His book, Coaching Youth League Baseball, was written by College Hall of Fame coach Skip Bertman in 1975. Much of what he wrote about bunting is largely ignored today.
However, it remains relevant as an example of how the game should be taught and played at all levels of baseball, not trying to catch up when a player makes it to the major leagues. The sad thing is that the “art” and value of the touch as a “weapon” has been lost by the last two generations of players, coaches and coaches.
Skip wrote: “Major League Baseball’s emphasis on the long ball and the big tackle has caused the art of hitting to be neglected. Yet every year when play-off games begin and the World Series begins, we see For professionals to hit despite the live ball and artificial surfaces. The bunt will not score as many runs as the home run, but very often it is critical in the outcome of a major game. “
“Bunting is an important weapon for every team’s offense. Well-executed bunts can open a game wide. Bunt-and-run can be an effective play. A batter can surprise defense and touch base without runners. on base, or with two outs and a runner on third. “
“If a coach feels that a play involving a bunt is required, he should move on. Pay no heed to the fortune tellers who always seem to know what should have happened after the play is over. Team can create a lot of difficult situations for the team defensively, and if his opponents are not properly prepared, there will be a lot of mental errors and fielding errors. “
In 2016, MLB had the fewest Sacrifice Bunts (SH) per game (.21) in its history. The recording of SH began in 1894 and has since dwindled to what we have today. The numbers say that the lack of SH is in the same boat with the majority of the Strikeouts (SO), who were also the majority. In 2013, analysts criticized former Texas Ranger manager Ron Washington because they thought he played too often. His response was: “You can take the analysis of that and put it in your (expletive) (expletive).” That year, the Rangers had .28 SH per game, equaling what was then the fewest in MLB history. Washington’s response was perfect and agreed with Skip’s advice: “Pay no attention to the guessers.”
In Steve Rushin’s book, 34-Ton Bat, he quotes Casey Stengel, the famous New York Yankees coach, in 1945 when he was a minor league coach. Casey said, “Today I get mad at ballplayers who can’t touch.”
It’s funny, in those days, he was referring to a handful of players, and I wonder what Casey would say now about the futility of a clear majority of players that we need to watch out for. Yes, I know, the game has changed, as today’s active generations regard the pennant as “old school, little ball” and it is no longer relevant, but facts trump yesterday’s “old-fashioned” or “novel” views. from today.
When players don’t know how to tap, when to tap, or where to tap, managers don’t know the value of taps as a potential weapon, and they both don’t care that they don’t; they must consider them terrible things. They would be wrong! They’ve been sold a list of pennant-minded products, along with a host of other misinformed ideas that have gained wide acceptance over the past 40 years. Defenses today routinely ignore the possibility of a hitter bunt for a base hit, because hitters don’t understand the fact that in many circumstances they can dictate defensive positioning in future at-bats by hitting a well-placed bunt, but never they make the attempt. . There are ways to beat the exaggerated defensive changes that are being used now, but not with clueless players and coaches. “Little ones,” Willie Keeler rightly said, “Hit ’em where they’re not.” Bunt ’em where they aren’t, it works too.
Being a good bunter is not easy; it is a learned skill that requires proper instruction and constant practice, just like all skills in baseball and other sports. The ability to hit during batting practice has absolutely no relevance to hitting a pitcher who is trying to get the batter out in a critical playing situation. Without proper technique and confidence, the hitter has little chance of succeeding. That said, NL starting pitchers who play five or six times a month now do most of the sacrifice bunt, so if they can learn the basics of bunting, surely position players can, too.
An example of the commitment that can be required to have the right skill set is what coach Nellie Fox told his then-Washington Senator Ted Williams’s manager about his journey as a player to becoming an excellent bunter. “Doc Cramer (a former Williams teammate with the Red Sox) used to make Fox carry a bat like a hot poker, thumb and forefinger as loose as possible. Fox said if Cramer suddenly tried to knock him out of his hands and he couldn’t ‘kick my ass.’
Regardless of what the 5’6 “, 160 lb. Fox did to be a better bunter, it worked, because one year he played safely, for hits, in 26 of 30 attempts. This was achieved even though he was not the fastest runner. averaging just 5 stolen bases and 5 catches stealing per year, indicating that he excelled on the three-legged bench, of how, when and where to hit. Additionally, he also averaged 14 SH and 15 SO per year, with never more than 18 SO. Since Fox was selected to play in 12 All-Star Games, was the AL MVP in 1959 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997, his constant efforts to be a better player were obviously rewarded and being a good bunter was a weapon he used to great advantage. Nellie Fox was not the biggest, she was not the strongest, she was not the fastest player – in fact she was a BASEBALL player – always striving to to get better.
Tapping can not only dictate the defensive infielder’s position, but can also be a useful weapon in disrupting a pitcher’s pace. Get them off the mound to line up their position, shoot bases and cover 1st base. Interrupt them as much as possible. The blows create threats that must be defended. When defending, holes are made for base hits and other plays that would not normally be available. It is worth repeating what Skip said: “… if your opponents are not properly prepared, there will be a lot of mental errors and fielding errors.”
Nothing in baseball works all the time, yet touches can be helpful and productive, not terrible. Try them, you will like them.