Skip to Content

Bunting Strategy in Baseball: When to Bunt

Bunting Strategy in Baseball: When to Bunt

A baseball game has a lot of strategies. One such strategy is bunting. A bunting strategy in baseball is when the batter might notice that the pitcher falls too far to one side of their mound.

In this case, the pitcher will have to quickly adjust their whole body and run towards the other side of the mound so he can field the ball.

What is a Bunt?

A bunt in baseball is a ball lightly tapped in order to make it hard to field. The goal of a bunt is not to get the ball far, but just to trick the other team into letting go of the ball. This usually happens by bunting towards third base or first base because it will likely throw off the other teams’ fielder’s accuracy.

A bunt simply is a batted ball purposely hit softly with a small arc towards 1st base or 3rd base to get on base instead of trying for big hits or power. Bunts can also apply to intentionally dropping a fly ball with runners on 1st or 2nd with less than 2 outs.

Bunting Strategy in Baseball

Why Should You Bunt?

If there are less than two outs in an inning and you are facing a pitcher that is much better at fielding than hitting, then you should consider bunting.

If the other team has a good bat, it might be hard to hit against them or they have a lot of power. In this case you could bunt to get on base so your teammates can score more runs.

The purpose of having a sacrifice bunt is NOT to move the runner from second base to third base.

  • The purpose is simply to minimize outs and maximize the chance of getting a hit or drawing a walk.
  • You can move the runner up, but it’s an extra benefit (at best).

There are two situations where you should consider bunting:

1) With less than two outs and runner(s) on first, the batter has a high probability of making an out.

2) The defense is expecting a bunt and is positioned properly for it.

If you only have one runner on base and there are no outs, then bunting is probably not a good option.

Where Should You Bunt the Ball?

If you are bunting against a left pitcher, then bunt towards first base. If you are batting against a right-handed pitcher, then bunt the ball towards third base.


A pitcher’s glove arm will often be in motion towards first base when facing a left-handed hitter. If you bunt the ball to the same side that the pitcher is moving, then there may not be time for him to react and throw out your runner at first. With a right-hander on the mound, many times he will be unable to make a strong throw to third base and your runner will be safe.

Bunting against a right-handed pitcher:

Theoretically, you should bunt the ball at least as hard as you can hit it. If you take that into consideration, players usually end up bunting the ball towards third base.

Bunting against a left-handed pitcher:

A good rule of thumb is to bunt the ball as softly as you can. You do not want to show strength but rather weakness and make the pitcher think you cannot do much damage against him. Also, it will take them longer to field and throw if you bunt weakly.

You should not bunt the ball towards second base. Pitchers are used to covering first for bunts and usually will be able to catch it before the runner gets there. Second baseman should also have an easy play on it since they do not expect a bunt.

What If Your Teammates Are on First and Third Base with No One Outs?

In this situation your team’s best chance of scoring a run is to bunt the ball. The only risk in this situation is if a runner from third base scores before you can even touch first base.

If there are runners on the corners and no outs, it might be wise to move them up one base whenever possible. If your team has less than two outs, consider a bunt.

What If There Are Two Outs?

In this situation, you would want to try and get on base by hitting the ball hard, unless your team is down by one run around the 7th inning. In this case, try to lay a bunt down as long as it helps you advance runners more than putting the ball in play.

Who Can Bunt?

Any position is allowed to bunt in softball, including the pitcher. The catcher can also bunt in most situations when there is no one on base – especially if it looks like she will be thrown out at 1st due to the distance to the bag or there is a slow runner at 1st.

Man on 3rd, less than 2 outs – Can bunt every time!

If there is a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs, nearly any batter can bunt in most situations. If it’s not a great bunter – do it anyway. It’s often a long single that scores the runner from 3rd.

Man on 1st, less than 2 outs – Can bunt in many situations!

If a man is on 1st with less than 2 outs, most batters CAN bunt if there are no other runners to advance from the hit or at least make sure they are running hard after the bunt is thrown down. Oftentimes, the slow runner at 1st will be able to advance with a well placed bunt.

Runner on 2nd, less than 2 outs – Can bunt only in very specific situations!

There are several types of bunts that can happen when there is a runner on 2nd with less than 2 outs. A suicide squeeze is a bunt that is done with a fast runner at 2nd and there are no other runners on base. It’s basically a hit and run with the runner from 2nd taking off for home plate as the batter bunts the ball down the 3rd base line/3rd base side.

There are also drag bunts, where the runner at 2nd takes off for 3rd anticipating that the batter will bunt. This often happens when there are less than 2 outs and a slow runner is on 1st base. A drag bunt should only be attempted if it’s close between being safe or out at 1st.

How To Bunt

There are several methods to bunt. Which one you use depends on the situation and how comfortable you are with that type of bunt.

  • Generally, batters should try for medium speed bunts/push bunts (bunting at 45-55%) down the first base line if there’s a man on 2nd with less than 2 outs or a runner on 1st with less than 2 outs.
  • Drag bunts should only be done when you are sure you can beat out a ground ball to the infielder, especially if it’s a slow runner at 1st base.
  • Bunting once the count has reached 2 strikes is discouraged.

What If I Don’t Want To Bunt?

In most cases, don’t do it. If you are a power hitter or better at hitting for average, then use that skill to get on base instead of sacrificing your at bat. In some situations it may be worth bunt as mentioned above – but not too often. Otherwise, let the runners on base try to get in scoring position.

What If I Don’t Want To Sacrifice An At Bat?

Then don’t do it! A bunt burns an at bat for the batter to try and get on base instead of trying for a big swing or home run to get you there. Bunting is often not desired when the score is tied in late innings and can lead to a double play. If you don’t want to bunt, use your skills and create your own opportunities to get on base.

The Best Baseball Bunters in History

For baseball fans, “bunting” is one of the most difficult skills to understand. Some batters are able to successfully bunt during their careers; unfortunately, there are others who fail miserably.

This list takes a look at the best career bunters in history:

1. Juan Pierre (from the Chicago White Sox)

Juan Pierre is an afterthought when it comes to baseball history, but as the world knows him from his iconic hustle in bunting balls over fences for home runs – he’ll always be a legend.

Emelio Bonafacio and Michael Bourn, two other fast leadoff men, have come and go of this record. Pierre’s been consistent on this since 2001.

2. Ichiro Suzuki (of the Seattle Mariners)

The art of Ichiro’s batting is truly something to behold. Even when he doesn’t bunt, every at-bat has balance and precision in motion – it really does seem like poetry come alive before you! Speed has always been an important aspect of Ichiro’s game, and bunting is a natural advantage for him.

3. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

One of the most popular Yankees is also one of the best bunters in Major League Baseball. He almost never strikes out, and has an impressive fielding percentage – so there’s no surprise that he would be great at bunting as well!

4. Elvis Andrus (of the Texas Rangers)

Andrus is one of the best bunters in all of baseball, but he can also hit for power and average. He can even get to first base faster than most players out there. Just another example of the amazing versatility for this player!

5. Dee Gordon (of the Los Angeles Dodgers)

Gordon is one of those players who will always find a way to surprise you, and this includes his mastery at bunting! He can change a game with a simple bunt – making sure every inch of the bases count before he heads back to the dugout.

He led the league in all three categories, becoming the first NL player to accomplish this since second baseman Jackie Robinson in 1949.

The Baseball Hall of Famers and Bunters in History

There were three Hall of Fame players that were known as the excellent bunters in history: Paul Molitor, Enos Slaughter and Pete Rose.

How Did They Get There?

Pete Rose is the all-time leader with 4,256 hits. He also led his league in singles nine times during those 24 seasons. His speed and ability to bunt for a base hit were keys to his success.

Enos Slaughter spent 19 seasons in the big leagues, playing on four different clubs from 1938 through 1942 and from 1946 through 1959. His bunting skills were famous as he often sacrificed his at-bats to move baserunners forward.

Paul Molitor is one of only 24 players with 3,319 hits and 504 stolen bases, and 1,307 runs batted in, which is a testament to his speed and ability to bunt.

How to Have A Successful Baseball Bunt

One of the most common plays in baseball, especially for those that don’t have great speed or power is the base-hit bunt. The player has one job: get on first base safely and not allow an error to take place. By using a simple drag bunt, players can beat out throws and easily turn 1’s into doubles.

The following are some tips that can help your team have more successful bunt attempts.

1. Prepare yourself before the pitch is thrown.

Players should constantly remain attentive to their surroundings and be ready for bunts at any moment. Watch what type of pitch is being thrown, where the play is being set up by the defense, how many outs there are, and how many baserunners there are. You should not be caught off guard when the pitch is thrown as this could lead to a bad bunt attempt.

2. Jog on your own time before the pitch is thrown.

Don’t immediately sprint out toward first base as soon as you put down your bat or step into the box. This gives the infielders a specific time to come in and attempt a barehanded play at first base.

A specific time for the defense to throw is around 2-3 seconds after putting down your bat or glove. Try jogging towards first base as soon as you pick up your helmet so that there’s plenty of time for you to square away your bat and complete an effective bunt.

3. Hit the ball directly down the baseline.

If you hit the ball towards either direction, then there’s a good chance that an error will be committed on the play since it’ll be difficult to throw out runners at first base or third base. Hitting directly down the line allows the defense to easily send the runner either at first or third base.

4. Drop down your bat so that it reaches the hitting zone when you’re in the box.

Doing this will give you more depth when attempting to bunt the ball, which means you’ll have a greater chance of getting under it and squaring up with enough time to bunt it.

5. Square up your bat with the ball when bunting.

Squaring up your bat means that you’re holding it diagonally and vertically, so that if a line were drawn from the barrel of the bat to the handle of the bat, then there would be an equal distance between them on either side. If you’re not squaring up your bat with the ball, then there won’t be enough depth when trying to bunt it.

6. Put your foot in front of the line when bunting.

This is crucial if you want to hit the ball directly down the baseline. By putting your left foot in front of second base when you’re a right-handed batter, then you’ll be able to hit the ball directly down the line since it’s in front of your dominant foot. If you want to bunt with your left hand, then put your right foot in front of second base instead.

7. Follow through on top of the baseball when bunting.

It’s crucial to make contact with the top part of the ball if you want to complete an effective bunt. While it may seem like you’re making contact with the bottom half of the baseball, you’re actually hitting it near its center when following through on top of the ball.

8. Use your shoulders and hips when trying to square up.

Many players will try to square the baseball with their hands, which is why it’s necessary to use your shoulders and hips as well. Doing this will enable you to square up the ball much more effectively since you’re using more of your body instead of just your hands.

9. Use a shortened stride when hitting bunts.

Using a shortened stride will enable you to hit the ball more directly since it’ll be easier to balance yourself when trying to bunt.

10. Stay low when bunting.

It’s crucial that you stay low when attempting the bunt in order for you to get under the baseball and square it up with enough time to do so. If you’re too high, then there won’t be enough time to square up and complete the bunt since it’ll take more time for your bat and hands to reach the ball.

Final Thought

Bunting is a strategy that nearly every team uses in order to get on base. When attempting to bunt, make sure that you’re not caught off guard by the pitch and that you’re jogging towards first base before it’s thrown.

By following this guide, you’ll be able to successfully complete bunts when trying to move runners over.

Bunting Strategy in Baseball: When to Bunt