Pitching Against Sqeeze Bunts
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
A squeeze bunt in baseball is when the batter squares around to bunt while a base runner on third base tries to steals home as the pitcher makes his delivery. The batter must bunt the ball so that the runner can score home. If the batter misses the bunt, the catcher will have a good chance to tag the stealing runner out.
There are certain times during a game when a squeeze bunt may occur. The most often occurrence is late in the game, when the offensive team is up or down by 1 or 2, or the score is tied, and there are less than 2 outs. The offensive team will do anything to get that run across the plate. As a pitcher, you must be ready to defend against this play.
The first way to defend the squeeze is to prevent it all together. The runner on third is going to break to home as soon as your begin your motion. This is why it is never a good idea to pitch from the windup with runners on third. If the runner on third breaks and the batter squares to bunt, you know a squeeze play is on.
You have two options:
1. You can bust the ball in hard and force the batter to jam the bunt, hopefully right back at you.
2. You can try to hit the batter. Hitting the batter will cause a dead ball, and the stealing runner will have to return to the base.
However, if you try to hit the batter and you miss, the catcher may have a hard time catching the ball and it could be a wild pitch, allowing the runner to score.
If the batter manages to get the bunt down, you must be able to field it. The first baseman and third baseman should be crashing when the runner on third breaks, however it is very likely the bunt could be towards you.
As soon as you pitch the ball, sprint towards the plate. You will need to get to the ball as quickly as possible, and toss the ball to the catcher on the run. This all needs to happen in a matter of a couple seconds, as the base runner had a good head start.
If you think a squeeze play might be on, do a hanging leg pick to third (righties). Doing this might be able to cause the hitting team to give away their play. The runner may break and the batter may square around. If this happens, you know that the are planning on executing a squeeze bunt.
This is one of those plays in baseball that don’t happen each game, but when they do they usually mean the difference in the game. As a pitcher, you must recognize a squeeze situation and take the necessary steps to defend against it successfully
Related Pitching Materials
Want to learn more about pickoff moves, fielding drills and defensive plays for pitchers? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!