Thanks to a pair of sore heels that Father Time keeps stepping on, I find that I can’t rehearse certain experimental procedures as much as I would like before cutting a video. A measure of proficiency is always desirable… but I reach the point of diminishing returns when my rising skill and my stiffening feet pass each other going in opposite directions.
This proved especially true over the weekend as I tried to master a very difficult type of bunt—a fake bunt, really, that involves dropping down as if to sacrifice and then launching toward first base while lowering the barrel into the pitch so as to loop it (hopefully) over a charging third baseman. When I finally produced a demonstration video that I thought satisfactory, I had already worked through seven or eight takes. In the process, I discovered that I was forcing the barrel into the pitch too hard—that I really shouldn’t be trying to drive a three-quarters swing through it, as with the conventional slap-bunt. (Not that slap-bunts are part of any team’s conventions any longer.) Somewhere in all these do-overs, I also realized that the beginning of a break toward first base would help me trail the barrel and hence direct the pitch more toward third. Practice makes perfect… but perfection was in no danger of being captured by my practices over the past few days.
As I say in the video that I finally allowed to pass muster, I’m not trying to impress anyone with my skill: I’m only trying to give you things to think about. I’ve already reached the conclusion that really proficient bunting (including bunt-fakes) would require far more rehearsal than standard swing-away hitting. I guess it’s no wonder, then, that professionals have grown so very weak in bunting skills. So much of the contemporary game depends upon power, and so much of the “small” game would demand hundreds and hundreds of reps, that the numbers just don’t balance out. Honestly, I get it. I still believe that small ball wins close games, and I know as a fan that games played with such a high degree of skill in the fine arts are the most exciting to watch… but today, with such narrow windows of time and such whopping dollar amounts involved, the Big Club wants its products to come out of the package already nine-tenths assembled.
That’s all the more reason, though, why you need to assemble yourself if you’re not built like a superhuman machine. Your coaches probably aren’t going to teach you many of those “fine arts”, even in high school—and you certainly won’t learn them during the few practices that your travel or summer-ball team schedules. Take some of the ideas that you can find on this and other sites, and get to work on your own.
To wrap up this brief update: one of the things that disturbs me about the Fake-and-Throw-Down (as I call it) is that, even though it’s a bid for a hit built upon a bluffed sacrifice, the ump will probably consider a fouled attempt Strike Three. You can argue till you’re blue in the face with Blue: he’s most likely to notice that you didn’t take a full swing, and to base his decision on that observation.
The next type of bunt I plan to explore has the same liability: the attempt to ground the pitch weakly toward shortstop so that the pitcher can’t reach it and 6 arrives too late to make a play. I suspect Cobb and Collins did this sort of thing all the time, and did it to almost to perfection. Their strikeouts were minimal, and the fouled bunt with two strikes was already being logged as a K in 1909. If the top hand doesn’t slide up the handle on this one (as I suspect it doesn’t—that’s going to be my initial assumption), will the Supreme Arbiter still think that it looks like a bunt attempt when he sees a stationary barrel run up on the ball rather than a swing?
That’s a consideration worth bearing in mind. Maybe most of these techniques should be tried early in the count unless you’re really confident in your ability.