Good or bad: Bunting in baseball
There’s a tactic in baseball that drives fans wild. It can lead to one of the most exciting plays in baseball, or one of the most boring, depending on who you ask. For today’s blog, I’m going to talk about the bunt.
When a player or manager decides to bunt, it usually causes an immediate conversation and debate. Is bunting good for baseball? I’ll present you with some information so you can decide for yourself.
One of the more unique things about bunting, in comparison to other things in baseball, is that it’s executed in different ways and for different reasons. For instance, there’s a sacrifice bunt, a bunt for a hit, a suicide squeeze and also a safety squeeze. All of these plays focus exclusively around a bunt.
The main purpose of a bunt (at least in the vast majority of the time) is to give your team a significantly better chance to score a run. Bunting doesn’t always end up working out, and that’s often the main reason that some people are strongly against bunting under any circumstance.
First, let’s define a bunt. Simply put, it’s when a batter doesn’t attempt to swing at the ball in the usual sense, but rather they attempt to just stick the bat in front of the plate, ideally allowing the ball to travel no more than 15 feet past home plate. Here’s a picture of a standard bunting stance.
Usually when that happens, the batter is more or less sacrificing their at bat, and by that, meaning they’re gladly willing to trade an out in order to advance a runner to the next base. It’s very common to see a team attempt to sacrifice bunt when they’re tied late in the game. By advancing a runner to the next base, your odds of scoring on a base hit go up significantly.
If the sacrifice bunt doesn’t work, it usually results in the batter getting out without moving up the runner, or in very bad cases, both the batter and base runner manage to get out on the same play.
When a batter attempts to bunt for a base hit, they are essentially trying to catch the defense off guard, by forcing them to make a spectacular play in order to record an out. This is usually done with a very fast runner, with all kinds of mixed results. Here’s a video of an example of a batter bunting for a base hit.
The final category of bunts (at least as far as I’m discussing) is the squeeze play. This situation occurs with a runner on third base, and usually less than two outs (but teams who want to be extra adventurous will attempt a squeeze play with two outs). In a suicide squeeze, the runner on third base attempts to steal home, and the batter attempts to bunt the ball. If the batter can manage to bunt the ball into play without allowing the other team to catch it, the run will almost always score. If the batter misses his bunt attempt, the runner will be out at the plate and the rally will most likely be over. It would look a little something like this.
Similarly, a safety squeeze also occurs with a runner on third base and usually less than two outs. The difference between a suicide and a safety squeeze is the fact that the runner on third base will not run home until the batter has successfully bunted the ball. This way, if the batter misses the ball, there’s only minimal harm done.
You can find evidence that both supports and opposes the use of bunting in baseball. Much like anything else in baseball, fans seem to love it whenever it works, but hate it when it’s unsuccessful.