SCENARIO: In a recent Orem Youth Baseball (OYB) Majors game the batter squared up for a bunt with his bat out over the plate, the pitch hit the dirt just in front of the plate, and the umpire called a strike. Was this the right call?
ANSWER: No... The act of act of being in a bunt stance with the bat over the plate does not show the intent needed to require a pitch outside of the strike zone to be called a strike?
RULES: Orem Youth Baseball (OYB) follows Pony International rules, which follows the majority of Major League Baseball (MLB) rules for game play, with a few exceptions as posted on the OYB website.
In defining a bunt, MLB rules state...
MLB Rules Definitions
A BUNT is a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and tapped slowly within the infield.
There are a few other references to bunted balls going foul and being touched by the batter-runner, but the only other rule that deals with the actual bunt is found in section 6.05(d) that states...
MLB RULES - Batters
6.05 A batter is out when --
(d) He bunts foul on third strike;
NOTE: There is nothing in Pony International rules that overrules the MLB rules and nothing in OYB that overrules the Pony regarding bunts.
In order to better understand the few rules regarding bunts we need to research further to find commentaries to help with the ruling. Even though OYB does not follow Little League rules, their casebook commentary sheds great light on the topic of bunting.
A BUNT is a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and tapped slowly.
The Right Call" Casebook - Ruling: The key words are "intentionally met with the bat." Ruling: If no attempt is made to make contact with the ball outside the strike zone while in the bunting stance, it should be called a ball. An effort must be made to intentionally meet the ball with the bat.
INSTRUCTOR COMMENTS: When the batter squares around in a "bunt position", there is no need for the batter to pull the bat back. If, in this case, the pitched ball is out of the strike zone, it shall be called a "ball." Little League Umpire Rules 2009
I believe the key issue deals with the Instructor Comments from the Little League Rules Casebook that states “When the batter squares around in a "bunt position", there is no need for the batter to pull the bat back. If, in this case, the pitched ball is out of the strike zone, it shall be called a "ball."” Since this statement is not in the OYB, Pony International, or MLB rules, there is always going to be a dispute at our Orem ball fields. And since that is the case, then the batter is advised to pull back and avoid the dispute altogether.
Just because a batter is in a bunting stance, having made no real attempt to strike the ball, and the pitch is out of the strike zone, the umpire should call a “Ball”. In this case, either the umpire did not know the method of determining the intentional part of “a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat,” or in the umpire’s judgment the pitch was judged a strike (which this pitch clearly was not). Many erroneously hold the belief that coming to a bunt stance shows the intent, and this is not the case.
MY ADVICE TO UMPIRES: If the batter squares up with his bat over the plate and makes no attempt to go after the pitch, then judge the pitch by the normal merits of the strike zone and call a ball a ball and a strike a strike.
MY ADVICE TO COACHES, PARENTS & BATTERS: There is no reason to “Kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5) and create doubt in the mind of the umpire. Batters should be proactive and remove the umpire’s judgment from the scenario by pulling back when they know the pitch is clearly a ball. This advice empowers the batter and removes all judgment as to whether an attempt is being made to bunt the ball. As a Parent, coach, and umpire, I feel strongly that batters should take control of their at-bat situations. Staying in the bunt pose with the bat over the plate gives away all power to the umpire, and there is no wiggle room in the rules to complain or protest umpire judgment calls about balls and strikes. Therefore, it is best to pull back and avoid the confrontation regarding the judgment call... Or you can put on your Superman cape and try to change all of the injustices in the world by fighting the uphill battle of formally protesting the umpire’s “Strike” judgment call with OYB Board of Directors. Please keep in mind that once the next pitch is thrown, the play becomes unprotestable, so don’t delay in making the formal protest to the umpires.
But here is the rub, there is a definitive statement found in the MLB rules section 9.02 (a)
MLB RULES - Umpires
9.02 (a) Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out is final. No player , manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
This is an argument over a called strike. Do you think the OYB Board of Appeals is going to reset the game at another date and replay the game from the point of the erroneously called strike on a bunt attempt?... Not likely! Typically the batter is not bunting on a third strike, so even with the bad call he is still up to bat. The next pitch after your protest could turn into a home run and win the game... Does that mean that you will continue on with the protest?... Doubtful! The OYB Board of Appeals might be sympathetic to a real game changing moment, but bunts usually occur with zero or one strike, and therefore the erroneously called strike can hardly be made out to be a game changer because the bunt was never made. The best we can do is to do our best to train the umpires and counsel batters to never give away their control to an umpire’s judgment.
BUNT. Must be an attempt to strike the ball
By: Rich Ives
Officially, it's a ball if a batter holds the bat over the plate, the ball is outside the strike zone, and the batter makes no movement indicating an attempt to contact the ball.
2.00 A BUNT is a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and tapped slowly within the infield.
2.00 A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which:
a) Is struck at by the batter and is missed;
b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone
= = =
So, there is intent required in both definitions, AND if there is no attempt, and it was not in the strike zone, it is a "ball".
= = =
BUT - There is a widely held belief (false - but out there) that the batter must withdraw the bat or it is a strike (In NCAA softball it is true by the way - but not in any baseball rules).
As we can see from the rules, it is not, but that doesn't alter the myth. It is so widely held, that the LL case Book actually has an entry noting that it is not a strike.
= = =
SO, rules notwithstanding, you will find umpires that will call it a strike. Don't be too surprised if one does. If you decide to protest the rule misapplication, noting that the rules say there must be an attempt, there may be some who "decide" that his judgment was that the batter did make an attempt. They may even offer the opinion that the holding of the bat over the plate in and of itself constitutes the attempt. If this happens, I'd suggest filing the protest and presenting your case to the protest committee. Make sure you include a copy of the applicable rules. If you are a LL, or can find someone from a LL, get a copy of "The Right Call" (the case book) and refer to Chapter 2, "A BUNT . . "
And finally, one the major league Baseball website they have an “Ask The Umpire” section and the following question was posed...
QUESTION - The batter squares to bunt as the pitch is made. He leaves his bat over the plate, but does not make an effort to lay down a bunt. If the pitch is not in the strike zone is it considered to be a strike, if the batter does not attempt to pull his bat back from over the plate? -- Jerry Knowles
ANSWER - There is no restriction about the batter holding his bat over the plate. In order for the umpire to rule a strike, the batter must attempt to "strike" at the ball (see Rule 5.03 and the definition of "Strike"). We often say the batter has "offered" at the pitch if he attempts to hit it.
NOTE: The majority of the research for this page was done by Scott Lee. During the week Scott can be found watching his son hitting/bunting/fielding on OYB’s Fields. Thanks for contributing the information Scott!