Bunt Coverage #3: Suicide Squeeze Play

Situation: This coverage is a defense for a suicide squeeze play.

C: The catcher’s first priority is covering home plate. The only bunt that the catcher should field is one in which the ball stops so close to home plate that it can be fielded with very little movement. Otherwise, as with other bunt coverages, the catcher’s job is to direct traffic after another fielder gets the ball.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The first baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 1st base.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover third base.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

P: The pitcher is  responsible for fielding a bunt directly in front of home plate. Since the catcher is most likely staying home, the pitcher must cover ground that would normally be covered by the catcher.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to cover second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to third base.

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Basic Bunt Coverage #2: Runner at 2nd

Situation: Runner at 2nd base or runners at both 1st and 2nd. Less than 2 outs.

C: The catcher must field any bunt in front of the plate. In essence, we’d like the catcher to be able to field any bunt he can get to within reason. The catcher is the only player with momentum already going into the throw as the ball is fielded.  If the catcher does not field the ball, he needs to call the base that the ball should be thrown to. Based on positioning, the catcher has a vision advantage compared to the rest of the defense.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for covering first base. The only bunt the first baseman should field is a foul pop-up or a bunt so hard down the line that a tag play on the batter is essential.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 2nd base. This player may cheat towards 2nd base in an obvious bunt scenario.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover third base.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

P: The pitcher is also responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to third base.

Basic Bunt Coverage #1: Runner at 1st

The next few posts will be related to bunt coverages. I will include a diagram, a description of the situation, and a position by position description of field responsibilities.  Some of these coverages will be very standard.  The intent is to post a good resource. So, here ya go:

Situation: Runner at 1st base less than 2 outs.

Description of responsibilities by position:

C: The catcher must field any bunt in front of the plate. In essence, we’d like the catcher to be able to field any bunt he can get to within reason. The catcher is the only player with momentum already going into the throw as the ball is fielded.  If the catcher does not field the ball, he needs to call the base that the ball should be thrown to. Based on positioning, the catcher has a vision advantage compared to the rest of the defense.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The first baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 1st base. This player may cheat towards first base in an obvious bunt scenario.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover second base for a possible force play.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt. If another player fields the bunt, the third baseman must retreat back to cover third base.

P: The pitcher is also responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. If the third baseman fields the bunt, the pitcher must hustle to cover third base.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

Team Hitting Drill: The Octopus

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”

-H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

The first time I saw this drill, or something similar to it, was in Dixon, IL. My friend Dan Crawford was using it as part of his team’s pre-game routine.  Whiffle balls were flying in every direction. Players were placed all over left field. Jokingly, I said, “Dan, it looks like a octupus exploded out there. What’s going on?” He told me it was a drill.  I liked it so much, that night I scribbled something similar to it on paper.

Equipment needed:

  • 1 bucket
  • 4 dozen whiffle balls
  • 4 bats

Purpose: The purpose of this drill is to get each of your players 24 purposeful swings with in less than 8 minutes. It makes a great pre-game hitting routine. I especially like it on the road.  It also makes a good practice drill when time or space is limited for hitting.  Lastly, it’s a good indoor drill when a cage is not available.

Set up & Grouping: Take your team and divide them into three or four equal groups. I recommend no more than 5 in a group.  4 in each group is just about perfect. Place the bucket of whiffle balls in the center and one group on each side of the bucket. Each group needs a hitter, pitcher, and shaggers.  The hitters are nearest the bucket.  The pitchers are throwing towards the hitters standing by the bucket.

After a hitter gets 6 cuts, he or she rotates to become the pitcher of  his group. The pitcher rotates to shagger. A shagger comes to the bucket and becomes a hitter.  Make one of the groups “the lead group”. When all of the hitters in the lead group have hit, that group yells “ROTATE” and all of the groups rotate clockwise.  It should take a little less than 2 minutes for a group of 4 to hit at each station. Each station has a purpose. See below:

  • Station #1: Pulling inside strikes
  • Station #2: hitting up the middle
  • Station #3: hitting outside strikes
  • Station #4: I like to use this one as a wildcard station in order to mix it up.  You can make it a bunting station, top hand drill, 2 strike hitting, etc. Most often, I like to use a paddle drill.

Hints:

  • The first time you run the drill, it will take a bit longer than 8 minutes due to explanation. It will get to be more fluid each time the drill is run.
  • For younger players, eliminate the rotation. As the coach, call out a new hitting purpose every 2-3 minutes.
  • Monitor your pitchers. Make sure that they are throwing the balls hard enough and trying to hit locations.
  • Monitor your hitters make sure that they are swinging at strikes. Much to often, when the whiffle balls come out, hitter start swinging at everything.
  • Emphasize no pop-ups.
  • Make sure your hitters are not getting to close to one another. Safety first 🙂

Bunt Technique: The Pivot

IMG_0237Bunting is a fundamental aspect of both baseball and softball.  Through practice, bunting can and will be turned into a major offensive weapon for your team.  Let’s begin with a definition:

Sacrifice Bunt: The objective is to move a runner(s) to a succeeding base.  The batter’s concern should be about moving the runner along, not trying to get a base hit.

The Technique

I used to allow my players to use any method of bunting that they desired.  It was my mistake.  I had the “just get it down” attitude.  It was not hard to see that we were not very efficient.  We needed one set philosophy, one disciplined set of rules, that all players would learn.  I chose the pivot method.  The pivot portion refers to the feet.  Basically, the difference between this method and the “square around” method is that during a pivot, the player’s feet do not leave the ground. 

Here are the rules and characteristics of a good pivot bunt technique:

  • Stance has the feet shoulder width apart (slightly more is fine) and remain square to the plate, not the pitcher.
  • Stand closer to the pitcher than normal (up in the box).  This will allow a better opportunity to bunt the ball in fair territory.
  • Stand closer to home plate than normal. This will allow more plate coverage with the barrel of the bat once the actual pivot is made. Most poor bunt attempts are made due to a lack of plate coverage.  Put your players in position to successfully bunt the strike on the outside half of the plate.
  • When the pitcher takes the ball from the glove during delivery,  pivot on the both feet without picking them up from the ground. The back heel should be up and the front heel down with 50/50 balance. (When bunting for a hit or squeezing this happens later in the pitcher’s delivery.)
  • Shoulders should be square to the pitcher.
  • Torso bent slightly forward.
  • Knees flexed.
  • Arms relaxed and extended forward.
  • Slide top hand up the taper of the bat.  Top hand should use the thumb, index and middle fingers to control the bat. These fingers should pinch the bat in the shape of  the letter “V”.
  • There should be a minimum of 8 inches between hands.  The top hand is the fulcrum.  More distance between the fulcrum and the bottom hand will give the player more bat control.
  • Bat should be held in front of the plate with the barrel angled slightly higher than the handle.
  • To hit the lower pitch, lower the body, not the hands.  The rule is…. “Keep the bat head above the ball.”  I don’t like hearing, “Don’t drop the bat head!”  Inevitably, that’s what will happen.  State it positively, that gives a notion of  “what to do”, not “what not to do”.

 The pivot method on the left promotes much better plate coverage than does the square around method on the right.

buntpivotbuntsqare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other hints:

  1. In a sacrifice situation, bunt strikes only.  This pitch selection must be drilled. Teach players how to pull back on bad pitches.
  2. Bunts should be rarely attempted with two strikes. Foul bunts with two strikes are strikeouts.
  3. Have your players pretend that they have a glove over the barrel of the bat and they are going to catch the ball.  This will help those that seem to poke or jab at pitches.
  4. In a sacrifice situation, get the bunt down first, then run.  Do not attempt a fast start out of the box.  Although, the pivot method places the player’s feet in a great position to run, unlike the square around method where often times there are false steps in getting going towards 1st base. 
  5. Get bunts to “hot zones“.  These are areas 3 feet from the lines and 3 feet away from the path to the pitcher.  I’ve included a diagram of the “hot zones below.  The point is to make the pitcher run to field the ball and keep it fair.  As well, the bunt need to be 8- 10 feet away from the catcher. I suggest using landmarks, like cones or rugs  for hot zone drills and games.

Bunting hot zones

Far too often, we see young players, that get the bunt sign in a sacrifice situation, get cute.  They will either pivot too late in a effort to surprise the defense, or they will try to get their bunt to go right down the third base line.  What usually happens is that the player either fouls the ball off, pops up, or misses completely.  Players need to know that the sacrifice bunt has a purpose, and it is an honorable part of the game.  The successful sacrifice bunt is just as important as the lead-off hit or the RBI single that scores a run. Therefore, as coaches, we need to continually emphasize the importance of the sacrifice.  A great way to do this is via reward.  I like to absolutely go nuts over a great sacrifice bunt.  I want my players to know that I appreciate it as the coach.  So, I must be the first one clapping and giving verbal praise.  The players will follow suit.  Also, I suggest a giving a physical reward.  It may seem a little childish, but it works.  Here are some examples:

  • Give a plaque at your end of season banquet or party for the most successful bunts. 
  • For softball players, give out  helmet stickers or use a reward board.
  • For baseball players, steal a page from the late 70’s, “Pops” Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates.  Give out the star patches for the players’ caps.  There are many options other than stars.  Last year we used a skull and crossbones patch for a sacrifice. Ah… I can hear “We are Family” right now. Sister Sledge was very underrated. stargellstars

I like giving rewards for the little parts of the game.  Not every player can hit home runs or strike out the side, but every player can bunt or use great ground ball technique. When players start paying attention to the little details of the game, BIG things will happen.

Comments are welcome!!!

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