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Squeeze

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A squeeze or squeeze bunt is a bunt intended to score a runner from third base. A successful squeeze is scored as a sacrifice hit, unless the batter is safe at first without benefit of an error, in which case it can be a hit. The batter who executes a successful squeeze is awarded a run batted in.

The squeeze is rarely seen in modern baseball as it is a high-risk strategy most appropriate in a low-scoring environment. It requires either an element of surprise or perfect execution - and often both - to be successful. The baserunner must be running from third base with the pitch in order for the strategy to work. If not, it is very likely that he will be out at home plate, given the very short throw required. If the batter misses the pitch, the runner is almost certain of being either caught stealing or picked-off by the catcher before he has time to return to third base. There two basic variations on the play. In a suicide squeeze, the runner takes off with the pitch, with no turning back; if the batter is successful in putting the ball in play, it is almost impossible to defend, but if he failsm the runner is a dead duck. In the safety squeeze variation, the runner waits until the ball is actually touched by the batter before taking off; the ball must be well placed to allow the runner to score, as the defense has more time to react, but there is less chance of the runner being picked off.

The squeeze play was very popular during the Deadball Era, when runs were at a premium. In those days, there was even the occasional double squeeze attempted. In this version, two runners, one coming from third base and one from second base, attempt to score on the bunt. The runner on second base must take a huge lead, run with the pitch, and catch the defense completely by surprise for the play to be successful.

Without going to those lengths, the squeeze can still be an effective weapon today: on October 1, 2003 (Boxscore) the Oakland Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the 2003 ALDS on a successful squeeze by catcher Ramon Hernandez. The play was very much out of character for the usually bunt-averse Athletics and took the Red Sox by complete surprise.

Tony La Russa is one of the foremost practioners of the squeeze play in modern baseball.

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