In baseball, a sacrifice bunt (also called a sacrifice hit) is a batter's act of deliberately bunting the ball, before there are two outs, 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 batter) 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 opportune situations for sacrifice bunts occur when a runner is on first base, or runners are on both 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 would put 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 a double play and results in the runner(s) advancing to second (and third) base, "in scoring position".
A successful sacrifice bunt does not count as an at bat, and does not impact a player's batting average; it does count as a plate appearance. However, unlike a sacrifice fly, a sacrifice bunt does not count against a player in determining 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, the batter 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 typically not productive hitters. Managers consider that if a pitcher's at bat will probably result in an out, they might as well go out in a way most likely to 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. A sacrifice bunt attempted while a runner on third is attempting to steal home is called a suicide squeeze.
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:
- Major League Baseball (MLB)
- 512: Eddie Collins (2B) (major league record)
- 392: Jake Daubert (1B)
- 383: John "Stuffy" McInnis (1B)
- 366: "Wee" Willie Keeler (OF)
- 337: Owen "Donie" Bush (SS)
- 334: Ray Chapman (SS)
- 323: Bill Wambsganss (2B)
- 314: Roger Peckinpaugh (SS)
- 311: Larry Gardner (3B)
- 309: Tris Speaker (OF)
- 300: Walter "Rabbit" Maranville (SS)
- Active MLB leaders (through the 2012 season)
- 533: Masahiro Kawai (SS) (world record)
Since the beginning of the live-ball era (1920), 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.