No matter how good of a hitter you are, you will be asked to bunt at some point in your career. Everyone from Barry Bonds to Mickey Mantle have been asked to lay one down. Most of the time when we are called upon to bunt, it happens to be at the most crucial point of the game. So, if we do not master the art of bunting at an early age, it leads to being pinch-hit for whenever the opportunity to bunt arises. If you want to stay in the lineup 100% of the time and make all of your coaches happy I suggest taking this article to heart. Baseball is a skill sport at its core. We need to take the proper amount of time to master the little things, like the art of bunting, if we want a long career. I'll tell you right now, there are tons of players who are naturally stronger than you will ever be. To compete against all of the genetic specimen out there, we need to learn bat control and the art of bunting to take our game to the next level.
The first thing I like to cover with all of my players is why we are bunting. When players understand why they have to do something versus you just ordering them to, they perform better. The main reason we bunt is to improve our offense. What do I mean by that? Core Savvy Baseball™ has broken it down for us.
There are several ways bunting increases offensive production :
1. Moving a runner into scoring position
2. Bunting for a base hit (drag, push)
3. Score a runner (squeeze play)
They are listed in order of frequency. Before we go into what the Core Savvy Bunting mechanics are and describe the three situations listed above, I need to make our readers understand something. The most important part of being a successful bunter is getting a good pitch to bunt. At CSB™ the lingo we use is "bunt a strike". If we do not understand the simple fact that we have to get a good pitch to bunt, we will spend our at-bats bunting at pitches out of the strike zone.
Now that we understand that we have to bunt at a strike, we need to understand that the baseball has to hit the ground in a hurry. When we bunt the ball in the air, essentially we do the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish even if the bunt eventually gets down in fair territory. When the ball is bunted in the air, the runner (whom you are either moving into scoring position or scoring) has to freeze. This allows the defense to hold the runner at the base. So, at CSB™ we teach all of our players that the bunt itself does not have to be perfectly up a base line. 90% of the time when we bunt the ball on the ground in fair territory, we will have accomplished our team goal of moving a guy up or scoring a runner. Being too fine when it comes to bunting leads to foul balls, strike-outs, and a lot of catcher to 1st base double plays. Focus on just getting the ball down on the ground in fair territory.
Now let's talk CSB™ Bunting Mechanics
Many coaches will micro-manage their players by telling them exactly where to stand in the box when bunting. At CSB™ we think the only adjustment that needs to be made in terms of where you are in the batters box, is to crowd the plate as much as you can. This is for the simple reason of fuller plate coverage. Crowding the plate for both lefties and righties will make the outside-low strike easier to bunt (it is unacceptable to take a called third strike when bunting).
The first thing we need to do after we crowd the plate is widen out feet, so we can bend from the knees, not the back. We need to widen our feet much farther than shoulder-width to get a strong, low foundation when bunting.
Some coaches want their players hips' to face the pitcher, I disagree. I believe having your hips squared to the mound when bunting is a great way to get yourself seriously injured. All three of the guys in the pictures above are considered top-notch bunters (yes, David Ortiz can bunt, and bunt well). None of the guys have there hips squared up to the pitcher. When we crowd the plate like we are supposed to when we bunt, we do not square our hips to the mound. I have personally seen some devastating injuries from guys getting hit in the face from having there hips towards the pitcher.
After we widen out and can bend up and down in an athletic stance, we need to get the correct grip on the bat to bunt. Usually we tell our players to move the top hand and pinch just under where the label begins on the bat. This can vary obviously depending on a specific players' bat make or model, but generally an inch under the label is a good place to pinch when bunting. This next Core Savvy™ tip on the correct bunting grip will save you from a lot of pain.
***Do not wrap your hand around the bat***
If you wrap your fingers around the bat they will get hit by the baseball. Your thumbs will be in an ice bucket for weeks, trust me. The other reason we do not want to wrap our entire hand around the bat is because it becomes difficult to have "soft hands". In baseball this term is thrown around a lot, and in bunting it is probably the most important concept. When we pinch the barrel, our elbows and shoulders act as shock absorbers so we can bunt the baseball down softly and not back to the pitcher.
Also very important for bunting grip, the bottom hand should move up the bat at least 3-5 inches to allow the hitter the maximum bat control.
These two guys above are examples of what we do not want to see when bunting. Both of them are:
1. Bunting at a ball out of the zone
2. Both have no foundation (off-balance)
3. Both are gripping the bat incorrectly.
After we teach our players there foundation when bunting and how to correctly grip the bat, we now start to talk about bat position. I tell my students to start the bat just above the strike zone. If we establish the top of the zone visually with the barrel of the bat, any pitch above the strike zone becomes easily recognizable to take for a ball. The bat should be flat as well at the top of the strike zone. Any pitch that comes below the barrel, the hitter bends from the knees to go down and get. If the hitter ever has to completely drop the barrel to bunt the ball (Desmond Jennings and Carl Crawford in the pictures above), then he did not bend enough from the knees and is being lazy. At Core Savvy Baseball™, we have created multiple drills to fix the bend-from-the-back epidemic. (When we do not bend from the knees, we to pop the ball up).
At Core Savvy Baseball™ we teach that the hitter angles his bat based upon where he wants to lay the bunt down. First, I want to make it clear that we want to angle our bat as early as we can. At CSB™ we teach that the base lines of the field are our guidelines when angling the bat.
Here are the Core Savvy™Bunting Guidelines:
Right-Handed Bunt Angles:
1. Bunt to First = Knob angled towards third base
2. Bunt to Third = Top of bat angled towards first base
Left-Handed Bunt Angles:
1. Bunt to First = Top of bat angled towards third base
2. Bunt to Third = Knob of the bat angled toward first base
The art of bunting is no easy task, but it can be simplified if you follow the steps above and most importantly, bend at the knees!
Here's Mickey Mantle himself demonstrating the right way to grip the bat (hand pinching in correct place, barrel laid flat at the top of the zone, and bottom hand moved up 3-5 inches). As I said earlier, even he had to master bunting. Master this article and go out to become a better bunter today.
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