Daily Archives: March 26, 2010

In bunt situations, pitch high

I have ranted and raved on more than one occassion about the slavish devotion so many coaches seem to have to automatically sacrifice bunting anytime they get a runner on first. Besides making them very predictable, it’s also not really a high percentage play.

One thing pitchers can do to help make it an even worse idea is throw high to try and get the hitter to pop up. It works a couple of ways.

If you know the opposition’s coach is slavishly devoted to bunting the runner over, you should automatically make the first pitch either a riseball (if you have one) or an “upwardly mobile” fastball. Most hitters tend to set up too low to bunt to begin with, maybe due to practicing on low pitches off front toss or a machine. They also tend to try to bunt no matter where the pitch is, so instead of pulling back they will try to follow the pitch up. Either way, the result is often a pop-up to the catcher. If it’s a short pop-up, the catcher may be able to get the out there and fire to first to double off that runner. Easy if there is a bunt and steal on, still possible if the runner breaks but then tries to get back.

The other way it can work is for the pitcher to be aware the team may bunt, and adjust her pitch as she goes into it. In this case the pitcher starts to throw her pitch, and if she sees the batter square around she changes it to a high pitch.

My daughter Kimmie was very good at this. She could recognize even a late bunt, and would release a little late to get the ball to go high. I was watching a couple of pitchers last night in a game, one of whom is a student of mine, and they were doing the same. The other pitcher actually got one girl to pop up twice in two consecutive at bats. They didn’t get the DP, but it was close. Which meant all the coach got for her efforts was the runner still on first, and one out instead of none.

So pitchers, learn to think through the game. And if you see that bunt, or know it’s coming, go high. It just may pay off big time for you.

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