Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Baseball season is back! How to Guides:

Tips for Laying Down a Perfect Bunt

There are many things to know about being able to lay down the perfect bunt and few players know how to do it consistently.  The number one tip for laying down a good bunt is to have "soft hands".

What that means is that many batters go through the motions of setting up and laying down a bunt, but too many do not have the "soft hands" to complete the job.  The batter who consistently can lay down the perfect bunt can actually "feel" the ball as he "touches" the ball with his bat.  It takes a lot of practice and awareness to be able to be lay down consistently successful bunts.  The "soft hands" make a good bunt great.

A second tip is that we cannot underestimate good hand/eye skills.  Most professional baseball players have good hand/eye coordination; however, laying down great bunts consistently requires a different type of hand/eye skills.  Very often endless practice results in furthering those skills.

Great batters see the different parts of the baseball as it is in flight from the pitcher's mound to the plate.  The former Boston Red Sox great, Ted Williams, often stated that he would hit different areas of the baseball to do certain things, much as a billards player places "English" on the cue ball to get it to perform in a specific manner.  Williams could do almost anything he wanted to more than 4 out of 10 trips to the plate.  It is why he is a lifetime .406 hitter.  In addition, Ted Williams had great hand/eye coordination and he studied pitchers constantly to pick up anything that would give him an edge.  There are very few players who are considered to be great hitters as was Williams.

One of the greatest hitters I ever saw was Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankess, back in the 1950's.  While he was an awesome power-hitter with more than 500 career homeruns, he also could lay down a great bunt with great hands.  Being a power-hitter, a switch-hitter and fast as lightning, Mantle could threaten opposing pitchers with a massive shot into the bleachers or a soft but perfect bunt right down the third base line.  He was an incredible hitter, but he relied on his natural abilities, abused himself by letting booze and womanizing interfere with his career.  Later in his life "The Mick" admitted to this fault and expressed regret.

Another bunting tip to lay down the perfect bunt is to hit from the left side of the plate.  The reason is that as a lefty batter you are a few steps closer to first base when you hit the ball and you can break towards first even as you hit the ball.  Very often, a few steps make a big difference in beating the throw to first.

Setting up your body and feet to be in the right position to hit a bunt is frequently under-rated and overlooked.  The ball is going to go in the direction that your bat is pointing; however, if your body and feet are not set up accordingly, you may be reaching or trying to get away from a close pitch.

Part of setting up your body and feet is another tip called "waiting for the last moment" to show you are bunting and to get your body and feet quickly into position to hit any pitch thrown.  Another issue along with this method is the element of surprise.  Too many batters, especially National League Baseball Pitchers who bat for themselves, show they are bunting before the opposing pitcher takes his stretch to throw the ball.  The element of surprise is lost and so is the ability of the batter to make the last minute adjustment to place his body and feet into the best position to bunt the ball to the best possible place on the infield.

Another tip is to know WHERE to bunt the ball.  Most batters are unaware of ALL the options.  There are many "places" to bunt the ball on the infield.  Different instances call for specific bunting options.

Sometimes, as with a man on first or second, the batter may want to "soft touch" the ball halfway to the left side of the infield, or third base side, but far enough away from the catcher so it doesn't result in throwing out the lead runner.  If the batter hits it too hard, the third baseman may have a play on the lead runner.  That's where the "soft hands" come into play.  Also, sometimes acting too quickly or setting up the body and feet too soon may cause the batter to miss the bunt and/or pop the ball up to an infielder causing at least one easy out and a possible double play.

Sometimes, with a runner on second base, the batter may want to bunt the ball on the left or right side of the infield to move the runner over to third base.  The same principles stated above of bunting the ball to the left side apply to the right side.

There are time when trying to bunt the ball to the left or right and just behind the pitcher, or pushing the bunt, may be the best and greatest surprised bunt.  That type of bunt may be the perfect bunt with a man on first base trying to steal second because it forces either the shortstop or second basemen to charge in for the ball to make a play and may make the steal easier for the runner.This option also may be the best one with a man on third, a.k.a., "a squeeze bunt", hoping to score the runner.

There is always the option to fake a bunt and then swing away, again using the element of surprise.

In closing, bunting is one of the most under-rated and overlooked batting options and the least understood by baseball hitters.  The key to placing a perfect bunt is to "practice, practice and more practice"; however, most hitters do not take the time to learn bunting skills and many managers do not force them to learn.  A batter who knows how to bunt always has the ability to rely on the element of surprise, which may be the key in getting a few extra runs and/or winning more games.  Bunting is a skill that few batters possess, but they could learn to do it better using the above tips.

No comments:

Post a Comment