Bunting may not be as glamorous as hitting home runs, but bunts are a vital strategy to any good offense. All players want to win games and sometimes the best way to win is by bunting. Bunts can catch the defense off guard and allow batters to get on base or bunts could get your teammates into scoring position. Either way, every baseball player needs to know the fundamentals of bunting. What are the fundamentals of bunting?
The fundamentals of bunting include knowing why you’re bunting, squaring the shoulders to the pitcher, placement of the hands on the bat, bat kept at a 45-degree angle, using the legs to adjust to the height of the pitch, and catching the ball with the bat.
Not all bunts are the same. Some players bunt with the purpose of sacrificing themselves to advance a base runner while some bunt to get on base. Some will drag bunt while others prefer a push bunt. In this article, we’ll be discussing the bunting technique for a standard bunt, but I’ll also link out to other articles if you’re interested in learning more about bunting strategies and when to bunt in baseball.
This article is one part of a guide on baseball fundamentals. Read my complete guide on breaking down every baseball fundamental for every position.
6 Fundamentals Of Bunting A Baseball
I love laying down a perfectly executed bunt, but bunting is a strategy that is being utilized less and less in baseball, especially in the Major Leagues. There are debates around why bunts are used less, like it’s not effective to give up an out or you have a better chance of hitting an extra base-hit when swinging, but bunts are still a part of the game and they need to be understood by all players.
Bunting is still an effective strategy when done right. These are the six fundamentals that players need to know when bunting.
1) Know Why You’re Bunting
Bunting is a strategic move that can be used to achieve various outcomes. The most common strategies for laying down a bunt include bunting for a hit and bunting to advance a player. Bunting to advance a player generally means the batter will get out at first base; this is known as a sacrifice bunt.
Players will know when it’s time to lay down a bunt because they’ll be watching their third base coach give the sign to bunt. Sometimes, players and coaches have different signals for different bunts as not all bunts are the same, but oftentimes the coach just has one sign for a bunt.
Bunting strategy also needs to have an objective. The two most common bunts are to:
- Sacrifice the batter to advance a runner(s) to another base
- Get on base
On top of all that, this batter needs to know where the ball should go. The most common placements of a bunt are:
- Down the first baseline
- Down the third baseline
- Dropping it in front of the plate, between the pitcher and catcher
- Further into the infield, in between the pitcher and first baseman
On occasion, batters will use a strategy called the fake bunt. This is where the batter will act like they are going to bunt, but then pull the bat back. Sometimes during a fake bunt, the batter will let the ball go and other times the batter will swing and try to hit the ball past the infield. Read more about the fake bunt strategy and the situations to use it.
2) Body Position
There are two main body positions for bunting:
- Squared up to the pitcher
- Spin into a bunt
The square up is old-fashioned and is generally only used when a hitter wants the other team to know the bunt is coming or they are messing with the pitcher’s head. It is also a fantastic way to draw the infield closer so you can slap it past them.
You start with your shoulders and hips squared up to the pitcher, squatting in a wide stance. Instead of the bat being behind your back shoulder, the bat is positioned out in front, waiting for the pitch to hit the bat.
The downside to the square up is that everyone knows the bunt is coming, but batters have an easier time bunting the ball while squared up to the pitcher. Generally speaking, players will square up to bunt when they are going for a sacrifice play.
The spin begins with the batter in the classic batting position, with some players moving a little bit up in the batter’s box. Then, instead of taking a swing, the batter pivots towards the pitcher as the pitcher is delivering the pitch, both knees practically aligned. Legs are bent. There is no step. The batter simply spins their body to get into position to bunt.
The advantage of the spin is you can pull off a brilliant surprise and get on base. This is also the method batters use when implementing a drag bunt.
3) Hand Position
Regardless of your body position, the hands and arms should end up the same. The bottom hand stays near the nob, as it would with a regular swing. Then the upper hand needs to be further up on the handle of the bat, knuckles tucked.
Some grab the upper part of the handle with only their thumb and index finger bent; others slide all four knuckles like they’re pitching a knuckleball.
The one thing you do not want to do with your top hand is wrap any fingers around the bat. You’ll be in a lot of pain in the event the ball hits the spot of the bat where your top hand is positioned.
The bottom hand’s elbow needs to stay tucked into the body. This is your “rudder arm” and will direct the ball where it needs to go. A common error is extending this arm out, which gives up some ability to place the ball, and makes you more likely to miss the pitch.
The top hand’s job is to help hold the bat at a 45-degree angle and “cushion” the ball as it hits the bat or to help push the ball down the line, depending on your strategy for that at-bat.
4) Bat Should be at a 45 Degree Angle
The bat needs to be held at a 45-degree angle for a bunt. Batters who keep the barrel straight produce an easy pop-up for the catcher or the pitcher.
5) The Legs Adjust a Batter’s Height
Many batters try to lower or rise to the ball in a bunt using the bat, but the correct way to adjust your height while bunting is to keep the bat still and move your legs up and down.
Only moving the bat is a great way to send the ball backward or straight into the plate. Batters need to be able to see the ball hit the bat and the best way to do that is by keeping the bat in one place and moving the legs up and down to adjust to the height of the pitch.
6) Catch the Ball With the Bat
How you react on contact changes the type of bunt and where it goes. Holding the bat firmly with the top hand will cause the ball to travel further while loosely holding the bat will make sure the ball doesn’t travel very far.
Either way is correct, depending on what your bunting strategy is. But one thing that all types of bunts have in common is that a bunt needs to be “caught” with the bat. This means that a player is not swinging at a pitch, they are simply making sure the bat makes contact with the very still bat – similar to how your glove is still when you’re catching a ball.
A common bunt needs the ball to be “caught” by the bat and eased down one of the baselines. This places the ball into a position where there are no defensive players and gives you a chance to safely make it to first base.
A push bunt still requires the ball to be “caught” by the bat, but it also requires an extension of the arms and, if going down one of the baselines, using the bottom arm as a rudder to place the ball.
A drag bunt also “catches” the ball with the bat, but this type of bunt is normally performed by left-handed hitters and requires the batter to essentially run and bunt at the same time. When performed correctly, batters who drag bunt have a better chance at being safe because they already have a running start towards first base.
All of these types of bunts require practice to achieve control. Simply making contact with the pitch is not always enough. Bunts also require a certain amount of precision to achieve the strategy’s desired outcome.
Bunting a baseball can be a game-changer, but the strategy only works if the hitter has the bunting fundamentals mastered and can control the bunt. Various bunting strategies must be discussed well before any game, so both the hitter and runners understand the objectives. Bunting may not be glamorous, but it is baseball’s poker move and can bring sweet victory.