Keeping Baseball Bunt Coverages Simple

Like a lot of concepts in baseball, bunt coverages can be made very simple, or very complex.  If you understand and teach your players the philosophy behind what you are trying accomplish defensively in each situation, there won’t be much question about what to do when the time comes during a game.  Keep your bunt coverages simple with the following tips and strategies.

 


DEFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY VS. BUNT

 

On defense, you are ultimately trying to minimize the occurrence of big, multiple run innings. If a team is going to give you an out you should take it. Only attempt to make a play on the lead runner if that out is a sure out, for example, on a ball bunted hard directly at the pitcher.  All other times, get the out at first base.

Remember…“When in Doubt, GET AN OUT.”

 


GENERAL POSITION RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Middle Infielders – As the bunter squares, you will come forward initially to protect against the push bunt/slash or hard hit bunt at you, then you will break full speed to the base you are covering.

Third Baseman – You have priority over all other fielders on bunted balls.  The only exception is one directly to the pitcher.  Other plays are much easier for you to make. On balls bunted to the 1st base side with a runner on 1st, make sure you hustle back to 3rd base to prevent a runner going from 1st to 3rd.

Pitcher – You will always have responsibility for the middle of the infield.  You should know what corners are coming and cheat slightly toward the side that stays home as you come off of the mound. Also, you are the empty base filler. If a corner infielder comes and fields a ball make sure there are no bases left uncovered.

Catcher – You will get whatever bunts you can get immediately.  Most of time this will be the dirt area, or just in front of the dirt area.  You can’t leave the plate unmanned with a runner on third base, and you must return immediately with a runner on second base.

First Baseman – You must field the ball open (shoulders and feet lined to target base) to make a throw.  It will take too long and be awkward, resulting in a bad throw if you have to turn all the way around.

Outfielders – You MUST back up the base to your side.  Do not wait for the throw to move.  You move once the bunt is down.  Don’t be caught napping! If there is the possibility of multiple throws (double play/throwing error), anticipate any throw that may come to your side of the field and prepare to back it up.


 

 COVERAGES

 

Bunt Coverage #1 (Runner on 1 Play)

Situation: Runner on first base only.

First BasemanStays home, unless bunted right at him. Holding runner on. Comes off bag and takes a step in in case of ball bunted hard right at him. Otherwise, he stays home and receives the throw to get the out at first base.

Second Baseman –  Goes toward first base. Will cover first base in event that a bunt is placed in an area that the pitcher and first baseman both converge on the ball, and neither can get back to first base. If first baseman is able to stay home or the pitcher is able to get to first base, second baseman will stay out of play behind the bag and back up the throw to first base.

ShortstopCovers second base. Make sure they also have coverage of second base on steals in this bunt situation so that the second baseman doesn’t get caught needing to be covering two bases at one time.

Third BasemanCheats in and charges, then hustles back to cover third base if he does not field bunt.

PitcherResponsible for middle of diamond and first base line. If third baseman fields bunt, pitcher will cover third base, if first baseman fields bunt (only when bunted right to him), pitcher will cover first base.

 

Bunt Coverage #2 (Runner on 2 Play)

Situation: Runner on second base, or runners on first and second base. Use this play if your first priority is getting one out, and not necessarily the lead runner. For example, early in the game we would probably run this play, as opposed to the wheel play. Also, if your team has a larger lead, and the bunter is the tying run or the tying run has yet to reach the plate, your priority would be to get a single out as opposed to getting the lead runner.

First BasemanCheats in and charges. His thought is that if the ball is bunted to an area he can field it, he will be looking to get the lead runner at third base.

Second Baseman – Cheats slightly toward first base, and in, covers first base on bunt.

Shortstop – Covers second base. Make sure they also have coverage of second base on steals in this bunt situation so that the second baseman doesn’t get caught needing to be covering two bases at one time.

Third Baseman –  Stays home, unless the ball is bunted toward him in an area that only he can field it. If that happens, he will field it and get the out at first as it is not likely he will be able to get an out anywhere else. Plays on grass, reads ball. If the ball is bunted anywhere else on the infield, he retreats to cover third base to potentially get lead runner.

PitcherResponsible for middle of diamond and third base line. If third baseman has to field the bunt (only when bunted so that he is only one with a play), pitcher will cover third base.

 

The Default or “Read” Play

Situation: Squeeze or safety squeeze with runner at third base, or at bunt for hit with no one on base. Many times these situations will be a surprise. If that is the case your corner infielders may not be playing in, so they have to break hard and immediately when they see the hitter square. This can be the default bunt coverage that your players go to in a situation in which they were not expecting a bunt. If you suspect a hitter may be planning to bunt for a hit, tell your third baseman to play in and “read the top hand,” meaning watch for the bunt. If you suspect a squeeze, you can have both corners play in.

First BasemanBreaks hard and charges as soon as he sees the hitter square to bunt. If the ball is bunted to third base side, first baseman can retreat back to the bag and cover first base if he is not too far off.

Second Baseman – Goes toward first base. Will cover first base in event that a bunt is placed in an area that the pitcher and first baseman both converge on the ball, and neither can get back to first base. If first baseman is playing back or is able to stay home, or the pitcher is able to make it to the bag, the second baseman will stay out of play behind the bag and back up the throw to first base.

Shortstop – Covers second base. Make sure they also have coverage of second base on steals in this bunt situation so that the second baseman doesn’t get caught needing to be covering two bases at one time.

Third Baseman – Breaks hard and charges as soon as he sees the hitter square to bunt. 

PitcherResponsible for middle of diamond and any ball that he can get to sooner than the first or third basemen. 

 

The Wheel Play

Situation: Runner on second base, or runners on first and second base. Use this play to get an out at third base when it is certain the opposing team is bunting ( you can use an inside pick off move to second base to confirm that the hitter is bunting before calling for the wheel). This play should not be overused as it leaves your defense susceptible to a slash bunt (hitter shows bunt, pulls back and slaps the ball on the ground) because the whole middle infield is open. Also, if the timing is off, an aggressive baserunning team can take advantage of the rotation and steal without the hitter having to sacrifice an out. Only use when getting the out at third is absolutely necessary (the game winning run on second base).

First BasemanCharges hard immediately as the pitch is delivered with the intent to get the lead runner out at third base. 

Second Baseman – Cheats slightly toward first base, and in, covers first base.

Shortstop – Will take two hard steps toward second to freeze or drive the runner back toward the base, then sprints to cover third base.

Third BasemanPlays slightly in front of base with view to runner at second base. He must read the break of the runner at second. If it appears that the runner is going to try to steal third base, he must cover the bag to receive either a pickoff throw from the pitcher, or a throw from the catcher. If the play shortstop gets a good break and the runner at second base does not appear to be stealing, the third baseman charges hard with the intent to get the lead runner out at third base. 

Pitcher Waits to deliver the pitch until after the shortstop breaks ahead of the runner at second base. Covers the middle of the diamond.

 

WE’D LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU! DOES YOUR TEAM HAVE PLAYS OTHER THAN THE ONES MENTIONED ABOVE? COMMENT BELOW WITH OTHER PLAYS THAT YOU’VE USED.

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