Endangered Species of Baseball: Touches

His book, Coaching Youth League Baseball, was written by Hall of Fame college coach Skip Bertman in 1975. Much of what he wrote about bunting is 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 big leagues. What is sad is that the “art” and value of the touch as a “weapon” has been lost by the last two generations of players, coaches and managers.

Skip wrote: “Major League’s emphasis on the long ball and big tackle has caused the art of bunting to be neglected. Yet every year when play-off games begin and the World Series begins, we see professional touching of the animated ball and artificial surfaces. The bunt will not score as many runs as the home run, but very often it is instrumental in the outcome of an important game.”

“Touching bunts is an important weapon for every team’s offense. Well executed bunts can open a game wide open. The bunt and run can be an effective play. A batter can surprise the defense and bunt the base hit with no runners on, or with two out and a runner on third.”

“If a coach feels a play involving a tag is required, he should go ahead with it. Pay no attention to the guessers who always seem to know what should have happened after the play ends. By using the tag, your team He can create a lot of difficult situations for the defensive team, and if his opponents are not properly prepared, a lot of mental and fielding errors will occur.”

In 2016, MLB had the fewest Sacrifice Bunts (SH) per game (.21) in its history. Recording of SH began in 1894 and has since declined to what we have today. The numbers say SH’s foul is in the same boat with most Strikeouts (SOs), which were also the most ever. In 2013, analysts criticized former Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington because they thought he was touched too often. His response was, “You can take the analysis of that and put it in his (expletive) (expletive).” That year, the Rangers had .28 SH per game, matching what was then the fewest in MLB history. Washington’s response was spot on, and he agreed with Skip’s advice: “Don’t pay attention to guessers.”

In the book 34-Ton Bat, by Steve Rushin, he quotes Casey Stengel, famous coach of the New York Yankees, in 1945, when he was a minor league manager. Casey said, “I get mad at players today who can’t touch.”

It’s funny, in those days, he meant a handful of players, and I wonder what Casey would say now about the futility of a clear majority of players we need to watch. Yes I know, the game has changed as bunting is considered “old school little balls” by today’s active generations and no longer relevant, but the facts trump yesterday’s “outdated” opinions or the “new” today.

When players don’t know how to bunt, when to bunt, or where to bunt, managers don’t know the value of bunts as a potential weapon, and both don’t mind not knowing; they must consider them terrible things. They would be wrong! They have been sold a mental list of goods about the pennant, along with a host of other misinformed ideas that have gained wide acceptance over the last 40 years. Today’s defenses routinely ignore the possibility of a batter bunting for a base hit, because batters don’t understand the fact that in many circumstances they can dictate defensive positioning in future at-bats by executing a well-placed bunt. but never try. . There are ways to beat the exaggerated defensive changes now being employed, but not with clueless players and coaches. “Wee,” Willie Keeler aptly said, “hit ’em where they ain’t.” Touch them where they are not, 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 bunt during batting practice has absolutely no relevance to bunting against a pitcher who is trying to get the batter out in a critical game situation. Without proper technique and confidence, the batsman has little chance of success. That said, National League starting pitchers who play five or six times a month now make the most sacrifice bunts, 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 then-Manager of Washington Sen. Ted Williams about his process as a player in becoming a great pitcher. “Doc Cramer (a former teammate of Williams’s with the Red Sox) used to make Fox carry a bat like a hot poker, with his thumb and forefinger as loose as possible. Fox said if Cramer suddenly tried to knock him out out of his hands and he couldn’t ‘kick my ass'”.

Regardless of what the 5’6″, 160-pound Fox did to be a better bunt, it worked, because one year he bunted safely, for hits, on 26 of 30 attempts. This was accomplished even though he wasn’t the fastest running back averaging only 5 stolen bases and 5 caught stealing per year, indicating that he excelled on bunting’s three-legged stool, of how, when and where to play, plus he averaged 14 SH and 15 SO per year, never topping 18. So, since While 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 pitcher was a weapon he used to great advantage.Nellie Fox wasn’t the biggest, she wasn’t the strongest, she wasn’t the fastest player, in fact she was a BASEBALL player, always striving to improve.

Bunts can not only dictate the position of the defensive infielder, but can also be a useful weapon in disrupting a pitcher’s rhythm. Get them off the mound to field his position, throw to the bases and cover first base. Interrupt them as much as possible. Touches create threats that must be defended. When defending, you open up holes for base hits and other plays that normally wouldn’t be available. It’s worth repeating what Skip said, “…if your opponents aren’t properly prepared, there will be a lot of mental and fielding errors.”

Nothing in baseball works all the time, however bunts can be useful and productive things, not terrible. Try them, you will like them.

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