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How Bunting Works

A Game of Stance

Rule 2.00 of Major League Baseball's official rules defines a bunt as "a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and tapped slowly within the infield." In a sense, then, a bunt is the opposite of a dinger. It aims short and down instead of out and long, absorbs impact instead of maximizing it and takes a tap instead of a swing.

Most players use one of two techniques: In a pivot bunt, common in the big leagues, the batter drops from a batting stance into a bunt posture as late as possible, hoping to catch the infield off-guard. In a square stance, typical of beginners, the player squares up immediately, which gives better plate coverage but offers no surprise and no easy way to avoid a wild pitch. A batter in a square stance needs to think inside the box -- the batter's box -- because stepping outside of it during a bunt (but not a bunt feint) will count as an out [sources: MLB; Morgan and Lally].

Either way, as a batter goes into a bunt stance, the bottom hand grasps the bat handle firmly but not tightly, which keeps control while absorbing impact. The top hand, meanwhile, slides up behind the bat to the midpoint or a little higher (near the label) and lightly pinches it between the fingers and thumb (the thumb stays on top). This grip absorbs impact, protects the fingers and grants finer bat and ball control [sources: Bristow; Morgan and Lally].

While bunting, the upper body is square with the pitcher, the knees are bent and the bat is held out from, and across, the body and the plate. Some hold the bat level while others prefer to tilt the top up. Either way, a good bunter keeps the bat high, near the top of the strike zone, with eyes sighting behind it. This stance makes it easier to judge pitches and to knock the ball down. Also, it's best to stay to the front of the batter's box because a shallow bunt from too far back can easily go foul [sources: Bristow; MLB; Morgan and Lally].

Foot placement depends on which bunt the batter uses and for what purpose. Generally, in a pivot, the feet stay where they began, and the batter balances one foot behind the other, like a surfer. Conversely, in a square stance, the feet square up with the batter's shoulders. As we'll see later, variants like slap bunts and drag bunts involve their own techniques -- and physics.