Friday, October 9, 2009

Coaching Baseball - Bunting - How to Execute the Sacrifice Bunt

By Nick Dixon

Bunting is a skill that must be learned and practiced on a regular basis. It is often one of the most neglected aspects of a team's offensive strategy. There are various techniques of bunting and each should be taught and practiced.

Two kinds of sacrifice bunts are common, the square around and the pivot bunts get their names from the footwork used for each. For a square around bunt the batter will square the feet around when the pitcher begins his motion. It is better to square too early than too late. Squaring late often cause the ball to be contacted poorly or popped up. For a pivot bunt both feet pivot and the batter turns his shoulders square to the pitcher without moving stepping his feet. Both feet pivot on the balls of the feet. Using a pivot bunt allows the batter to show bunt a bit later and it allows the bunter to pivot back if the pitch is not a strike or inside. The pivot bunt is becoming the choice sacrifice bunt technique of most teams.

12 coaching points of teaching players how to execute a sacrifice bunt:

The pitch must be a strike. Do not bunt pitches that are not in the strike zone. Coaches must make sure that the base runner knows that he must "see the ball down" on the ground before he breaks for 2B.

The bunted ball should be bunted away from the pitcher. The pitcher must have to move at least 10 feet to field the ball. The bunter should bunt the ball too close to the foul line because the ball may roll foul. The best sacrifice bunt is in a zone 2 to 4 feet off the foul line.

The ball should be bunted far enough that the catcher can not pop out and field the ball. The offense does not want the catcher to be able to field the ball. The catcher is the one fielder with the best angle to execute a perfect throw to first or second base.

The batter should move up in the batters box. Moving up allows the batter more fair territory in which to bunt the ball.

The batter should bunt the ball before it reached the plate.

The ball must be bunted downward. A ball bunted into the air could result in an easy double play. Plus, the runner must hold to see if the ball is caught. The defense may field the ball and make the play at second base to get the out and prevent the sacrifice. The batter must bunt the top half of the baseball.

The hands should be moved to the bunt position as the feet move. The top hand slides up the barrel to a location about 10 to 12 inches from the barrel. The bottom hand grips the knob and is the hand that controls the bat angle. Many coaches prefer the bat angle to be at 45 degrees and many coaches teach the player to keep the bat angle almost flat. Either way the knees should be flexed and the bat should be slightly lower than eye level.

The height of the bat should be changed by bending the knees. If a batter tries to change the level of the bat by lowering the bat with the hands, the ball is often popped up.

The arms of relaxed and the ball is "mushed", not "pushed" off the bat. This means that the arms have a lot of give in them to deaden the bat impact on the ball. Both elbows should be pointed downward.

The batter should leave the box after the ball is bunted. Two of the main causes of sacrifice bunting failure are 1) A batter trying to run before the ball is bunted. This bunt is a sacrifice bunt. The key word is sacrifice. If you get out, so be it. The main thing is to get your job done and get the bunt down in the right spot. 2) The bunter starts his bunting motion too late. Chances are good that the other team expects a bunt in this situation. The batter should get around early enough to make sure that the hands and feet get to their correct positions. As I said earlier, I would prefer a batter show a sacrifice bunt too early than to be too late to get the job done.

I hope these coaching points are useful to you. Make sure to visit the Baseball Coaches Digest Blog and the Youth Baseball Clinic Blog for daily posts and articles on every aspect of coaching baseball.

Good luck till next time, Coach Nick.

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