In baseball, a sacrifice bunt (also called a sacrifice hit) is the act of deliberately bunting the ball in a manner that allows a runner on base to advance to another base. The batter is almost always sacrificed (and to a certain degree that is the intent of the hitter) but sometimes reaches base due to an error or fielder's choice. Sometimes the batter may safely reach base by simply outrunning the throw to first; this is not scored as a sacrifice bunt but rather a single.
The most common situations in which to sacrifice bunt is when there are fewer than two outs and a runner on first base or runners on first and second base. The runners try to advance as soon as they see the ball bunted. A properly executed sacrifice bunt in this scenario puts the ball up the first base line with a runner on first, or down the third base line with runners at first and second. This avoids an inning-ending double play and results in the runner(s) advancing to second (and third) base.
A successful sacrifice bunt does not count as an at bat and, unlike a sacrifice fly, does not count during the calculation of on base percentage. However, if the official scorer believes that the batter was attempting to bunt for a base hit, and not solely to advance the runners, he is not credited with a sacrifice bunt and is charged an at bat.
In leagues without a designated hitter, sacrifice bunts are most commonly attempted by pitchers, who are generally not productive hitters. Managers believe that since their at bat will probably result in an out, they might as well approach it in a style likely to at least advance the runners. Some leadoff hitters also bunt frequently in similar situations and may be credited with a sacrifice, but as they are often highly skilled bunters and faster runners, they are often trying to get on base as well as advance runners.
A sacrifice bunt attempted while a runner is on third is called a squeeze play.
Although a sacrifice bunt is not the same as a sacrifice fly, both fell under the same statistical category until 1954.
In scoring, a sacrifice bunt may be denoted by SH, S, or occasionally, SAC.
Notable players with 300 or more sacrifice bunts
The following players have accumulated 300 or more sacrifice bunts in their playing careers:
- 512 Eddie Collins (2b) MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD
- 392 Jake Daubert (1b)
- 383 John "Stuffy" McInnis (1b)
- 337 Owen "Donie" Bush (SS)
- 334 Ray Chapman (SS)
- 323 Bill Wambsganss (2b)
- 314 Larry Gardner (3b)
- 309 Tris Speaker (OF)
- 300 Walter "Rabbit" Maranville (SS)
Active Major Leagues:
Nippon Professional Baseball/Japanese League:
- 533 Masahiro Kawai (SS) WORLD RECORD
Of players who played significantly prior to 1901, "Wee" Willie Keeler (OF) accumulated 366 sacrifice bunts.
Among players who played primarily in the post-1920 live-ball era, the career leader in sacrifice bunts is Joe Sewell with 275. He was first called up by the Cleveland Indians late in the 1920 season shortly after the death of Indians star shortstop Ray Chapman after being hit in the head by a pitch, the event which is generally regarded as the start of the live-ball era.