielding position when the ball crosses the hitting zone?
All of these questions can help you decide if this is a good day to lay down a bunt.
During the game, study the position of the defense. If you are a right-handed hitter, look to drag the ball down the third base line and check the position of the third baseman. If you are a left handed hitter, look to drag down the first base line or directly toward the second baseman and check the positions of both the pitcher and first baseman. If the first baseman is playing deep and the pitcher falls off the mound towards third, then placing the bunt down the first base line may give the best opportunity of success. If the pitcher doesn't fall of the mound toward third or the first baseman is playing close, then bunting it hard past the pitcher and toward the second baseman may be the best way to get a hit.
The successful drag bunt depends on the element of surprise. Do not give away your intentions until the very last moment. With that in mind, enter the box with the same routine you always use. The only subtle change you make is to move up in the box a little. Bunting the ball with your bat in front of the plate increases the chance of it being a fair bunt.
The most common mistakes when bunting are:
(1) trying to bunt a ball that is either not a strike;
(2) a pitch that is difficult to bunt successfully.
Apply the same philosophy you do when you're ahead of the count; shrink the strike zone and look for a pitch in the zone that you are comfortable bunting. If it's not in that zone, don't bunt. Pull the bat back and take the pitch, even if it's a strike.
When attempting to drag bunt, pull your right foot back and move your right hand up the bat. Place the bat in front of the body and the barrel pointed towards first base. This provides the proper angle to bunt the ball down the third base line. By placing the bat in front of your body, you increase the chances of bunting it fair. A common mistake in drag bunting is attempting to deaden the ball as you do in a sacrifice bunt. With a drag bunt, it's much more important to be accurate by bunting the ball down the line.
Once in position to bunt, make sure you have a good pitch to bunt, otherwise pull back. Do not bunt any pitch inside of your current bat position. That pitch forces you to lean back and prevents you from getting a good jump. Take any pitch that is higher than your current bat position. The best pitch for a drag bunt is from the middle to the outside part of the plate.
The drag bunt for the left-handed hitter is done stepping with your right For left handed hitters, step in with your right foot toward the pitcher while moving your left hand up the bat and bringing the bat forward. Point the barrel of the bat toward third base and be out in front of your body on contact. Look for a pitch from the middle of the plate in to bunt. A common mistake is to cross-over and try to get a great jump while bunting the ball. Again, bunting the ball accurately is more important than getting a great jump.
The purpose of the push bunt, like the drag bunt, is to get a base hit. For right-handed hitters, look for the same situation that left-handed hitters look for when performing a drag bunt. Look to push the bunt past the pitcher toward the second baseman.
For left-handed hitters, look for the same situation right-handed hitters look for when laying down a drag bunt. Push the bunt down the third base line.
The push bunt is generally more difficult for a player to master than a drag bunt. Make sure the player is not only a good sacrifice bunter but also a good drag bunter before having them work on the push bunt. For the left-handed hitter, the push bunt is difficult because the instinct is to run during the bunt. This works much better with a drag bunt than with a push bunt. Emphasize laying down the bunt before running. For the right-handed hitter, the push bunt requires the hitter to move the bat towards the ball on contact to provide enough force to push it past the pitcher. A common error is to try and hit the ball too hard.
Use the squeeze bunt in a close game to score a tying, go ahead, or insurance run. The squeeze bunt places more pressure on the hitter than any other play in baseball. There are two types of squeeze bunts: the safety squeeze and the suicide squeeze.
With the safety squeeze, the runner on third does not break for home unless he sees the bunt successfully laid down. While this takes the pressure off the batter to successfully bunt a ball, it puts more pressure on you to make a good bunt that the pitcher cannot field. Either pivot or take a small jab step in order to quickly get into position to bunt. Do not show your intentions to bunt until the pitcher's arm comes forward and he cannot change the direction he is throwing. Since the runner is waiting for a successful bunt, don't be afraid to take the pitch. Bunt the pitch either down the first or third base line. You may find that you want to go with the pitch or whatever side you are most confident bunting. Make sure you don't try to get a good jump out of the box. Your job is to lay down a good bunt to score the man from third, not to get a base hit.
For the hitter, the suicide squeeze is much like the safety squeeze in that you must wait until the pitcher cannot change the direction of the pitch before you pivot to bunt. It's much more difficult in that the runner is not waiting to see if you have bunted the ball successfully before breaking from third. The assumption is you will bunt the ball no matter where it is pitched. The runner from third must wait until the pitchers arm is coming forward before making his break for home. Unlike the safety squeeze where the location of the bunt is of primary concern, in a suicide squeeze, you want to make sure you bunt the ball fairly. It's very difficult for this play to be defended if the ball is bunted.
Copyright © 2000 Brookside Little League, Inc. All rights reserved
Brookside Little League, Inc.
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