Bunting 101: The Bunting Progression


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The sacrifice bunt is the epitome of the team concept where you are giving up an at bat in an effort to put the team in a better position to score a run. If you care about the team, you will care about bunting. The base hit bunt is also a way to put the team before the individual when the club may need baserunners late in the game, and the opposing corner infielders are playing back, giving you an opportunity to get on base when it is needed most. The technique of each is very similar, with the biggest difference being the timing of when to actually square around to show the bunt.

Bunting can be easy…if the hitter wants it to be easy. Take pride in doing one of the little things that will help a team win games. Whether or not a bunt is successfully put down may be the difference of whether or not a run is scored, which may be the difference in winning or losing the game.

THE BUNTING PROGRESSION

1. Move up on the plate
2. Square around
3. SET the angle      THE THREE KEYS TO
4. KEEP the angle   GETTING DOWN A
5. BUNT A STRIKE!  SUCCESSFUL BUNT
6. Let the ball hit the bat
7. Bunt the ball first, run second

1. MOVE UP ON THE PLATE: closer to the plate AND closer to the pitcher.

The reason we want to move closer to the plate, especially when sacrifice bunting, is to be able to cover the outside strike, and even a couple inches off the plate away. We cannot afford to give away the called strike when we are bunting. The reason we move closer to the pitcher is to have bunt contact further up in the box, which will give us more of a chance to keep the ball in fair territory, cutting out as much foul ground as we can.

2. SQUARE AROUND

This is the part of bunting that will differ from player to player, because it is about what we are comfortable with. Some players get all the way around, with both feet (and chest) facing the pitcher. Some turn from their hitting stance, and pivot around, with one knee down and the other knee up. Do whatever feels most comfortable, but we have to be sure when we are in our squared around position that we cover the outside strike. Once squared around, we want to be tall in the box, with the bat at the top of the strike zone, ready to work down, from high to low with our legs.

3. SET YOUR ANGLE: to where you want to bunt the ball.

This is the first main key to putting down a successful bunt. We set our angle of the bat-either to 1stor to 3rd- so that when the ball hits the bat, it cannot go anywhere else than where we want it to go. Once the direction is established, we then start the bat at the top of our strike zone, with the barrel slightly higher than the handle, to ensure a good down angle bunt.

4. KEEP YOUR ANGLE: to where you want to bunt the ball.

This is the second main key to putting down a successful bunt. It goes hand in hand with setting our angle. When the pitch is delivered, we want to keep the angle we just set after squaring around. When it comes time to bunt the ball, we do not want to “jab” at it with the bat (bat goes down, ball often goes up), or try to “catch” it with the bat (ball often goes foul). If we are going to move the bat when bunting the ball, we have just defeated the whole purpose of setting the angle in the first place. Our arms, wrists, and hands want to remain in a locked position without any movement, so the angle stays exactly how we want it. The only thing that can move is our legs, from high to low, which will in turn, move the bat up and down for us without changing the angle.

5. BUNT A STRIKE!

This is third main key to laying down a successful bunt and goes right with setting and keeping our angle. If we have gotten down to this step with the first four steps successfully accomplished, AND we stay in the zone, GETTING THE BUNT DOWN WILL BE EASY, because all we have to do now is let the ball hit the bat. When squared around our bat should be at the top of our strike zone. If the pitch is higher than the bat, pull back, because it’s a ball. If the only way we can bunt the outside pitch is by jabbing at it, pull back, because that too, should be a ball; assuming that we have that part of the plate covered. No matter how perfect our technique is when it comes to bunting, if we go after balls out of the zone, getting the bunt down becomes very difficult.

6. LET THE BALL HIT THE BAT: with our angle set and kept, the ball will go exactly where we want it to go.

This is when bunting becomes easy, because we don’t have to do anything besides letting the ball hit the bat. Upon contact, the bat should not move. If we have set our angle, and kept our angle, all we have to do is make sure we go the top half of the ball, and we will have a successful bunt. The way we bunt a ball harder is by gripping the bat tighter (not by “pushing” at the ball). The way we bunt a ball softer is by loosening up on our grip (not by “catching” the ball).

7. BUNT THE BALL FIRST, RUN SECOND

The last step in getting down a successful sacrifice or base hit bunt is separating the actual bunt from running out of the box to first. In doing so, we give ourselves the best chance to keep our bunting technique consistent, which will make getting the bunt down easy. We can get ourselves in trouble when we start to run up the line before we have laid the bunt down.


Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.