A bunt is a batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and tapped slowly within the infield (from The Official Rules of baseball). Not mentioned in the official definition is that the batter holds the bat differently for a bunt from an ordinary swing. Rather than holding his hands close together and near the knob of the bat, the bunter holds his hands far apart with one well down on the handle and one nearly on the barrel.
Bunts are seen as sufficiently different from ordinary swings that they are treated differently in the rules. Two specific differences are:
- A foul hit with two strikes does not count as a third strike, while a foul bunt does.
- A batter who advances baserunners with a bunt out is usually credited with a sacrifice hit, while a sacrifice is not credited for other infield outs that advance runners.
A normal hit that dribbles down one of the baselines is sometimes described as a swinging bunt because fielders must defend it the same way they do for a bunt, but it is treated as an ordinary swing by the rules.
The bunt's invention dates to the early 1870s, when it was developped to produce the fair-foul hit, which was a legal part of the game in those time. The most reliable research credites Tommy Barlow of the 1872 Brooklyn Atlantics with inventing the strategy. It was then popularized by Barlow's teammate, Dickey Pearce, one of the biggest stars of the time. After the foul ball rule was modified before the 1877 season, making the fair-foul hit obsolete, the bunt was retained for its use in advancing baserunners or making it possible for a fast runner to take advantage of defenders playing too far back.
- Robert H. Schaefer: "Bunts and Fair-Foul Hits: Who Was First ? Dickey Pearce or Tommy Barlow ?", The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20 (2000), pp. 8-9.