Bunting Alive and Well

Notwithstanding analytics/modern trends against bunting, in a three game series this weekend, I saw a college team require four different batters to attempt to bunt with two strikes.  Three of them fouled off the last pitch for an out.  A big head-scratcher for me.  

Original Post

I agree; the analytics seemingly haven't been fully vetted at probably all levels.  But, I get the sense it's more of the "old school" coach philosophy of "dammit, you are going to get this bunt down no matter what."  I am no analytics expert; extremely far from it.  But, I'd be shocked if they ever supported bunting with two strikes for a hitter good enough to be in a college lineup.  Any coaches here keep the bunt sign on with two strikes?

Very rare but you may have a hitter as 3and2 described that has a better chance of getting the bunt down than moving the runner otherwise or getting a hit.  This may be a weak hitter who bunts OK but has a high K rate or a pinch hitter brought in who is a particularly good bunter but just OK hitter.  Late in a one run or tied game with no outs, you have to take your best shot at moving that runner, whatever you think the best shot is.  I guess that would fall under your "old school" description but it is done because of the current stats that it is more likely to score that run from 2b with 1 out than from 1b with no out and a weak hitter up.  Who's up after?  Who is runner?, what kind of pitcher?  Etc., etc. all factor.

That said, If I've done it a handful of times over the years, it is more likely during a non-conference game that the hitter gave me a weak effort the first few times with hopes of being able to hit away.  This sends the clear message that that won't be tolerated.

I'm not a fan of the bunt either but consider that "the book" assumes equal hitters. If you have a very weak hitter (like an nl pitcher) the bunt can be a good play because you give up an out but that guy might have made an out 80% of the time anyway.

At amateur levels below strong D1 there may (or may not) be enough of a talent drop off within the teams to make a bunt worth it.

But I wont rule out that the coaches are just ignorant either.

Big Mac,

my hitters (they are all considered hitters) are instructed to "choke up" on the bat 2", eliminate the pull field, focus to your opposite field and swing the bat with force!

in a 7 inning game, you have 27 outs, do not give them up without a fight.

Bob

To me Old School by the Book is leadoff hitter gets on you bunt him to second or first two guys get on then you bunt them over.  Basically you're playing for one run in the first situation and one run but hope for two in the second situation.  Well if you play for one run then you tend to get one run and that won't help you win many games.  Few days ago the Cubs were playing the Pirates and the first two runners got on.  Both announcers said it was time to bunt with 0 out and pinch hitter coming up for pitcher in a 0-0 game.  Guy swung away and got a double scoring one run so now runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  Next three guys all got out without scoring another run.  Obviously it's hard to say what would happen by doing something different but by swinging away the Cubs created a higher chance of scoring 2 runs or more but they failed to do it.  By swinging away they scored a run and controlled all 3 outs while runners were in a great position to add to it.  By bunting there they decrease their odds of scoring by using an out to move them 90 feet.  I'm not real smart but I like the higher chances of scoring better than the lower chances.

coach2709 posted:

To me Old School by the Book is leadoff hitter gets on you bunt him to second or first two guys get on then you bunt them over.  Basically you're playing for one run in the first situation and one run but hope for two in the second situation.  Well if you play for one run then you tend to get one run and that won't help you win many games.  Few days ago the Cubs were playing the Pirates and the first two runners got on.  Both announcers said it was time to bunt with 0 out and pinch hitter coming up for pitcher in a 0-0 game.  Guy swung away and got a double scoring one run so now runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  Next three guys all got out without scoring another run.  Obviously it's hard to say what would happen by doing something different but by swinging away the Cubs created a higher chance of scoring 2 runs or more but they failed to do it.  By swinging away they scored a run and controlled all 3 outs while runners were in a great position to add to it.  By bunting there they decrease their odds of scoring by using an out to move them 90 feet.  I'm not real smart but I like the higher chances of scoring better than the lower chances.

But we can't ignore the fact that %'s are way higher to get a bunt down than to get a hit. Yes, crooked numbers are better than one but one is WAY better than none.  If playing a competitive game with decent pitching, I've found that getting that first run is very important.  Again, tons of variables.  If you have a lineup full of bangers, totally different story.  But even then, who do they bang against?  We are currently in our Spring Break tourney.  We play a few teams with solid state rankings.  Their offensive stats are not impressive.  But they both play in very strong highest classification leagues.  They bang very well against average teams.  They have good pitching.  In their league, I'm sure they take a more situational approach and include the bunt.  You could tell that was the case as one used the bunt consistently even against smaller schools in the tourney until they had a decent lead.

With no outs, moving a guy to second to give a couple good hitters a chance at scoring him is usually not a bad strategy.  Also, HS pitchers and defenses typically feel more pressure with runners in scoring position than with an R1.  Sorry, probably opening the floodgates here but it is the OP topic, so I guess that's OK.

More than one ways...  personnel and opponent factor in largely.

cabbagedad posted:
coach2709 posted:

To me Old School by the Book is leadoff hitter gets on you bunt him to second or first two guys get on then you bunt them over.  Basically you're playing for one run in the first situation and one run but hope for two in the second situation.  Well if you play for one run then you tend to get one run and that won't help you win many games.  Few days ago the Cubs were playing the Pirates and the first two runners got on.  Both announcers said it was time to bunt with 0 out and pinch hitter coming up for pitcher in a 0-0 game.  Guy swung away and got a double scoring one run so now runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  Next three guys all got out without scoring another run.  Obviously it's hard to say what would happen by doing something different but by swinging away the Cubs created a higher chance of scoring 2 runs or more but they failed to do it.  By swinging away they scored a run and controlled all 3 outs while runners were in a great position to add to it.  By bunting there they decrease their odds of scoring by using an out to move them 90 feet.  I'm not real smart but I like the higher chances of scoring better than the lower chances.

But we can't ignore the fact that %'s are way higher to get a bunt down than to get a hit. Yes, crooked numbers are better than one but one is WAY better than none.  If playing a competitive game with decent pitching, I've found that getting that first run is very important.  Again, tons of variables.  If you have a lineup full of bangers, totally different story.  But even then, who do they bang against?  We are currently in our Spring Break tourney.  We play a few teams with solid state rankings.  Their offensive stats are not impressive.  But they both play in very strong highest classification leagues.  They bang very well against average teams.  They have good pitching.  In their league, I'm sure they take a more situational approach and include the bunt.  You could tell that was the case as one used the bunt consistently even against smaller schools in the tourney until they had a decent lead.

With no outs, moving a guy to second to give a couple good hitters a chance at scoring him is usually not a bad strategy.  Also, HS pitchers and defenses typically feel more pressure with runners in scoring position than with an R1.  Sorry, probably opening the floodgates here but it is the OP topic, so I guess that's OK.

More than one ways...  personnel and opponent factor in largely.

I agree with everything you said and wanted to make some of those points too but stupid teaching got in the way.  Took me about 3 hours of off and on typing just to get that LOL.  Lots of variables as you said and I will never say bunting in what I described above is the wrong strategy.  It's a very conservative strategy and I'm an aggressive guy who wants crooked numbers.  I typically won't bunt until late in the game if we are down one, tied or need an insurance run.  I'm usually telling my guys to hit it.  But if we are facing that stud you're talking about then I am looking to bunt earlier.  

What I've discovered that works for me is that this helps my guys but into bunting.  They know I want them to swing the bat.  They want to swing the bat so they are getting to do what they want to do.  But they also know that if I give the bunt sign then it's an important time in the game and giving up their at bat is what's best for the team.  We rarely failed in getting the bunt down.  Now that I'm coaching softball it still works with them.  

I think people tend to lump all bunts together when they aren’t all the same. A sacrifice bunt is one thing, but a bunt to try to get on is something else entirely. The former is as its name implies, a sacrifice of the batter, or giving up an out to move a runner(s) up a base. The latter is something quite different as it’s usually tried by players with a lot of speed or when the batter sees the F5 is playing behind the base or the pitcher does something that looks like he’d be vulnerable to the bunt.

 

coach2709 posted:
cabbagedad posted:
coach2709 posted:

To me Old School by the Book is leadoff hitter gets on you bunt him to second or first two guys get on then you bunt them over.  Basically you're playing for one run in the first situation and one run but hope for two in the second situation.  Well if you play for one run then you tend to get one run and that won't help you win many games.  Few days ago the Cubs were playing the Pirates and the first two runners got on.  Both announcers said it was time to bunt with 0 out and pinch hitter coming up for pitcher in a 0-0 game.  Guy swung away and got a double scoring one run so now runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  Next three guys all got out without scoring another run.  Obviously it's hard to say what would happen by doing something different but by swinging away the Cubs created a higher chance of scoring 2 runs or more but they failed to do it.  By swinging away they scored a run and controlled all 3 outs while runners were in a great position to add to it.  By bunting there they decrease their odds of scoring by using an out to move them 90 feet.  I'm not real smart but I like the higher chances of scoring better than the lower chances.

But we can't ignore the fact that %'s are way higher to get a bunt down than to get a hit. Yes, crooked numbers are better than one but one is WAY better than none.  If playing a competitive game with decent pitching, I've found that getting that first run is very important.  Again, tons of variables.  If you have a lineup full of bangers, totally different story.  But even then, who do they bang against?  We are currently in our Spring Break tourney.  We play a few teams with solid state rankings.  Their offensive stats are not impressive.  But they both play in very strong highest classification leagues.  They bang very well against average teams.  They have good pitching.  In their league, I'm sure they take a more situational approach and include the bunt.  You could tell that was the case as one used the bunt consistently even against smaller schools in the tourney until they had a decent lead.

With no outs, moving a guy to second to give a couple good hitters a chance at scoring him is usually not a bad strategy.  Also, HS pitchers and defenses typically feel more pressure with runners in scoring position than with an R1.  Sorry, probably opening the floodgates here but it is the OP topic, so I guess that's OK.

More than one ways...  personnel and opponent factor in largely.

I agree with everything you said and wanted to make some of those points too but stupid teaching got in the way.  Took me about 3 hours of off and on typing just to get that LOL.  Lots of variables as you said and I will never say bunting in what I described above is the wrong strategy.  It's a very conservative strategy and I'm an aggressive guy who wants crooked numbers.  I typically won't bunt until late in the game if we are down one, tied or need an insurance run.  I'm usually telling my guys to hit it.  But if we are facing that stud you're talking about then I am looking to bunt earlier.  

What I've discovered that works for me is that this helps my guys but into bunting.  They know I want them to swing the bat.  They want to swing the bat so they are getting to do what they want to do.  But they also know that if I give the bunt sign then it's an important time in the game and giving up their at bat is what's best for the team.  We rarely failed in getting the bunt down.  Now that I'm coaching softball it still works with them.  

Yeah, I should have added... we do take an approach that is not purely old school.  When we bunt early, we put more focus on bunting for a hit.  Yes, we really want to move the runner but we will square a bit later and look to lay it down third and be fairly aggressive with the target line closer to the foul line than P, giving us a good chance at advancing the runner, not sacrificing an out and adding a runner.

Another interesting observation over the years...

It seems like a great deal of our crooked number innings start with the process of moving the runner over to score one.  I realize this can be self-fulfilling but still...

Yes I will agree there is a difference in sacrifice bunt and bunt for a hit but there are times bunting for a basehit is not the best move.  Two examples - obviously I'm a huge Cubs fan (literally and figuratively) Kyle Schwarber dropped a bunt to beat the shift a few days ago.  Yes he's in the leadoff spot and he's atypical lead off guy and his goal is to get on base but IMO that's a waste of his ability to mash.  Now maybe ONE at bat it's a good thing but to break the shift used on his would take bunting 2 or 3 times a game for several games - if then - to break the shift.  That's a lot of at bats wasted where he could double or homer.  A Billy Hamilton type hitter - sure drop them all day long but not everyone should.

The other example was last week during spring break my high school softball team was in a tournament.  In the second round we were playing a VERY good team and their 3rd or 4th hitter (can't remember now) was just power.  We were up 1-0 the whole game but we were handling her by striking her out on change ups.  In the sixth inning she came up with nobody on and two outs.  She dropped a bunt and we didn't even attempt to throw her out it was so good.  I cannot tell you how big of a relief that was for me to see her do that.  Struck the next girl out and she was stuck on first.  Funny ending is we ended up scoring another run in the bottom of the 6th to go up 2-0 which was good because in the top of the 7th the leadoff hitter crushed a homerun to make it 2-1 but we held on for the win.

I'm just not a huge fan of the bunt I guess.  We practice it because there are times I feel we need to use it (even when I was coaching baseball) but I would rather swing away.  If we play a team that bunts I know we are in for a great game because it does put pressure on you to make plays.  I'm actually glad I'm coaching softball right now because they bunt all the time with the slap and few other types.  Learning to defend that I believe is going to help me when I get back to baseball.  Baseball (and even softball) is a great game because so many ways to attack defenses.

My biggest issue with bunting is who in the heck I have to drive someone in. Too often I find myself in this situation with my 2- or 3-hole hitter up, and I want them swinging, or with my 4-hole hitter on base and I'm not bunting with my #5 to try and get 6-8 to drive him in. I guess if I had 9 mashers I might feel differently.

Plus, we have speed, so we steal a lot of bases in this situation. Perfect situation is 0-0 fake bunt, steal. If we're 1-0 count we'll sell fake bunt again. Then we'll get a 2-0 or 1-1 fat fastball from a pitcher trying to get a bunt out. (We'll them most likely swing through it or take it for a strike and screw the whole thing up. One of them years....)

 

My bunt story: Back in 1980, I was a JR in HS. In the second inning of a game, I hit a deep solo shot over center field fence, my first of the year. Then at the start of my next plate appearance, I look over and my coach is giving me the bunt sign. I stepped out of the box and gave him a look that said, "You've got to be kidding me!" He called time and waved me over to him and said, "Look how far back third base is playing you now. If you put a bunt down, it will look like a line drive in the paper tomorrow." I still have the clipping from sports section of the Erie Times News in an old scrap album. It describes the HR and states I had two hits in the game, but there's no mention of the word "bunt".

Go44dad posted:

Not a fan of the bunt, but son's HS coach almost always bunts with a runner on and no outs.  Bunts often in other situations.  Told my son he needs to get good at it.

How often does your boys’ team actually bunt.

We don’t bunt a lot, but I’m not guessing or expressing an opinion. I actually track bunts and infield hits.

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coach2709,

 

I’m not especially a fan of the bunt myself, but to be honest, at the amateur levels the bunt can be and often is quite a potent weapon, especially if the defensive team knows there’s a strong possibility of a bunt and moves the defensive players because of it.

 

I’ve scored for teams that have one player in the lineup who bunts a lot, and on those teams that player has been a huge part of the offense. Of course they may have also been a huge part of the offense had they hit away, but the two players who were the most successful at it weren’t very good hitters when they swung the bat.

Stats' comment reminded me that this same two strike bunting team was also big on slash bunting -- squaring to bunt early, causing the corners to come in very close, then swinging away. Curious, I know it's a legal move, but do folks (e.g., a parent of an exposed third baseman) have a philosophical problem with it?  

It's hard for me to imagine an offensive philosophy that completely eliminates the bunt as a potential tool in the tool box.

As for guys bunting with 2 strikes, here's something to chew on.  I've seen batters who intentionally foul up their bunting in the expectation that they'll be cleared to swing away.  And I've seen coaches who respond by making their point that what the coach wants them to do controls, not what they want to do.  So either they get it down or they can K, but they aren't going to manipulate their way out of their appointed duties.

At some point, those guys either learn to do it and do it adequately (at least), or they learn how pine feels against their backside.

As for metrics, I think those are skewed by the fact that so many players do not execute the bunt well, so the efficacy of bunting is diminished.  Many of you think the response to that is to abandon bunting.  My response is to make it a point of emphasis on your team.

Some day you'll have two on, one out, late in a tight game with a stud on the mound against you.  And if your team doesn't know how to bunt, the Gods of baseball will visit a double play grounder and a pop out upon you. Or maybe a K or two.

Midlo Dad I agree with you.  We practice it religiously and sometimes take cuts away in BP if they can't get it down.  I may not LIKE to bunt but I'm not crazy enough to abandon it.

Stats it can cause a ton of disruption but to use it like that is a philosophical decision.  

"True Story"

a few years ago while I was visiting Osaka, Japan to prepare for our 17th Goodwill Series, I was invited to the Spring Tournament to watch the top 40 HS teams, including future MLB pitcher Darvish. over 30,000 watching this game and 40 million on TV.

During the game, the President of Japan HS Baseball mentioned that the HS team on the field was Ichiro former HS team.

The President said "this team is ordered to bunt, until the batter has 2 strikes". I said then if I was the defense coach I would bring in my LF to the infield and rotate my two OF to left center and right center. Then with 2 strike I would rotate to normal.  He said "coach would lose face". My comment was coach may lose face, but I would win the game!!!

Bob

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