The game of baseball contains a lot of strategies, but one of the more uncommon strategies used is the fake bunt. More often than not, a bunt is used to either get on base or to advance a runner, but there are a handful of scenarios where a player or a coach will want to use a fake bunt. Before we jump into why a player would want to use the fake bunt, let’s first answer the question: what is a fake bunt?
A fake bunt is when a batter squares around like they want to bunt, but as the pitcher delivers the pitch the batter pulls back the bat to avoid making contact with the ball. As a general rule, the batter has no intention of making contact with the pitch when they are attempting a fake bunt.
Although a fake bunt generally occurs when a batter has no intention of making contact with the pitch, there is one scenario where the batter still wants to make contact with the pitch – the slash bunt. In addition, players may also use the fake bunt for specific scenarios in the game.
When to Use a Fake Bunt
When used correctly, the fake bunt can give the offense an advantage over the defense. In fact, the fake bunt works so well in certain situations that it is one of the strategies used in both softball and baseball.
Let’s discuss those scenarios when it’s beneficial for the offense to use a fake bunt.
Fake Bunt and Swing (Slash Bunting)
One fake bunt strategy batters use to get on base is to fake a bunt, pull back the bat, and swing at the pitch. Since this is a unique strategy that is not seen too often, people often wonder if it has a name. What is it called when you fake bunt and swing?
A slash bunt is the name for the play where the batter fakes a bunt, pulls back their bat, and takes a full swing. A successful slash bunt is when an infielder moves towards home plate to defend the bunt, but the batter gets a base hit by hitting the ball where the infielder was originally positioned.
Although the slash bunt is a strategy you sometimes see in professional baseball, fans will typically see a slash bunt occur in non-professional sports.
The slash bunt is also a debated topic amongst fans and parents on whether or not it is a legal play. Because the slash bunt draws in an infielder, that infielder is at a higher risk of getting hit by a hard line drive.
While the slash bunt is legal in most baseball leagues, there are a handful of leagues that have rules against this play.
To see a well-executed slash bunt, watch the video below where the batter faked the bunt, pulled back his bat, then hit a triple down the first-base line.
Fake Bunt When the Count is 3-0
One play I saw a lot while playing in Little League was when a batter used a fake bunt attempt during a 3-0 pitch.
Batters use a fake bunt during a 3-0 pitch in an attempt to mess up the pitcher. If a pitcher messes up during that pitch, they will throw a fourth ball and the batter gets to walk to first.
Whether or not this strategy works is something that is debated by coaches and players and it really depends on who the pitcher is.
On one hand, some pitchers find this fake bunt movement very distracting and they tend to throw another ball when they see a batter square around for a bunt. On the other hand, some pitchers love that the batter is giving them a target to aim for and they are more easily able to throw a strike.
Fake Bunt to Protect a Base Runner Who is Stealing
When a batter knows a base runner is stealing, they tend to perform a fake bunt as a way to protect the baserunner.
The reason the fake bunt protects a base runner is that the fake bunt forces the catcher to stay behind the plate, which adds a little bit of time to their throw. It also forces the catcher to think about what to do with the ball if the batter were to bunt it fair.
Whether or not this strategy actually delays the catcher is something that is debated by coaches and players, but using a fake bunt to protect a base runner is still a common strategy that is used.
Some catchers and coaches claim that a fake bunt or a swing does not impact their throwing time because catchers are taught to receive the ball, then come up throwing. On the other hand, some believe that performing a fake bunt does delay the catcher a bit. But even if the fake bunt doesn’t delay the catcher, performing a fake bunt during a steal is better than doing nothing.
Using a fake bunt to protect a base runner who is stealing is a strategy that is still used in the MLB today. Below is a video for a quick example of how one batter performed a fake bunt to help his teammate steal third base.
Fake Bunt Can Make the Third & First Baseman Play Closer to Home
Sometimes, players like to fake bunt because it benefits them during the next few pitches.
When a defense sees a player attempt a bunt, the infield tends to play closer to home plate. Depending on the situation, either the third baseman or the first baseman will play closer to home plate if they believe there’s a chance the batter will bunt.
Once a batter draws in the first baseman or the third baseman with a fake bunt, the batter can now take a full swing. If the batter makes contact with the pitch, they have a better chance of getting on base by hitting a ground ball past the infielder who is playing closer towards home plate.
Fake Bunt With a Baserunner on Second Base
When there’s a runner on second base or runners on first and second base, a batter can attempt a fake bunt to try to advance the runner on second base. This strategy works well when the runner on second base is also attempting a steal.
The idea behind the fake bunt with a baserunner on second base (or first and second base) is that the fake bunt will draw in the third baseman to cover the bunt. If the third baseman charges the ball, the shortstop is supposed to cover third base.
If the shortstop is caught off-guard and doesn’t cover third base, the base runner has a clear path towards third base. If the base runner on second base is fast, then it is a foot race towards third base.
This strategy is mainly used in non-professional leagues, where some defensive players are still gaining experience with how certain defensive strategies work.
Fake Bunts Can Distract a Pitcher
Another strategy for non-professional leagues is to use the fake bunt to simply distract the pitcher. This could be used during any count in the at-bat.
Especially in youth leagues, pitchers are more likely to throw balls if they see a batter square around for a bunt. So players may try to take advantage by performing a fake bunt.
Although there are not usually rules around a player performing a fake bunt to distract the pitcher, there is a bit of an unwritten rule that it’s unsportsmanlike to intentionally distract the pitcher in hopes of the pitcher throwing a ball.
Can You Fake Bunt and Swing in Little League?
Whenever the topic of slash bunting is brought up for youth baseball, there is usually some debate on whether or not it’s a legal play. Some coaches and parents believe it’s a dangerous play and it shouldn’t be allowed while others believe that slash bunting is a part of the game and should be allowed. Is slash Bunting legal in Little League?
As a general rule, slash bunting is allowed in Little League. However, each local league has the power to pass its own rules and some local leagues have rules against slash bunting. It’s best practice to check your local Little League’s rules on slash bunting.
Little League has a standardized set of rules that span across every single league, but each local league of Little League has the option of passing additional bylaws that don’t conflict with the overall rules. So if one league decides to have rules in place to prevent slash bunts, they are able to pass those rules.
For example, a Little League district in New Jersey has special game rules for tournaments. For each of these tournaments listed, the approved special rules specifically state “No slash bunts.”
Can You Fake Bunt Then Swing in MLB?
There is controversy over how safe it is for a batter to fake a bunt and then take a full swing. This controversy is mainly discussed in non-professional baseball leagues, but it also leaves people wondering if MLB players are allowed to slash bunt.
In the MLB it is legal to fake a bunt and take a full swing. There is no rule against the slash bunt in the official rules of the MLB.
In fact, Rule 5.04(b)(4) in the official MLB rulebook specifically mentions “The batter feints a bunt”. This rule has to do with one exception to the rule of the batter needing to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. But since the rules actually mention a batter feinting a bunt, it makes sense the rules also allow players to fake a bunt and then take a swing.
Slash bunting is not a common occurrence in the MLB, but below is a quick video that shows a player successfully getting a hit by performing a slash bunt.