How to Bunt in Baseball

The art of bunting has become an under-valued aspect of baseball at many levels. Particularly in the big leagues, players who hit home runs are more often sought after than those who excel at bunting. However, no matter what your skill set, bunting is something every player can learn to do well. It also can help win games, so players who bunt well will always have some value to their team. All bunting is not created equal; there are several different types of bunts that are used depending on the situation, and some are more difficult to execute than others.

Sacrifice Bunt

The most common type of bunt, and in most cases the easiest to perform, the sacrifice bunt occurs in close games when a team decides to give up an out in order to advance one or more base runners. In a situation with only a runner on first base, the goal of the sacrifice is to move that runner up to second base, where it would likely take one hit to score him.

When bunting under these circumstances, you ideally want to bunt the ball softly towards the first-base side. This will force the first baseman or pitcher to field the ball and the second baseman to cover first base, removing most of the risk of the defense getting the lead out at second base. With a runner on second base or both first and second (and usually no outs), the sacrifice is designed to move a runner to third base, where he can score on a sacrifice fly.

The defensive rotation will be different in this case, and the primary objective is to avoid giving the defense an out at third base. In order to do this, you want to bunt the ball towards third base and make the third baseman come up and field it to get the out at first. With both types of sacrifices, there may be some room for error in terms of which side of the field you use. Still, the most important thing is to “deaden” the pace of the ball, and avoid bunting it hard back to the pitcher.


The squeeze bunt is used much less frequently, incorporates significantly more risk, and is typically done with the intention of catching the defense off-guard. Technically, it is also a type of sacrifice, because when a team squeezes, they are hoping the defense will make a play at first base. There are two types of squeezes, and both take place with a runner on third base and usually less than two outs. In a safety squeeze, the batter will bunt the ball and the runner on third will try to score. With this play, the most important part of the execution is bunting the ball away from the pitcher so he won’t be able to make a quick play on the runner trying to score. Typically in a safety squeeze, batters will attempt to bunt the ball softly towards first base.

The other type is called a suicide squeeze. The difference is that the runner on third base starts running home while the pitcher is delivering the pitch. The batter then tries to bunt the ball. In this case, it doesn’t really matter where you bunt it, because if you get it down in fair territory, the defense will likely not have time to get the out at home.

The reason it’s called a suicide is because the entire play depends on the batter being able to bunt the ball. If he pops the ball up, it will be a double play, and if he misses, the runner will be caught between third and home. The risk involved in this play makes it very uncommon, and teams usually only do it with their most reliable bunters at the plate. Therefore, if you can become a good enough bunter so that your team can trust you not to miss or pop up a bunt, you’ll be all the more valuable in these situations.

Bunting for a Hit (Drag/Push)

Another type of bunt is one that is designed to result in a base hit. It doesn’t really matter if there are runners on base (often there aren’t), and very few players have the speed and bunting skills to execute this play correctly. There are two common types of bunts in this case, and both are used with the intention of placing the ball in a spot on the infield that will allow the batter to beat out a throw to first base.

The first is a drag bunt. With a drag, the batter will square around at the last second, as the ball is being pitched, and try to bunt the ball down the third-base line. Ideally, the ball should roll along the line and be hit softly enough so neither the pitcher nor the third baseman can reach it in time. Depending on how deep the third baseman is playing, even a slow player may be able to successfully drag a bunt if he places the ball well enough.

The other way to bunt for a hit is to push bunt. Once again the hitter will square at the last second, except in this case he will try to bunt the ball hard between first base and the pitcher’s mound. It is often done against left-handed pitchers because they tend to finish their delivery on the third base side.

The goal of a push bunt is to place it in “no-man’s land” on the infield, where the pitcher, first baseman, and second baseman cannot make a play in time. This is very difficult to execute, because the bunt needs to be hard enough to get past the pitcher, soft enough that the second baseman has to come a long way to field it, and far enough away from first base that the first baseman has to come off the base.

Amazingly True Story

Game 3, 1975 World Series, Boston vs. Cincinnati. Tie score, no outs, bottom of the 10th inning: Reds outfielder Cesar Geronimo is on first base, Ed Armbrister is the batter. Armbrister attempts to lay down a sacrifice, but the bunt takes a high bounce right in front of home plate. Armbrister hesitates, and Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk jumps out of his crouch to grab the ball on the high hop.

As Fisk tries to throw the ball to second to force out Geronimo, he collides with Armbrister and throws the ball into centerfield. Geronimo ends up on third base and Armbrister ends up on second. Fisk and Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson go ballistic, arguing that Armbrister interfered with the throw. Home plate umpire Larry Barnett rules that the contact was not intentional and both players had a right to the baseline. The play stands and the Reds score the winning run two batters later on a base hit by Joe Morgan. Cincinnatti goes on to win the series in seven games.

The ’75 World Series is considered by some to be the greatest ever, although Armbrister’s controversial bunt is still debated by fans.

The Mechanics of Bunting

Now that you know the various types of bunts, it’s time to learn the proper mechanics. Bunting is a difficult skill to master, and even professionals struggle with it at times. Here are the basics steps:

Step 1: Get in the Proper Stance

Start as you normally would and try not to immediately give away your intention to bunt. Next, move forward in the batter’s box and pivot your feet around so they’re pointed towards the pitcher. If it’s more comfortable (and this might be a good idea for beginners), bring your back foot forward so your body is facing more directly at the pitcher. This position is called “squaring” to bunt. Keep your knees bent and stay balanced on the balls of your feet.

Step 2: Position the Bat

Bring the bat forward and position it horizontally, out in front of your body, approximately chest-high. Leave your bottom hand at the base of the bat, but slide your top hand down several inches (about one-third to one-half of the way down the bat). Do not grip the bat with your top hand the way you normally would, because if the pitch were to hit your hand, your fingers would be crushed against the bat. Instead, make a “thumbs up” with your top hand and place the bat between your thumb and fist. Hold the bat out in front of you loosely and stay relaxed. Now you’re ready to bunt.

Step 3: Pick Out a Good Pitch

The most important thing is to bunt strikes. It will be very difficult to bunt a pitch below your knees or above your shoulders. If the pitcher doesn’t throw you strikes, you might get a free base out of it. But when you do get a good pitch to bunt, don’t get too anxious. Keep your knees bent and hands relaxed.

Step 4: “Catch” the Baseball & Get on Top of It

Keep your eye on the ball the entire time, and don’t force the bat at the pitch or try to stab the ball. Ideally, you want to catch the pitch with the bat, which should result in a nice, soft bunt. (This does not mean you should pull the bat back as the pitch comes. Remember to keep the bat steady and out in front of you. This is the only way to bunt the ball fair.) Keep the bat level and turn your shoulders slightly if you want to angle it towards first or third base. Try to bunt the top half of the baseball to avoid popping it into the air.

Practice Makes Perfect

Placing a bunt where you want on the field and getting the right amount of “touch” on your bunts is extremely difficult, and requires a certain level of skill than can only be achieved through practice and repetition. As with any baseball skill, putting in the time and concentration will make you a better player, but becoming a good bunter is especially challenging. If you’re a good enough hitter, it’s possible that you may never be asked to bunt. Nonetheless, bunting is a skill that will always have value and you never know when your team will need a great sacrifice, squeeze, or drag bunt.

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