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09/10/08 10:00 AM ET
The good bunt: A science or an art?
Jamey Carroll breaks down the keys to getting one down
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
The fine art of the perfectly placed bunt is, in many respects, a lost art in the big leagues. But that doesn't mean there aren't some players who can still get a good one down in today's game. Indians infielder Jamey Carroll is in that select group, and, for the good of the game, he offered some helpful tips for anybody, from Little Leaguers to rec leaguers to Major Leaguers, who could stand to master this seemingly simple but definitely difficult skill. 1. Know the situation If you're bunting with runners on, the position of those runners will obviously have an impact on how the infielders react. "If you have a guy on first, your goal is to try to run it toward first base," Carroll said, "because the third baseman's sole responsibility is to come in and try to field the bunt. So he'll break a little earlier. The first baseman will be further back because he's holding the runner. That gives you more margin of error to bunt." If the runners are at first and second, go the other way, Carroll said. "You're looking to go down the third-base line," he said, "because the third baseman, if he has to come in and make the play, will more than likely come in and throw you out at first, or he'll stay back, so the pitcher has to charge the ball." 2. Get in proper position You'll want to scoot up in the box a bit if you want to get a good bunt down, because that will give you a greater chance of bunting the ball into fair territory. And don't keep your hands near your body. Get them out in front of you. "If you have the bat back by your body, you have less control," Carroll said. "That's a common mistake. Guys don't get all the way squared around." 3. Find the right pitch The lower the better, according to Carroll. "If it's a lower strike, it's one of the better pitches to bunt," he said, "because you can put it right down on the ground. A lot of pitchers will try to throw it up in the zone, to make you reach up for it to pop it up." As a hitter, then, you have to know your own zone and how high is too high. If the pitch is at chest-level, for example, you want to position your bat high and hit the ball on a downward slope. Some hitters will have higher zones they are comfortable bunting from than others. "If it's higher than where you're comfortable, pull the bat back and let the pitch go," Carroll said. 4. Stay in control When you find that low pitch, don't bend down to get it. Use your legs to squat down and keep your upper body square to maintain control. "You don't want your bat head to drop," Carroll said. "You want to stay level and bend your legs." Move your hands toward the barrel of the bat to have more control. And the next piece of advice is the most obvious, but it's also the most forgotten in the heat of the moment. "Make sure your fingers aren't wrapped around to where it can hit your fingers," Carroll said. "That's a common mistake." 5. Think contact When you make contact, try to get the ball to bounce as early as possible, to prevent any chance of it being caught on a fly. "If you're going to sacrifice," Carroll added, "don't be afraid to square too early. You're going to give yourself up, but you'll give yourself a chance to be turned and to see the pitch and time to get a good placement on it." Don't try to push the ball. Let it come to the bat. "Have it set and let it be," Carroll said. Last but not least, don't run until you've made contact. "[Running early] causes your bat to move and your head to move and you end up fouling it off or missing," Carroll said. "And it's all about having confidence and knowing you can do it." Maybe now you can.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.