Bunting (baseball) - Talent or Effort

Ocaisonally some big time hitters will come up in situations late in games in which a simple bunt will win the game for their teams, and not be able to perform this. Instead, they swing away, with the expected, erratic, results. What I wonder is, are these players naturally ungifted in bunting (against Major League pitching)? Or is it just that being big time hitters who will not often be called upon to do so, they just don’t bother learning and practicing this elementary skill? I would think it would be worth doing. If nothing else it will draw the infielders in and give them a better chance for a hit.

Bunting is learned by practicing. There is no reason why they can’t do it. It is a matter of will and determination.

wow, a baseball question that I can answer!
Bunting is indeed a learnable skill (at least for some folk who can hit the ball in the first place), but I fear that it’s not a VALUED skill, therefore not necessarily practiced the way it should be.
how do I know about this??

many years ago, my baby brother was in the little league world series. (back in 1972). his team placed 4th in the world that year, which was fortunate since the second place team got the “honor” of playing ON TV against the team from Taiwan, who scored like at least 10 runs per inning (or so it seemed). One inning, each player got up and bunted. they scored 8 that inning. yea, I think mercy rule came to play somewhere there, but it was really kinda neat seeing all those kids just get up and bunt.

In Japan, the sacrifice bunt is one of the heroic plays… brings the crowd to their feet cheering.

Question is, if indeed anyone can do it, why don’t the managers force all the players to learn how?

Would you rather have Sammy Sosa practice hitting outside pitches over the right field fence, or practice bunting?

Practice time in general is devoted to the areas in which a player can most help the team.

A comparison would be that pitchers don’t hit very well. It would benefit the team if a pitcher devoted a large chunk of practice time to hitting, and thus improved. However, it would be a much greater benefit to the team if the pitcher spent that same practice time working on their pitching.

You want a hitter to do what he does best. The only time when a bunt can be given a good chance of scoring a run is if there’s a runner on third with less than two outs. If you have Mark McGwire up in that situation, there are other ways of bringing the run home. If he swings for the fences but only gets to the warning track, the run scores anyway. You might as well have him swing away and get multiple runs, which will give you a cushion.

When is a “simple bunt” going to win a game? Are you referring to a squeeze play? That’s about the only time I can imagine a bunt winning a game.

A bunt rarely does anything more than move the runners up one base while using up an out. It really only makes sense to use if the batter has little or no chance of getting a hit against a pitcher. This usually means that only pitchers or very weak hitters get called on to sacrifice now.

You only get 27 outs. In this day of high offense, there is no sense in wasting one of them to move someone from first to second base.

As for the squeeze play, it is has a poor risk/reward ratio.

I appreciate Lance Turbo’s point. I guess I wasn’t thinking of how much these guys have to prctice to do what they already do, and hence how limited their practice time is.

I don’t understand the last two posts, however. If you come up in the ninth innning of a tie game, and a runner on third and less than two outs, it is worthwile for anyone to bunt. If they know how to, that is.

More than that: if I have a runner on first and no outs, in the bottom of the ninth, I think it would be better for any hitter to bunt the guy over. The difference between needing only a single as opposed to a double more than makes up for the out that you are giving up.

Remember, the purpose in baseball is to score runs, which is often done by advancing runners in 90-foot increments. Bunting can do this effectively in a couple of situations:

  1. The batter is not real fast and is likely to be thrown out or hit into a double play anyway.
  2. The batter is not a good hitter, eg. a pitcher. The likelihood of a pitcher lining a single to left field to advance the runner is poor, but laying down a bunt can do this well, and often avoids a double play.

Better the pitcher should save his strength for pitching and allow the batters at the top of the order (usually the better hitters) to have a crack at base hits.

Today’s baseball is a hitter’s game, with averages and home run counts going sky high. So why not let a guy like Mike Piazza, who can hit .350 with 40 home runs in a season, swing away? What could happen? He could strike out, he could ground out (both bad). He could get a base hit, he could hit a home run, he could hit a long sacrifice fly (all good). With his average and home run potential, and the fact that he’s not the fastest guy on the planet, Piazza doesn’t bunt a whole lot. He doesn’t need to.

Well, there are more ways to score than run from third if you swing away. A fly ball with any depth scores the run, especially if the manager has made sure a speedy guy is at third.

Even a grounder in the infield (“swinging bunt”) may score the run.

Any base hit scores the run. The defense is most likely playing in, making a hit all that much easier. Even if the defense is playing for the double play grounder (assuming a guy at first), that is never a given, especially if the runner on first takes out the second baseman.

Even the best of bunters might pop it up, send it right back to the pitcher, or leave it in front of the plate for the catcher to pick up. Remember, squaring around to bunt in the situation you are describing is much different than the surprise factor of bunting for a hit. Many of your great “bunt for a hit” guys are less than spectacular when squaring around for a sacrifice, especially when the defense is set for it.

All in all, better to swing away.


I tend to agree, unless you have your money-man slugger up.

The sacrifice bunt would only be favorable if the hitter is inept in all other facets of the game.

If the game is tied in the bottom of the ninth, the sacrifice is almost worth the cost of an out, but I still think it’s better to try to score the run the same way you did in the previous eight innings.

I’ve always considered the sacrifice a sucker’s bet. Save your outs!

In your first paragraph above, realize that, as BobT said, the risk/reward ratio is low. Sure, if you bunt successfully, you win the game right then and there. But the fact is, with the score tied, the runner at third, and less than two outs, you’re more likely to win the game than not just playing it straight.

However, if you do NOT bunt successfully on a squeeze (assuming you miss the pitch and don’t foul the ball off), the runner will likely be thrown out, and the batter will remain at bat. Not only have your made an out, you’ve erased the runner from third. Very bad.

Even worse, if you pop the ball up, you’re likely to have a double play turned against you: batter out on pop out, runner doubled off third.

So, while you might win outright, you’re probably at least as likely to win just asking the batter to get a hit, or a deep fly ball (remember the possibility of a sacrifice fly with less than two out).

As for your second paragraph above, sure, I’d probably agree that the you increase your chances of winning with a runner at second with one out, as opposed to a runner at first with none out. However, you’re not taking into account the possibility that even a good bunter won’t get the bunt down: he could, again, pop into a double play, or bunt it hard enough to force the runner at second.

The problem with bunting is, even if you’re successful, you’ve automatically given up an out. And if you fail, you’ve given up AT LEAST AN OUT (in both cases not including the possibility that the defense will commit an error). And, as has been pointed out by many, in this era of high offense, giving up an out is generally a losing proposition relative to just trying for a hit.

To nitpick, it’s certainly possible to get a bunt single. Yes, in cases where the other team is expecting a bunt, and the defense is playing in, it’s rather unlikely, but even then it is possible.

As for the topic, I think it’s mostly the practice thing. While there may be situations where a bunt would definetly be the best strategy if you have a good bunter at the plate, the question is how much practice time does it take for someone to become and continue to be a good bunter versus how often these situations come up. With good hitters, especially good power hitters, I guess the managers don’t feel time spent practicing bunting is cost effective.

In my opinion, there are really three types of players who should practice bunting: National League pitchers, position players who are in the game for their defense and who aren’t great hitters (e.g. defensive middle infielders and catchers), and fast runners who will be able to bunt for singles. For anyone else, at least in this era of offense, I don’t think regular practice time on bunting can be justified.

For players, it is definately a practice thing. Pitchers and contact hitters work on it. Sluggers these days are never asked to do it. For managers, it’s philosophy. Davey Johnson of our Dodgers would rather talk to the ump nekkid than call for a bunt. Tommy Lasorda called for the occasional suicide squeeze.

To me, the bunt is way under-used. It’s a great way to move a runner into scoring position, avoid the double play, and making a weak-hitting speedster more valuable. You can take advantage of a poor fielding team. And I love the suicide squeeze

Well, big guy, I have to disagree with you there. That’s why you get three of 'em per inning. Often the situation comes up with a man on second or third and less than two outs. The batter’s purpose in this case is almost always to just hit the ball out of the infield. The batter is not on base at this point, but someone else is. Therefore, it only makes sense to capitalize on the runner’s position and try to improve it. Even if it means making an out yourself. That’s why it’s called a sacrifice and not just a fly out that advanced a runner. Games are won and lost on just such circumstances.

All hail the noble sacrifice fly!

A Sacrifice Fly is an entirely different type of animal from a sacrifice bunt. It is debatable about whether or not it is even right to not charge the batter an AB for hitting one.
(When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, there were no sacrifice flies).
Some studies have shown that batters don’t hit fly balls in sacrifice fly situations more frequently than in other times.

Personally, if there are runners on second and third and less than two outs, I would prefer the batter to hit a line drive single.

However, I do agree with your description of me as “big guy” as I do stand 6’5".

There’s a lot of good reasons to bunt a player from second to third especially if there are no outs. A runner on third with one out can score a whole bunch of ways.

A hit
A wild pitch
A balk
A sacrifice fly
A suicide squeeze

If a game is tied and in the ninth and you know a pitcher has a tendency to be wild and you have a contact hitter due up it’s a great play. This situation comes up for every team at least once or twice a season and a win is a win.

The Cubs had a catcher named Rick Wrona in the late eighties or possibly the early ninties who won at least two games for the Cubs in a season by laying down a bunt in a suicide squeeze situation in the bottom of the ninth. A win is a win.

Well, of course, so would I. You don’t intentionally make an out. But I would also prefer the batter to hit the ball in the air and out of the infield rather than a weak-assed grounder back to the mound. Relatively speaking, I mean.

In other words, there’s a sliding scale at work here. Hitting safely is most preferable. Striking out and then breaking your hand when you punch the dugout wall is least preferable. Hitting safely always ranks higher than making an out, even if that out results in an RBI (as would a single, in that situation). But since batters can’t really control the flight of a batted ball, I still maintain that their aim in the above situation is to do what they can to make sure the ball goes out of the infield. If it’s caught, it’s caught, but an infield fly or grounder is completely useless. At least the sac fly produces a run while it burns an out, and thereby becomes a productive out. That’s how the game was designed way back when – to manufacture runs.

BTW, I know you’re 6’5". Remember, I’m the guy who called you an impish librarian in another thread.

  1. (I made this point earlier but it has been overlooked.) Even the threat of an ocasional bunt will force the infielders at the corners to defend against the possibility by charging in on the pitch. This gives the hitter a huge advantage if he decides to swing away. If he is known to never bunt it is likely that the infielders will concentrate on defending more effectively against a hit.

  2. (In response to a comment made earlier by divemaster). The difference between a big money-man slugger and an average player is, I believe, overrated by fans due to emotional reasons. As an example, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .250 hitter is a hit in 20 at-bats. The difference in the likelihood of an extra-base hit is even smaller. Over the course of a 162 game season these differences add up. But in dwelling on situational tactics it’s a mistake to let the small differences outweigh the larger ones.

  3. When people discuss the likelihood of hitting into a double play the statistic generally given is the total number of times that this has happened with a particualr player. This makes it easy to overlook the fact that many times a player has come up to bat in situations where double plays were impossible. Frequently there are already two outs. Or there may be no one on first. I would suspect that the percentage of feasible opportunities that players hit into double plays is actually quite high, though I don’t have anything to back this up. Maybe someone else knows the actual statistics.