Bunt

From Academic Kids

Missing image
SuzukiBunt.jpg
lays down a bunt.

A bunt is a special type of offensive technique in baseball or fastpitch softball. In a bunt play, the batter loosely holds the bat in front of the plate and intentionally taps the ball into play.

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Bunting technique

Bunting is not easy. The primary goal in bunting is to ground the ball into fair territory, as far from the fielders as possible, generally while staying within the infield. This requires not only physical dexterity and concentration, but also a knowledge of the fielders' positions, their relation to the baserunner or baserunners, their likely response to the bunt, and knowledge of the pitcher's most likely pitches.

The bunt is often characterized by the batter turning his body toward the pitcher and sliding one hand up the barrel of the bat to help steady it. This is called squaring to bunt. Depending on the type of bunt, the batter might square well before the pitcher begins throwing, or as the pitch is being delivered.

Types of bunts

There are different types of bunts. The first is the sacrifice bunt, in which the batter puts the ball into play with the intention of advancing a baserunner, in exchange for the batter being thrown out. The sacrifice bunt is most often used to advance a runner from first to second base, although the runner may also be advanced from second to third base. The sacrifice bunt is most often used in close, low-scoring games, and it is usually performed by weaker hitters, especially by pitchers in games played in National League parks. A sacrifice bunt is not counted as an at-bat. In general, when sacrifice bunting, a batter will square to bunt well before the pitcher releases the ball.

The squeeze play occurs when the batter bunts with the purpose of scoring a runner from third base. The squeeze play is a very audacious play, and to witness it is one of the most exciting experiences for the baseball fan. If a runner scores in a squeeze play, the batter may be credited with an RBI.

A batter may also bunt for a base hit. This is not a sacrifice play, because the batter is trying to reach base safely, without any intention of advancing a runner. A batter may try to bunt for a base hit while there are runners on base. In this case, if the runner advances and the batter is thrown out, and if the scorer judges that the intention of the batter was to bunt for a base hit, then the batter will not receive credit for a sacrifice bunt. A batter bunting for a base hit will often hold back his bunt while the pitcher begins deliviering the ball, and only set the bat out to hit the ball.

Often when attempting to bunt for a base hit, the batter will begin running as he is bunting the ball. This is called a drag bunt. Left-handed batters perform this more often than right-handed hitters, because their stance in the batter's box is closer to first base.

A swinging bunt occurs when a poorly hit ball rolls a short distance into play, much like a bunt. A swinging bunt is often the result of a check-swing, and only has the appearance of a bunt. It is not a true bunt, and if the scorer judges that the batter intended to hit the ball, it cannot be counted as a sacrifice.

Special rules involving bunts

There is one special rule involving bunting. When there are two strikes and the batter bunts the ball into foul territory, it is considered a strikeout, and the batter is retired. This rule only applies on true bunts, not on any bunt-like contacts that might occur during a full swing or check-swing.

History

The bunt was introduced into the game by Dickey Pearce of the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1866, but was not common until the 1880s, and was not an accepted part of baseball strategy until the 20th century. The bunt has enjoyed periodic waves of acceptance and use throughout baseball history, coinciding with the periodic shifts of dominance between pitching and hitting over the decades. During periods of pitching dominance, for example during the dead-ball era or the 1960s, bunting was an important offensive weapon. However, during periods of hitting dominance, for example the 1990s and 2000s, the value of the bunt has often been questioned. Recently, teams following the "Moneyball" school of baseball thought (such as the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox) have shown the tendency to shun the sacrifice bunt almost entirely. However, a bunt for a hit is acceptable. The role of the bunt in baseball strategy is one of the perennial topics of discussion for baseball fans.

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