Lost Art of Bunting

Our little league recently tried a new strategy to encourage all hitters to pay closer attention to the strike zone and weaker hitters to have a better chance of getting on base…

I am a big believer in “base hits” win ballgames!

Unfortunately, our team has struck out 59 times in seven games. Breakdown per game: 13, 4, 6, 6, 10, 12 & 8.


MLB Traditional Methodology

Many coaches are in favor of giving up an out by bunting a runner over to second or even third base. I believe this is a bunting strategy that should be determined by a number of factors.

  1. Is it a close game
  2. Is it late in the game
  3. Can the runner steal second instead of being bunted over
  4. How well can the hitter bunt
  5. What is the batting average and on base percentage of the hitter

It really doesn’t make any sense to me, to have a batter at the plate with a high on base percentage or batting average and have him make an out just to move a runner over one base, especially
third.

I may give you in a very close game where one run will win it to
bunt a man over to third with no outs, then have a squeeze bunt if the next hitter is a capable man who can get the job done.

In Pony baseball, the chances seem to be better in favor of attempting
a steal, but again factors such as the runners ability to get a good jump and the catcher’s arm come into play.

In most situations, bunting a runner over early in the game just doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you are fairly sure it will
be a close game.

There is also something to be said for scoring the first run giving your team a psychological advantage. But before you bunt a man over consider who is coming up: are the chances favorable he can get
the job done with a base hit or fly ball, or is the hitter weak and bunting is probably the best option for him?

Even so, you’ve got to consider who is coming up after him whether they can
be counted on to get a hit or fly ball.
Here is one bunting strategy that works almost every time.

Runner on third, or runners on any other base. Less than two outs. The batter at the plate is an average or less hitter,
with weaker hitters coming up behind him….and you really want
to get a run in.

The batter bunts the ball down on the ground towards the third baseman. Have the runner on third follow the third baseman down the line, staying back from him 10 feet or so.

When the player throws to first for the out, you’ve got yourself an easy run. Do remember, if the shortstop is playing heads up ball and the third baseman is in the game, there may be an out at third, depends on how far the second base runner is advanced and how far the ball is bunted. But the chances of this happening are fairly slim, the odds are in the offenses favor.

There really are no hard and fast rules that are absolute, but the one thing I’m not in favor of early in the game is to
bunt a man over with decent hitters at the plate.

Even though everyone should be able to lay down a bunt if called upon, the better hitters in the lineup usually have little bunting experience in the game and so as a general rule are not really
that good at bunting simply because in most games in their past, they hit and didn’t have to bunt.

Remember what Earl Waver said: “If you play for one run, that’s usually all you’ll get.” Read more


Reading the pitcher

In this bunting strategy – recognize a pitcher’s weakness and exploit it for more bunt hits.

Bunting for a hit is an extremely valuable skill, and can even be the deciding factor in a close game when hits and runs are scarce.

Baseball players are creatures of habit!

Most people – and pitchers in particular – are creatures of habit. You can use this to your advantage.

How many times have you seen a ground ball hit back to the pitcher? He usually reacts in one of two ways: Take his time and make a nice throw to first base for the out, or secure the ball start running over to first base and give an underhand flip. As insignificant as this play seems it may tell us a few things about the pitcher and his mindset. This can be extremely important if you can and are willing to bunt.

Typically pitchers work on bunt plays where the baseball is bunted right back to them or towards third base where they can pick it up and throw it to first base. The whole thing becomes very instinctive and doesn’t require much thought or variation on the pitcher’s part.

So how can this help you out?

This can tell you if you should try to bunt against this particular pitcher.

(1) There’s a good chance you’ll be able to predict how he will handle that same scenario in the future

(2) You’ll have a clue as to what type of play is difficult for the pitcher (i.e. if this is a weakness for him) and then you can use this to your advantage.

Will he make a throw to first, or try to run and flip it?

Now lets go back to our pitcher and how he handles a throw to first base on a come backer.

If the pitcher throws the ball to 1st base, it’s a clue that he may be fairly athletic and feels comfortable in throwing a ball outside of his normal pitching motion. In this case, bunting may not be the best option.

However, if a pitcher runs it over towards first base and under hand flips it, there is probably a reason for that. It could be that he not confident in his throwing ability. Maybe he has thrown balls passed the first baseman in the past and now this is his go to move, or perhaps throwing to bases is something he doesn’t practice and doesn’t feel comfortable with. Either way, it can indicate a weakness you can take advantage of by bunting for a hit.

Taking advantage of the pitcher’s weakness

You can force the pitcher to make an athletic throw by laying a soft bunt down the first base line.

This is not a standard push bunt, you want to make sure it’s hard enough where the catcher can’t get it and the ONLY person that can make a play is the pitcher.

A pitcher who isn’t too confident in making an athletic throw will have difficulties with this play.

He has to get to the ball quickly, so his momentum not going in the direction of first base. Then he needs to make a throw to the first baseman without hitting the runner or throwing it into right field.

Since this isn’t a play that is practiced often, and it is a very difficult play, you will quickly tell how athletic the opposing pitcher is and if bunting may be a way for your team to scratch across a few runs.

The reason I picked this type of bunt strategy is because a bunt down the third base line is a play that happens so fast for the pitcher that he doesn’t have time to think about it. This tends to be an easier throw for him to make. Also, pitcher’s practice fielding this bunt often.

Of course, just because a pitcher runs and under hand flips a ball to first base on a come backer doesn’t guarantee that he is uncomfortable making an athletic throw. But paying attention and seeing this as a potential way to attack the pitcher may help you get to a pitcher that is tough to score runs against.


No More Easy Outs

Alfonso Soriano studied Willie Randolph, the Yankees’ third-base coach, as he touched his cap, his nose, his ear, his arm and his belt, and somewhere in Randolph’s rapid collection of movements was a sign for Soriano to bunt. This happened three different times while the Yankees played the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park last month. Each time, Soriano looked inept as he failed to produce a sacrifice.

When Soriano was reminded of his failures, he offered a facial expression that made it seem as if he had gulped salt water. Then Soriano added revealing words to his already revealing actions.

”Bunting?” Soriano said. ”No. Sometimes when they ask me to bunt, I bunt it straight to the pitcher. I’ll be really mad if I make an easy out. I’m not really comfortable bunting. If I could put it down the line, O.K. It’s very important, but I’d rather hit the ball.”

Soriano made his comments while sitting near his locker at Yankee Stadium, but the words could have been spoken by almost any position player in any major league clubhouse. For other than a small percentage of adept bunters, the ability to deaden a pitched ball with a bat while simultaneously placing it away from the charging opposition is not considered a critical talent. Remember, baseball stages a home run derby at the All-Star Game, not a bunting contest.

”It’s not a glorious or a glamorous thing,” Mets pitcher Tom Glavine said. ”Other than starting pitchers and a handful of leadoff guys, players don’t do it. It’s lost its prominence.”

Baseball’s evolution has included smaller parks, bigger players, livelier balls and thicker contracts, but not necessarily heftier paychecks for a player who can bunt for a hit or to advance a runner. And just as influential, there are statistically attuned executives who dispute the traditional notion that bunting builds rallies, and they have data to support their theories.

Those general managers, like Oakland’s Billy Beane, Toronto’s J. P. Ricciardi and Boston’s Theo Epstein, are the current equivalents of Earl Weaver, who despised using the bunt as manager of the Baltimore Orioles across 17 seasons. The general managers have statisticians who support their belief that they should resist it. Read more

 

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