In the generations past players like Lee Mazzili, Nellie Fox, Vada Pinson, Rod Carew, and even Major League Baseball’s career hits leader, Pete Rose, made significant contributions to their batting average by utilizing the bunt base hit.
In a more modern setting the bunt was kept alive by players like Brett Butler, Juan Pierre, Kenny Lofton, Otis Nixon and Dave Roberts; however, as time goes on and baseball becomes more obsessed with exit velocity and launch angles - the bunt base hit is slowly dying. At least that seems to be the case in Major League Baseball. To their credit, some prep schools and collegiate programs still use small ball on a regular basis.
As we discussed in “The Lost Art of the Bunt Base Hit” there should still be a substantial place in the game for “laying one down,” particularly with all the defensive shifts being used in the modern day game. Today we will take a look at a unique and effective bunt base hit style, the drag bunt by a left handed hitter to the right side of the infield.
In this drill the hitter should set up their MaxBP machine (or training partner) on an appropriate speed. Less experienced players should begin with a slower speed at a straight trajectory, while more experienced players can challenge themselves with higher velocity and breaking pitches. The key to this drill is to make sure you have a "target" between the first and second baseman, even if you are in a cage.
Although the general vicinity should always be the same, a batter may want to slightly vary their target area. This represents the idea that there are multiple defensive settings a bunter will encounter. Is there a defensive shift? Is there a runner being “held on” at first base? Is the second baseman playing at double play depth?
Once the desired target location is established a hitter can begin taking their reps. Several different rounds with slightly different target locations, pitch speeds and types is the most effective way to incorporate this drill. Since the athlete is bunting for a base hit and not a sacrifice, it’s essential that the intention to bunt isn’t revealed too early. If the hitter shows bunt too early, it will allow the respective defensive players to get an early break on the ball, giving them a better opportunity to record an out.
With a MaxBP machine the batter should square up to bunt as the pitch indicator light turns on, with a training partner the timing should coincide with the pitcher's front foot hitting the ground. The batter should point the barrel of the bat (held at an angle where barrel is higher than knob), as the ball approaches the player should have soft hands and “catch the ball with the bat.” The angle, depending on defensive positioning should be alternated slightly in each respective round; however, most of the time the bunt will go somewhere along the foul line and will be fielded by the first baseman. Essentially this creates a foot race between the batter, the pitcher and the second baseman to first base.
These angles will need to be fine tuned and are well worth practicing. The more time an athlete spends practicing this skill, the more comfortable a player will be at handling the bat, and the more effective they will be as a bunter. There are several options for this type of bunt, including the crossover technique and the front jab step. I would encourage a player to practice both techniques and see which style is the best fit.
This is an excellent drill for players 9 years of age and older, in order to practice this exercise an athlete needs a MaxBP machine (or training partner), game bat, balls and a target of some sort.
A batter with the ability to handle the bat and utilize this style of bunt properly is quite a weapon for a ball club, when a defense is in a vulnerable state or sleeping on a hitter, lay one down where “they ain't” and take that 90 foot gift.