Alright! Exactly what is a sacrifice bunt in baseball and softball?
Howdy friends and welcome back!
In this post, we are going to continue with our recent efforts of answering some of our most commonly asked questions concerning the rules of baseball.
This is a question that was posed to us by a visitor who seemed a little upset by this rule.
She told me that she was watching a game and couldn’t figure out why a batter had been credited with a sacrifice bunt since he was called out at 1st. Furthermore, why was he not charged with an official at bat?
I thought that I would take this question and use it as an opportunity to help clear up another rule that can be a little confusing.
So without further ado, let’s answer the question; “What is a sacrifice bunt?” and run through a few scenarios where an at bat would be considered a sac bunt.
The rule is the same for softball as well.
What Is A Sacrifice Bunt?
A sacrifice bunt (AKA Sacrifice Hit) is scored when a batter bunts the ball with the sole purpose of advancing a runner or runners who are already on base prior to the batter making a plate appearance.
The batter must be called out at 1st, or would have been out if an error or fielder’s choice had not occurred.
In other words, if a batter bunts the ball with the only objective being to advance a runner, but is still able to safely reach 1st base, then there is no sacrifice bunt.
The bunt would simply be scored as a hit.
If the batter is attempting a sacrifice bunt and an error is committed by the defense during the play and the batter is able to reach 1st safely, then the bunt would still be considered a sacrifice.
If the batter attempting a sacrifice bunt reaches 1st safely only because the defense had other options to get an out (fielder’s choice), then the bunt would still be considered a sacrifice.
Are we making sense yet?
If the sacrifice bunt still sounds a little confusing, have no fear!
In the next section we will go through some scenarios where a sacrifice bunt is scored.
One more quick thing before we move on.
While a batter is charged with an official plate appearance on a bunt that is scored as a sacrifice, they are not charged with an official at bat, much the same as a walk or intentional walk.
I hope that doesn’t confuse things, but it’s important to know.
I promise to follow this article up soon with a thorough breakdown of what an official plate appearance and an at bat are.
For now, let’s just say that a bunt that is scored a sacrifice doesn’t affect a hitter’s batting average up or down, although the batter would be credited with an RBI if a runner scored.
What Is A Sacrifice Bunt?: A Few Scenarios
Here’s The Setup
A runner has already safely reached 1st base before the batter attempting a sacrifice bunt comes to the plate.
The defense has already recorded the first out of the inning.
Our batter’s only intention with this at bat is to try to advance the runner on 1st.
The pitcher delivers the pitch and the batter bunts the ball down the 1st baseline.
The catcher fields the ball and quickly determines that there is no chance to throw the runner out who is running from 1st to 2nd.
The only play the catcher has is to throw the ball to 1st before the batter gets there to get an out.
In this scenario, the batter would be credited with a sacrifice bunt.
Although the batter is recorded as having an official plate appearance, they are not charged with an official at bat.
If the batter had been able to beat the catcher’s throw and safely reach base, then the batter would have been credited with a hit and not a sacrifice bunt.
Make a little more sense now?
There are already runners on 2nd and 3rd base with no outs.
The batter comes to the plate with the sole intention of scoring the runner on 3rd.
In baseball, this is commonly referred to as a suicide squeeze.
The pitcher delivers the pitch and the batter lays down a bunt towards the 1st baseman.
Now the runner on 3rd and the batter already knew the purpose of the at bat was a suicide squeeze, so the runner was already moving towards home before the pitch was delivered.
The 1st baseman realizes that there is no chance to get the runner coming home out, so he flips the ball to the 2nd baseman who is covering 1st on the play to get the batter out.
In this scenario, the batter is not only credited with a sacrifice bunt, they also receive credit for a run batted in (RBI).
Had the batter safely reached 1st, the play would have simply been recorded as a hit and an RBI for the batter.
In this scenario, we will throw in a defensive error.
There is already a runner on 1st base.
The batter is trying to advance the runner with a sacrifice bunt.
The pitcher delivers the pitch and the batter bunts the ball directly back to the pitcher.
When the pitcher fields the ball and sees there is no chance of getting the runner out at 2nd, he tries to throw the batter out at 1st.
The pitcher’s throw to 1st sails over the 1st baseman into the crowd allowing the batter to safely reach 1st.
In this scenario, the batter would be credited for a sacrifice bunt since the pitcher committed an error on the play.
Had the pitcher’s throw been on target, thereby getting the batter out, then the batter would still have been credited with a sacrifice bunt.
What Is A Sacrifice Bunt?: Why Would You Do It?
One of the most common reasons for the sacrifice bunt is to try to advance runners into scoring position, meaning moving a runner to 2nd or 3rd.
So let’s say it’s the 9th inning and you’re down by a run.
There is a runner on 1st with no outs.
This is the ideal situation for a sac bunt.
The batter lays down the sac bunt and successfully moves the runner to 2nd base.
Now the chances of the runner on 2nd scoring on a single by the next batter have significantly increased.
Another common reason for a sacrifice bunt would be that your pitcher is batting.
Although pitchers do spend some time at batting practice, they are usually the least proficient batters in the line up.
The chances are much higher that a pitcher will be able to advance a runner with a sac bunt as opposed to actually getting a hit.
I’m not saying anything bad about pitcher’s hitting; it’s just a fact that they are not as good at hitting as a player who bats every day.
Now in the National League where pitchers are required to bat, pitchers are definitely a little more proficient than their American League counterparts, but they are still nowhere near as good as a player who bats every day.
The American League has the DH (Designated Hitter) rule which allows the manager to designate a hitter to bat in place of the pitcher, a rule I completely agree with and can’t understand why the National League won’t adopt it.
We won’t go into it here, but if you’re interested in reading more on the DH rule, you can check out an article I wrote here – What Is A DH In Baseball?
For more baseball rules and lots of tips and advice, Stop By Our Tips & Advice Page.
What Is A Sacrifice Bunt?: Wrap It Up!
A sacrifice bunt is the act of the batter giving his/herself up for the sole purpose of advancing a runner who is already on base to the next base.
If the batter attempting a sacrifice bunt reaches base safely then there is no sacrifice, unless of course the defense committed an error on the play or a fielder’s choice occurred.
Although the batter is not charged with an official at bat, they would still be credited with a run batted in (RBI) for any runner who scores.
I hope you enjoyed reading What is a sacrifice bunt? If you have any questions and would like me to clear things up, please leave a comment below and I will get back with you asap.
Thanks for stopping by ~Jeremy
There are runners on first and third. The batter puts down a bunt. The runner from third holds. In other words, the squeeze play failed. But the runner on first advances to second, not that anyone cared. My guess is that the batter is still credited with a sacrifice hit because a runner moved up, even though the play failed to score the run, which was the whole point of it.
Great question Len!
Yes, the batter would still be credited with a sacrifice bunt.
As long as the batter was put out and a runner advanced, a sacrifice bunt would still be credited to the batter, regardless of fielder’s indifference.
Thanks for stopping by Len and hope you have a great Christmas.