Occasionally, the softball hitting community causes me to shake my head. A new fad will come along that fails to make good hitting sense and can be harmful to hitters. The fake bunt-swing thing fits in this category. It needs to go!
When I first saw softball hitters smacking their backs after a long finish to their swings, I cringed. I am known to yell “Ouch” when hitters needlessly abuse themselves. Or, how about the split grip. This unorthodox way to hold a bat reduces bat speed and limits a hitter’s ability to make fine hand adjustments. Thankfully, both “innovations” are fading away.
The latest fad that is quite alarming to me as a hitting coach is the fake bunt-swing approach. Hitters show bunt and then pull the bat back to initiate the swing. I have yet to hear a compelling argument for this strange technique that is only used in softball.
This approach makes good hitters look weak and average hitters look silly. Here are ten reasons to put an end to this fad:
1. It Rarely Works!
After watching hundreds of hitters attempt the fake bunt-swing, I have only seen a small percentage execute it successfully. Even when it works, hits are usually singles or the occasional double. I am especially frustrated when the best hitters in the lineup sacrifice their power swing for this awkward hitting sequence.
I recently watched a high school game in my community. The third hitter in one of the lineups came to the plate confidently and ready to hit. She looked very athletic, so I was looking forward to seeing her bash the ball.
As soon as she set up in the fake bunt-swing position, I knew she was in trouble. The opposing pitcher threw three pitches, and the at-bat was over. This hitter was not overmatched. She was the victim of the flawed fake bunt-swing hitting sequence. She never had a chance.
2. Sea Sickness
When hitters show bunt, their weight shifts to the front foot. As fake bunt-swing hitters pull the bat back to initiate the swing, they must shift their weight to their back leg. Then, at some point their weight must shift forward again to generate power with the lower body. I am getting dizzy even writing about this front-back-front weight shift sequence.
This weight shift progression causes imbalance that leads to inconsistency. It is hard enough for some hitters to shift from the back foot/leg to the front foot/leg during the typical (and correct) weight transfer. Without good balance and a proper weight transfer, even the best hitters will find it difficult to generate enough leverage to drive the ball powerfully.
3. Wrong Zoom Lens
I teach hitters to zoom in on a small area before the pitch is thrown. It could be the release point of the pitcher, the seams on the ball, or a small area in front of the plate in the hitting zone. Fake bunt-swing advocates have told me hitters are instructed to aim the bat in a general area aligned with the path of the pitch. Supposedly, this will make them more selective.
Instead of zooming in before the pitch is thrown, fake bunt-swing hitters use a zoom out-zoom in strategy. When the ball is approaching, they are miraculously expected to quickly change their focus and zoom in. At this point, it is too late.
I have yet to hear any reputable hitting coaches or vision training experts teach changing the focus of the eyes, especially as the ball is approaching. Hitting requires laser focus throughout the entire swing sequence. I teach a “zoom in-zoom in” approach. Focus on a small area before the pitch is thrown and then zoom in even more to watch the ball make contact with the bat.
4. Hitters, Take Your Mark
If you have read either of my books, you know that one of my core hitting keys is to set up with the bat back toward the catcher as far as possible. Some coaches call this position an “arm bar”. I call it the POWER POSITION.
Pictured above: Former Illinois Wesleyan Slugger Julie Josten sets up in the perfect power position.
Fake bunt-swing hitters rarely find this power position, even if they try. The timing must be perfect. As the ball approaches, fake bunt-swing hitters are often forced to abbreviate the backward movement of the bat after switching from the bunt position. All this needless hand and bat movement is reason alone for fake bunt-swing hitters to come to their senses.
The bat should start as far back toward the catcher as a hitter’s body will allow without ANY movement. I can prove with any swing speed measuring device that hitters who keep their hands back and still until the lower body forces the upper body to move are more powerful. Even the smallest amount of hand movement will lead to lower bat speed and consistency.
Fake bunt-swing hitters don’t just have a couple of inches of pre-swing hand movement, they move their hands approximately two feet! It is folly to believe this is good for hitters.
5. Pick a Lane!
I am sure you all have seen drivers on the highway weaving from one lane to another. This is how I feel watching fake bunt-swing hitters. No two swings for the same hitter look alike. How could they when hitters are shifting their weight twice and failing to find the same start position?
A repeatable swing plane is mandatory for all hitters. When I superimpose the swings of fake bunt-swing hitters, the final image looks like a superhighway with multiple lanes. This inconsistency happens when the hands and arms lead the swing, instead of the body.
6. Head Games
Hitters should always look at the pitcher with two eyes. Try pushing your hands back toward the catcher like I teach my hitters. Your head will naturally rotate toward the pitcher. Both eyes are now looking at the oncoming pitch.
The good news is fake bunt-swing hitters start with both eyes facing the pitcher. The bad news is as soon as they pull the bat back, their heads naturally turn sideways.
Any head movement causes hitters to have to re-focus their eyes. This is a similar problem I described earlier when fake bunt-swing hitters shift their weight one too many times. Hitters should keep their heads perfectly still throughout the swing sequence.
7. Tin Man Syndrome
When one of my hitters has difficulties bending their knees or rotating their hips, I take out my pretend oil can to free up their joints. It is very common for fake bunt-swing hitters to neglect their lower bodies. By the time they show bunt, shift their weight back to a neutral position, move their hands back, and initiate the swing, little time remains to engage the lower body.
Using the legs and hips to generate power requires hitters to stay back in a leverage position. As the ball approaches, the front leg lifts to drive the back leg and foot into the ground. This is the power foundation for the swing. As the hips rotate, the hands and arms stay back as long as possible. Eventually, the rotation of the hips will generate so much resistance (torque), the upper body, arms, and bat will come through naturally and powerfully.
Fake bunt-swing hitters are unable to perform the power sequence I just described and teach. Nearly all their movement is focused on the upper body. The lower body is stuck in neutral. The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz has more mobility.
8. What’s Your Angle?
This one is simple but underrated. When fake bunt-swing hitters move the bat back after showing bunt, they rarely achieve a consistent and powerful bat angle. The ideal angle for the bat is 45 degrees or less.
No matter where the bat starts, it will eventually get to 45 degrees. In this position, the wrists are bent which is one of the many “points of resistance” that will fire sequentially during the kinetic chain of the swing sequence. The best hitters can maintain this 45-degree angle as long as possible.
Pictured above: One of the college softball greats, Kasey Cooper, knew how to maintain the power 45- degree angle.
Fake bunt-swing hitters start with the bat horizontal to the ground in the bunt position. Then, they move the bat up to 90 degrees like a hand of a clock moving backwards. At some point, the bat stops for a split second before moving forward into the ball. It is impossible for the hitter to find the same starting position and correct angle with all this movement.
9. Two Left Feet
I am not a very good dancer. That is why executing the fake bunt-swing would be especially difficult for me. I have watched many fake bunt-swing high school and college hitters this season. All of them point their feet toward the pitcher as they set up for the fake bunt. As they draw the bat back, their feet shift perpendicular to home plate.
This foot movement may seem trivial to some coaches. I believe and teach my hitters that power comes from the ground. Any unnecessary foot movement will preclude hitters from digging into the ground to capture this precious power source for the swing.
The only foot movement I advocate is small, rhythmic movement of the front foot as hitters await the pitch. Watch Major League Baseball players in the batter’s box. You will see this rhythmic movement to help them athletically react to the pitch. Fake bunt-swing hitters have too much foot movement that is not rhythmic or athletic.
10. Time Is Up!
The most obvious problem with fake bunt-swing hitters is they are rarely on time. After all the bat and body movements I have described, it is very difficult to consistently time the pitch correctly.
Most studies show that softball hitters have .35-.45 seconds to pull the trigger, depending on the speed of the pitch. This is approximately 20% less than the reaction time for baseball players.
Pitchers love watching fake bunt-swing hitters enter the batter’s box. They know the actual reaction time is less than traditional hitters, so they become more aggressive and confident.
Don’t Ruin The Family Name
When my children were in high school and college, I would remind them how their actions affect more than their personal reputation. I urged them to remember if they did something wrong it could potentially affect or ruin the family name.
Fake bunt-swing hitters are not ruining the name of softball, but they are causing some fans and the baseball community to shake their heads. Baseball coaches have shared with me that this technique is strange and not an effective innovation.
The game of softball continues to captivate the sports world. The popularity of the game is increasing exponentially, especially viewership of postseason games.
If you read my books or the articles on this website, it should be apparent that I love new ideas that will improve hitters and grow the game. I have even introduced some wacky (but effective) innovations like how to squeeze more power out of your swing and noisy power.
I feel it is incumbent upon me as a strong and vocal advocate for the game of softball to speak the truth. The truth is the fake bunt-swing experiment has run its course.
About Paul Petricca
In addition to writing this hitting blog, Paul is a hitting coach and the author of the book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters and his new children’s book Going Going Gone!. He is also a public speaker and provides unique customer engagement training through his company Torque Consulting. Paul teaches a Customer Relationship Management class to undergraduates at Wheaton College (IL) and MBA candidates at Loyola University Chicago, and DePaul University.