Are the new, hotter bats killing the short game?
I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me like the short game — traditionally one of the key strategies as well as one of the things that separates fastpitch softball from baseball — is going the way of wood bats. Certainly the most recent Women’s College World Series is evidence of that. Those games used to be 2-1 or even 1-0 10-inning affairs, not 15-9 blowouts. But you can even see it at the local level on ballfields all over country.
While more hitting instruction and moving the pitching rubber back have certainly contributed to more of a focus on power, I think there’s more to it than that. I can’t help but wonder if the newest, hottest bats don’t have something to do with it too. Not just the fact that a 5’2″, 95 lb. girl with a weak swing can drive a ball to a 200′ fence these days. But that the bats themselves are making it more difficult to be successful bunting.
Consider how much the ball jumps off the bat on a regular swing. If you hit the sweet spot it flies. Now consider that many girls without good training also try to bunt the ball off the sweet spot (instead of the end of the bat as they should). What do you think happens when a hard pitch hits the sweet spot on a bunt? It goes too far, making the ball easier to field and the short game less successful.
You still can bunt with these new, hotter bats. But it takes more work. You have to pull back and “catch” the ball with the bat (instead of pushing out at it). And you have to use the end of the bat, which is a deader part of the bat and thus won’t hit the ball as far.
This is not a new technique. It’s been a standard part of bunting for at least as long as I’ve been coaching, and I’m sure for many years before that. But with the new bat technology it has become a lot more critical.
A good short game is still important to long-term success. Make the adjustment and you’ll have some great weapons at your disposal.