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Bunting - Sacrifice

What Technique Is Right For You?

The purpose of the sacrifice bunt is to move a runner into scoring position. It's often used in late innings and critical situations. So why is it that so many players are not very skilled at laying down a sacrifice bunt? The primary reason is poor technique.

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There are basically two methods of laying down a sacrifice bunt, either pivoting or squaring around towards the mound. The most important thing is balance, comfort, and confidence. Experiment with both methods to see which technique works best for you. No matter which method you use, the way you grip the bat will be the same.

Coaching Advice

Why do many players have trouble bunting?

Maybe it's lack of coaching and practice.

How many times do you see a batting practice where a player squares to bunt a couple of times and whether he lays the pitches down successfully, fouls them off, or flat out misses them, he then proceeds to start swinging the bat. Rarely will you see a coach correct poor bunting technique and many times those two attempts are the only bunting practice that player gets during practice.

Want your players to become good bunters? For each bunt they don't lay down take away a swing. So if you require each player to lay down two bunts during batting practice before they get ten swings, just subtract the from twelve swings the number of times it takes the player to lay down two successful bunts. If you consistently do this, it won't take long before your players will understand the importance you place on their ability to bunt.

 

Grip

Most younger players are taught to grip the bat with the upper hand by sliding the hand up the barrel towards the trademark and gripping the bat between the index finger and thumb. This keeps the fingers behind the bat and reduces the chance of the fingers being hit. The negative part of this grip is the loss of control over the bat. As you get older you will want to change your grip to one that puts the bat in the palm of your upper hand. Your fingers and thumb will be wrapped around the bat and you will have greater bat control but your fingers will be exposed to being hit by the ball. Once you become a confident bunter you won't worry about your fingers being hit by the ball.

Experiment With The Bottom Hand

Many times players will leave their bottom hand on the knob of the bat. While this may work for you, experiment with sliding the back hand up on the grip 5 or 6 inches. You may find that this will increase your bat control and with it your ability to have the bunt go where you want it to go.

Pivot

With the pivot method, you will pivot on the foot closest to the mound and take a small jab step towards the plate with the back foot. At the same time you must get the bat in the proper position to bunt (Barrel of the bat higher than the grip, top of the strike zone, not to close to the body). One method of getting the bat in the proper position is to swing the bat forward from your back shoulder like you were using an ax. It's a small movement that will get the bat out in front of your body at approximately the right angle and at the top of the strike zone.

Sacrifice bunt - correct   Sacrifice bunt - correct

Below is a few reminders of good bunting technique:

  1. In each image the player has taken a jab step with the back foot towards the plate. In both cases the player might want the foot turned more toward the mound and his weight on the ball of his foot. This would put him in better position to bend with the height of the pitch. Check your players to make sure they don't step to far and step out of the batters box or on the plate.
  2. The arms should be out in front of the body and slightly bent at the elbows. In the incorrect image you can see the elbow is right against the body and will not allow easy movement.
  3. The bat should be angled as shown in the correct image above. This will prevent a foul ball from growing straight up and right into the catchers hands.
  4. The head of the bat should be placed at eye level and at the top of the strike zone. By putting the bat in this position, you can coach the player that any pitch higher than the bat is a ball and they should pull the bat back and take it. It also puts the player in a position where they can adjust down to bunt the ball. This will make it easier to bunt on the ground. If they start with the bat low and come up to bunt the ball, the result is often a pop-up.
  5. Notice that the knees are bent. It's critical to being a successful bunter that the player uses his knees to adjust to the height of the pitch. Obviously on a low strike the player will still have to use his arms to adjust to the height of the pitch, but by using his knees he will reduce the amount he will have to drop the bat to bunt the ball. This can help in 3 ways:
    1. His eyes will be closer to the height of the pitch allowing him to more easily follow the ball all the way to the bat and bunt the top half.
    2. He can keep the bat close to the same angle and drop both hands to bunt the ball. This again will reduce the chance of an easy pop-up to the catcher.
    3. He will be able to bunt the low pitch successfully. It's almost impossible to bunt a low strike by only dropping the hands and not using the knees.

Sacrifice bunt - direction

After getting in position the player should use his knees, waist, and bottom hand to adjust to the pitch and determine where to place it. In the image above the top hand (1.) is kept in approximately the same position, but notice the position of the bottom hand; To bunt the ball the opposite way, the bottom hand is pushed out (2.) and to bunt the ball down the line the bottom hand is pulled in (3.). In addition to using the bottom hand for determining the direction, player should also rotate the body at the waist.

The player should use his knees to bend down to get to a low pitch. The bat head will still have to drop on a low pitch, but it should be kept to a minumum as dropping the bat head only to bunt the ball is very difficult to do successfully. When dropping the arms to bunt a low pitch it's important to try and drop both hands in order to keep the bat head above the handle. This will prevent a pop-up directly to the catcher.

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