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How are you teaching young players how to bunt? I'm talking about the technique to effectively bunt the baseball. More of a sacrifice situation than bunting for a hit.
Normally, I teach the "in-stride" or "pivot" bunt technique as I feel it puts the player in a more athletic position and less vulnerable to being hit with a pitch after "squaring around".
Other than the pivot or square around choice, what are the other key factors in bunting the ball effectively?
What does everyone think? Any good bunting practice drill you can recommend?
First thing I would do is show them the picture of Big Papi working on bunting. Although I would have the top hand higher on the barrel and the bottom hand in normal swing grip position, the point of this picture is to show that no matter how good a hitter you think you are, you need to have the right attitude to bunt. I don't think the mechanics of bunting is why so many players on all levels fail to do it successfully. You can't teach someone something that they do not want to learn.
I took that pic of Papi during batting practice at Coors Field a few years ago. His son, D'Angelo was pitching to him outside the cage and he was playing pepper with him and Kevin Youkilis was playing as well.
I like to teach "move both hands and both feet"
Hands = top hand slides up to the barrel(thumb and pointer finger pinch on the back side of the barrel).
bottom hand moves up to the top of the tape(or at least where top of top hand was)
this is performed to gain control of the barrel - which is what you will be bunting the ball with.
Feet = actually pick up both feet and replace them in the batters box(regardless of pivot of square) with toes pointing at the pitcher.
the thing this does is gets the hips, chest and eyes to square up with the ball.
I like to teach that the movement to go bunt the ball comes from the bending of the knees and hips and flexion of the ankles, but not from the arms and bat moving.
Want to keep eyes and barrel on the same plane.
...I'd add that the knees act as the elevation adjustment center, not the shoulders/arms. Too many kids raise/lower the bat without using their legs. Start off with a level bat at the highest point of the strike zone in which the kid is comfortable bunting, and bunt nothing higher. Adjust lower with the knees, not the arms.
Bunting should be the easiest thing to do in all of baseball besides getting a drink of Gatorade after an at bat or coming from the field. Watching kids bunt on TV or all the way down to little league makes me want to laugh almost every time I see it because somewhere along the line someone decided to reinvent the game and teach a new way to bunt. Take the picture above, why would Ortiz even consider Bunting this pitch when it's way out of the strike zone? Why, because so many players don't want to bunt for one reason and another is because they weren't taught the proper fundamentals of Bunting.
First rule of a sacrifice bunt is to move to the front of the box, and I mean as far forward as one can get and as close to the plate as possible. Then all one has to do is rotate your hips, bend your knees and get your eyes to the top of the strike zone. And we accomplish this by bending at the waist while still being athletic. Next the bunter should put his top hand in the middle of the sweet spot and his bottom hand up the handle a good ways so that he can handle the bat more easily. Next he should put the bat out in front of him so that the bat is not only covering the entire plate but the barrel should be at the top of the strike zone with his arms extended out enough so that his arms are used as shock absorbers and not getting handcuffed by a pitch in. The grip with the Bunting hand should be light and look as if you're giving a thumbs up but more pinched on the barrel so that when the ball hits the bat the bat slides back into the grip deadening the ball. Next, make sure that the barrel of the bat is slightly higher than the knob of the bat and also the barrel is slightly in front of the know. This allows for the baseball to go down instead of popping up. Next, if the pitch is lower than the hands then batter bends at the knees to bunt rather than moving the hands towards the ball. Sure, the hands will move some and that's OK. Never, and I mean never should a hitter ever have to bunt anything above the Bunting hand. If he does, he's playing right into the pitchers hands. Next, and most importantly for me is the hitter bunts the ball as if he's catching the ball with his pinched fingers. I said catch, to many hitters push the ball which is completely wrong because we're trying to deaden the ball, not speed it up. Catch it just like an infielder catches a ground ball, he brings the glove to him, not away from him. Remember to keep your arms extended, too many players have their hands way to close to their bodies and have very little wiggle room for error. Also, if you're using a wood bat, turn the grain so it's label towards the ball so the ball deaden a bit more. Another thing that bunkers do which I'll never understand is trying to bunt the ball down the lines. Good bunters deaden the ball and try to make the ball go to about the grass and maybe 3-4 feet more and that's it, any more and you're setting yourself up for failure. Bunting the ball back to the pitcher is fine because he can't crash until the ball leaves his hand and most baseball people would rather a pitcher handle the ball over a position player. Those that try to bunt the ball down the lines are trying to get a hit rather than a sacrifice and for me this guy is not a team player. Keep the ball fair because it's tough to hit with a strike or two on you and that's what will happen if you try to be fine with where you bunt the ball. As a bunter, I always felt it was way easier to bunt a breaking ball because it was already going in the direction that I wanted it to go which is down. So as a pitcher, throw fastballs either up and in or away because most hitters don't cover the plate and have to get handsy to bunt and that's always a plus for the defense. Remember sac bunters, everyone in the ballpark knows that you are Bunting. Square around super early and get the job done.
I want to be sure that when I say the batter catches the ball with his hand, I mean catch it. There is a bat between your hand and the ball so your hand will not get hit. Bunt the ball as if you're catching the ball with you're top hand. Don't push it, don't angle it towards the lines, bunt the ball softly and make the defense get YOU out, not the runner that you're trying to get over. One thing that I didn't cover was that when Bunting with this method the bottom hand only has to move slightly forward or backwards to move the ball from between the shortstop angle and the second baseman angle. Also, if you have your arm extended as I described, chances are you won't want to push the ball instead of catching it. If the pitch is a ball, either pull the bat back slightly or just don't offer at it.
Big Papi's bunting position above is a good example of why not to copy the way major league players do things. his feet, body and hand position on the handle except having his bat at the top of the strike zone has much to be desired, first of he leaves me with the impression that when this pose was taken he was goofing around, he is near upright, his feet are in between shoulder height void of a good balanced athletic position, his bat is near level, parallel to the surface,and as you say Michael one has more bat range with the bottom hand to the knob and I certainly do not want to place my top hand too far up the barrel, I certainly would not place or teach anyone to place their hands on the handle such as Papi has his placed in the photo above his hands are totally exposed and just waiting to be crushed against the handle and barrel. to the incoming ball, with his closed feet and body position Ia good thinking would either knock his hands off the bat or break one off low and going down away outside due to his lack of mobility due to his close footed unbalanced body position.for safety and good range of movement, motion, slide the top hand up to your desired position just at or just below the label as you pivot into bunting position. The top hand needs to be behind the barrel as much as possible and below the label, hold the bottom hand as natural as possible at the knob make a fist with the middle, third and little fingers form a C with your pinkie finger and place it on the handle, finger tip pointing towards the end of barrel parallel with handle and above your fist place thumb pad on handle opposite side of pinkie finger this will leave a socket, a space for handle movement, flexibility, flat end of knob facing ground so as to be able to direct the ball by moving the knob and handle back and forth, to and fro depending on the angle of the incoming flight of the ball and a nook for the handle to snuggle into for deadening the ball on contact, one needs as much body and arm freedom as possible especially when attempting to bunt a very low squeeze play ball where then it is necessary to make contact at all cost.
It is advisable to hold your bat at an approximate 45 degree angle since the ball is more controllable when contacted, working down on at this app.angle. above all never allow the ball tie up your body unless you get drilled.
I constantly view batters that charge and jab at the ball with their body, hand and arm, let the ball come to your barrel then direct it to where you want it to go.
Yes Michael, there are those who make themselves look very silly simply because they do not want to bunt especially at the big league level.
Never actually square around facing the pitcher, getting drilled in the chest certainly is not fun, pivot within the stance.
I'm going to add my $.02 on bunting philosophy since I bet it's a bit different (not necessarily better, just what works for us). We have been blessed with some very good speed over the past few seasons, so when I want to move a runner, they get the green light to steal. We stress running counts, getting jumps, how to read pitchers, and I let them take control of the running game. We pretty much only have green light and red light for steals, not necessarily a steal sign.
That is not to say we don't bunt... I just hate making outs. We use the bunting game as an offensive weapon to create havoc, not as a means of giving the other team an out. A hidden benefit I have found is when you view the bunting game as a weapon, it doesn't shut down when you get down a few runs. Many coaches won't bunt when they are behind 2 or 3 runs because they don't want to give up those outs (and rightfully so). When your bunting game isn't designed to make outs, it is still on the table as a means of getting back in a game.
Here are our stats over the last two seasons...
Bunt attempts 48 (in 61 games) - a bunt attempt was defined as the ball being put in play or a player getting to a 2 strike count.
8 times the defense made an error resulting in extra bases (17% of the time)
17 times the defense did not make an out. Either we beat the play at 1st or they made an error that didn't result in extra bases (35% of the time)
14 times we advanced the runner, but the batter was out (29% of the time)
5 times the lead runner was out (10% of the time)
3 times we got to an 0-2 count (6% of the time)
1 double play (2% of the time)
We also got back picked by the catcher 3 times (one in an absolutely huge situation that still haunts me to this day)
So overall, when bunting we reached base 52% of the time, and 17% of the time the result was at least as good as a double.
Here's the philosophy we use.
1st bunt attempt- the 3rd baseman fields the ball or it goes foul. 2nd bunt attempt- the 3rd baseman fields the ball or the pitcher fields the ball going away from 1st base. The only time we bunt to 1st base line is in a safety squeeze situation.
Many times we don't get to the 2nd attempt. If we show and either take a strike or bunt foul, our element of surprise has been taken away and we usually take the bunt off. If it is ball 1, we are now in a positive hitter's count, so if the batter can swing it at all, I will usually let them swing away.
We do have a few late in the game true sacrifice situations, but that only happens a few times per season.
Here is the list of acceptable outcomes for our bunting game in order of most desirable. Anything else is an unacceptable outcome:
1.) A fielder makes an error giving us extra bases (we call this putting a quarter in the merry-go-round)
2.) The batter is safe at first and the runners on base advance one base
3.) The batter is out at first, but the runners advance. (This is a neutral outcome)
I know this is not traditional and many people will disagree with it, but it has worked very well for us. Prior to adopting this philosophy, players viewed bunting as punishment. No matter how much you preach team, and sacrifice, 16 year old kids don't see it that way. They see it as "coach doesn't think I can hit." I fought that battle for years, and never won.
Now my kids really look forward to bunting because they see the damage it can do. I am not asking them to bunt because they can't hit, I'm asking them to bunt because I want them to create a big play. I assure them if I ask them to bunt, I don't want them to make an out. I want them to put a quarter in the merry-go-round.
Something different for you to chew on, maybe it will generate some interesting conversation.
Good point Thomas-
They are taught to watch that as they are rounding, but we have a lot of teams we play that look to throw behind on a big turn at second base, so it is kind of a catch 22. We want to be aggressive, but if we are over aggressive, we will pay for it.
The bunt is a weapon that is not used enough.