- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Another such bunt play finds the runner on third with two out, and the batter dropping a bunt down the third-base line. The runner must rely entirely on his own instinct and ability rather than advice from the coach.
The bunt to beat it out can be a terrific offensive weapon, plus a damaging psychological blow to the defensive team. With a runner on first and one out, a well-placed bunt many times can catch the defensive team unaware. The gamble pays off heavily when the hitter reaches first safely. Especially is this true with a strong hitter coming up next.
Probably the two most skillful bunters are right-handed hitter Phil Rizzuto of the New York Yankees and left-handed swinger Nelson Fox of the Chicago White Sox. Fox beat out a total of 28 of 34 attempted bunts in 1954.
An occasional bit of bunting strategy that can be effective is the bunt-and-run play. This calls for the runner on first to take off with the pitch, the batter to bunt the ball, and the runner to continue on to third as the throw is made to first. This play requires a fast runner on first, a first baseman not noted for keeping alert and a catcher who regularly fails to cover third.
In the squeeze play we have another of those beauties that constitutes a sure invitation to nightmares for most managers. The "suicide squeeze," which has the runner going home on the pitch, is absolutely certain to work—if the batter bunts the ball on the ground. That last little "if" is the traditional fly in the ointment. Any pitch wide of the plate, over the batter's head or in the dirt makes it a little more difficult for the batter to bunt the ball.
With the opposing third baseman, pitcher and catcher—not to mention the entire enemy bench—hawk-eyed for a false move that might indicate a squeeze play, the successful relaying of vital signs can at times be very difficult. The chief burden is on the batter, who must take complete command of the area around home plate, ready to lay any pitch down.
A SO-SO CHANCE
When considering the squeeze play, the manager must weigh its chances most carefully. For example, with a runner on third and one out, let's say the pitcher who is a bunter of average ability comes to the plate. He has no better than about a 50-50 chance of executing the play successfully. And even though the pitcher swings away and fails to score the run, the lead-off man will be hitting with two out and a runner on third.
Another type of squeeze play rarely used, but nonetheless spectacular, comes with runners on third and second. Both runners jump off when the pitcher starts his delivery, and a good bunt will sometimes score the runner from second as well as third. But you must remember that first base remains open in using the double-squeeze play against a smart team. The pitcher may be trying to be extra careful in pitching to the batter, not caring too much if he does walk him.
As compared to the suicide version, the so-called "safe squeeze" is less likely to score the runner from third. The advantage of the safe squeeze lies in the fact you may reasonably expect the runner on third, using his own judgment, to score or remain on base while the batter is being thrown out on a poor bunt. A lot depends on how fast the runner is, but of course that's true in any bunt situation.