Arguably, one of the most important stats in baseball is the on-base percentage (OBP). Because getting on base is so important, one popular method that lefties like to use for getting on base is the drag bunt. Getting on base leads to a higher likelihood of scoring and hitters are always looking for great ways to get on base.
What is the drag bunt in baseball? In short, the drag bunt is when the batter is bunting the ball and beginning their run at the same time. The drag bunt gives the batter an advantage because they are starting their run towards first base sooner.
The drag bunt in baseball can be difficult to perfect, but with time and practice, it becomes an extremely valuable tool that players can use to get on base.
How to Drag Bunt in Baseball
Speed is a crucial factor when drag bunting. The faster you are, the better the chance you have of getting on base. So make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting on base by laying down the perfect drag bunt!
There are also some differences between performing a drag bunt as a right-handed batter and drag bunting as a left-handed batter. Before we dive into the specifics for each side of the plate, let’s touch on a few points that are universal for both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters.
Timing the Drag Bunt
Drag bunting is all about getting an edge and catching the opposing team off-guard. If you begin to show the bunt too early, then the fielders will also charge the ball early in order to field the ball earlier. If you show the bunt too late then the ball could already be in the catcher’s glove by the time you attempt to bunt the ball.
When beginning the drag bunt in baseball, the best time to show a drag bunt is when the pitcher is in the middle of their windup and has the ball out of their glove.
This is the sweet-spot of the pitcher’s wind-up where it’s not too early to show bunt and it’s not too late to where the ball will be flying past you for a strike. Remember, the earlier you show bunt the earlier the fielder’s will charge in. So keep your drag bunt a secret as long as you can.
Pivot Your Body to Begin the Drag Bunt
Once you know when to begin the bunting motion, the first step is to pivot your body so you’re ready to bunt. The simplest way to pivot your body for a bunt is to open up both feel slightly and have your shoulders facing the pitcher.
Move the Top Hand Up the Bat Handle
The next piece to drag bunting is the position of your hands. Just as with a normal bunt, you want to move your top hand so it rests at the top of the bat handle.
Don’t wrap your whole hand around the barrel though! When your top hand is up to the top of the handle, only use your thumb and pointer finger to keep the bat steady. It should almost be like you’re trying to pinch the top of the handle with your thumb and pointer finger.
Keep the Barrel of the Bat Above the Knob When Drag Bunting
One of the most important things to remember is to keep the barrel of your bat above the knob of your bat.
Too many times, a player will begin their bunt and drop the barrel of their bat too far. When this happens the ball is more than likely going to be a foul ball or result in an easy pop-up.
It’s very difficult to land a bunt with the barrel of the bat below the knob of the bat. So focus on where the barrel of your bat ends up when making contact with the ball.
Don’t Stab at the Ball When Bunting
How many times have you seen a player attempt to bunt, only to stab at the ball and completely miss the ball? If you’ve seen this in real-time then you also know how ineffective this can be.
Instead of stabbing at the ball during the bunt, imagine you’re trying to catch the ball with your bat. Similar to how you would watch the ball go into your glove, watch the ball go into the barrel of your bat.
Once you are able to successfully catch the ball with the barrel of your bat you have a better understanding of how far the ball will travel when the ball hits your bat. For the ball to roll further down the line, hold the bat a little tighter, For the ball to roll shorter down the line, hold the bat a little softer.
Drag Bunt By Beginning Your Run Before Bunting the Ball
After you’ve timed the pitcher perfectly and have made sure the barrel of the bat is above the knob, it’s time to begin your run!
Left-handed batters and right-handed batters will have some slight differences to beginning their run from the batter’s box, but ideally your back leg will be moving forward in a running motion as the ball is coming towards you.
Your back leg should be moving forward in the box and making contact with the ground as your bat is making contact with the ball.
Beginning your run from the batter’s box will give you an advantage as a baserunner. In a perfect drag bunt, you are already running at the same time the ball hits your bat, which gives you an extra step or two ahead of the defense. And a lot of times that extra step is all you need to be safe!
Direct Where the Ball Goes When Bunting
Very shortly after you’ve started your run, you’ll want to position the bat so the ball gets directed to where you want it to go on the field.
It may take some practice to learn just how much the bat needs to be tilted in one direction, but most players will want to bunt the ball down the third-base line or the first-base line.
Depending on how far back the first baseman and third baseman are playing will tell you which foul line to bunt the ball down. For example, if the third baseman is playing deep then it’s better to bunt the ball down the third baseline because it will take that third baseman longer to make a play on the ball.
Video Example of Drag Bunting
Sometimes, a video demonstration helps solidify some of the points. For a great example of how to drag bunt, check out this Mechanics of Drag Bunt video by SKLZ on YouTube.
Drag Bunting Left-Handed
According to Baseball Tutorials, there are three different techniques that left-handed batters can use when drag bunting.
Drop Step Drag Bunt for Left-Handed Hitters
This one is fairly straight-forward. Just open up your front toe slightly so you are more prepared to turn and run towards first base.
For this technique, lefties can also move their back foot a little closer to home plate to ensure there is a better angel to run to first base. Don’t move your foot too close to home though! If you accidentally step on home plate then you are called out.
Crossover Drag Bunt for Left-Handed Hitters
To perform the crossover drag bunt, your back foot will be moving up in the batter’s box as if you’re beginning to run. If you’ve timed it perfectly, your back foot will move towards the pitcher and hit the ground at the same time your bat makes contact with the ball.
Shuffle Feet Drag Bunt for Left-Handed Hitters
The shuffle feet drag bunt is where the batter clicks their heels together when the ball is being pitched towards the strike zone.
This technique encourages the batter to get their feet moving so they are in a better position to run to first base after they have made contact with the ball.
Drag Bunting Right-Handed
When people think of drag bunts they typically associate this batting technique with left-handed hitters, but can a right handed batter drag bunt?
Although more uncommon than left-handed batters, right handed batters can drag bunt. When drag bunting as a right-handed hitter, the batter must make sure they don’t step on the plate prior to making contact with the ball, which would result in the batter being called out.
There are two common techniques right-handed batters can use to drag bunt, courtesy of Baseball Tutorials.
Drop Step Drag Bunt for Right-Handed Hitters
For this technique, the hitter will first move their back foot slightly backward and get the bat out in front. They’ll want to make sure the bat is just beyond the plate when they make contact with the pitch.
With their back foot moved slightly backward, they are at a better angle to begin their run as their bat is making contact with the pitch.
Shuffle Drag Bunt for Right-Handed Hitters
Similar to how lefties can perform the shuffle drag bunt, right handed hitters can also shuffle their feet.
When the pitcher is in the middle of their pitch, the right-handed batter will shuffle their feet so their heels click together and then stick the bat out just beyond the plate.
Shuffling the feet during the pitch allows right-handed batters to be in a better position to run to first because their momentum is already carrying them forward.
Where Can I Bunt the Ball?
When laying down a bunt, there are two places on the field the batter should aim – down the first-base line or down the third-base line.
Drag Bunting Down the First-base Line
Laying down a bunt to the first-base line is the least common of the two places a batter should bunt. When the ball travels down the first-base line, the ball is also closer to first base. So the distance the defense has to throw the ball decreases as well.
But there are some situations where bunting down the first-base line is beneficial for the batter. For example, when the pitcher is left-handed it can work to the hitter’s advantage to bunt the ball down the first-base line. This is due to left-handed pitcher’s momentum taking them to the third-base side of the field after they’ve released the pitch.
It can also be beneficial to the batter to place a bunt down the first-base line if the first baseman is playing too deep in the infield. In this scenario, the batter will want to make sure they bunt the ball a pretty good distance down the first-base line so the ball is somewhere between the catcher, pitcher, and first baseman.
Drag Bunting Down the Third-base Line
Bunting down the third-base line is typically a batter’s first thought at where to place the bunt.
When the ball is bunted down the third-base line, the batter is making sure the defense has to throw the ball further than if they were to place the bunt anywhere else on the field. This can give the batter an extra half-second to make it safely to first base.
Another advantage to bunting down the third-base line is that most pitchers are right-handed. Right-handed pitchers typically have their momentum taking them towards the first-base side of the field during their follow-through motion so it can take right-handed pitchers a little longer to field the ball.
Even though the batter has more of an advantage from bunting down the third-base line, it only makes sense to bunt in this direction if the third baseman is playing back far enough. If that third baseman is playing in, then they can field the ball sooner and make a play.
Drag Bunt vs Push Bunt
If you’ve been doing your research on bunting, you’ve probably also come across something called a push bunt. Is a push bunt similar to a drag bunt?
While a push bunt and a drag bunt are similar in the way a batter gets set up to lay down a bunt, the drag bunt is when a batter catches the ball with their bat while beginning their run and a push bunt is when a batter pushes through the ball to get more distance on their bunt.
What is a Push Bunt?
The purpose of the push bunt is to bunt the ball past the pitcher, towards the second baseman. Simply put, the push bunt is when the batter is bunting for distance.
To perform the push bunt the batter will still square-around to show bunt, but instead of trying to hide the bunt for as long as possible, the batter will show the bunt a little earlier.
Showing the bunt a littler earlier will allow the second baseman enough time to see that a bunt is about to happen and start running towards first to cover the base.
Once the pitcher delivers the ball, the batter will keep the barrel of their bat above the knob and will push their bat towards the direction they want their bunt to go.
The goal is to make contact with the sweet spot of your bat at the same time your pushing through the ball towards where the second baseman would typically be playing.
If done correctly, the batter has shown the bunt a little early, the second baseman has started running to cover first base, and the batter has pushed the bunt passed the pitcher towards the empty spot on the field where the second baseman was playing.
For a great visual demonstration of the push bunt, check out this Push Bunting video from Ripken Baseball.