Joe Maddon: “I think the bunt is an overrated play”

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The Rays are having trouble scoring runs. The Joe Maddon-led bunch entered this afternoon’s game with the Red Sox having scored 32 in nine games, the third-worst rate in the American League. The Rays managed just one more run in ten innings against Jon Lester and the Sox bullpen today.

In the top of the ninth inning, the Rays put runners on first and second with no outs. Most managers would bunt in that situation to put two runners in scoring position, but Maddon opted to let James Loney swing away. He eventually struck out, and Yunel Escobar and Ryan Roberts followed up with outs of their own. Asked after the game if he regretted his decision not to bunt, Maddon said:

“For that group of people out there that want guys to bunt all the time, you don’t know the outcome when you choose to do that,” Maddon said, of choosing not to bunt with two runners on base and no outs in the ninth inning, and again following a leadoff double in the 10th. “I think the bunt is an overrated play.”

Using the expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus (using 2012 data), runners on first and second with no outs yields 1.44 expected runs, while runners on second and third with one out yields 1.29 expected runs. Theoretically, one would slightly reduce run expectancy by bunting. However, the certainty of scoring that one run goes up. Furthermore, bunting creates a more realistic opportunity for production than letting Loney, who posted a .630 OPS last season, swing away. Though I, like Maddon, think that bunting is overrated in many circumstances, that was not one of those situations.

Phillies sign Henderson Alvarez to a minor league deal

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Phillies signed pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a minor league deal. If he is added to the major league roster, he’ll earn $750,000 prorated.

Alvarez is still only 27 years old but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015 due to shoulder issues. He signed with the Long Island Ducks last month, making seven starts and posting a 3.94 ERA with a 13/14 K/BB ratio in 32 innings.

The Phillies learned that Vince Velasquez will undergo season-ending surgery and also placed Zach Eflin on the 10-day disabled list, so the club is just looking for pitching depth to help take them through the end of the season. Any innings that Alvarez is able to handle will be considered a bonus.

David Wright is going to play in a real game tonight

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Mets third baseman David Wright will begin a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday with High-A St. Lucie. He’ll be the DH.

Wright has been sidelined since May of 2016, first with a cervical disc herniation and, more recently, a shoulder impingement. He has appeared in just 75 games since his last full season in 2014. Wright is under contract through 2020 and is owed $47 million after this year. For now insurance is picking up a large portion of that.

It’s possible he’ll make a return to the Mets before the season out as the competitive portion of their year is basically over and giving him a chance to see big league pitching before he begins what one hopes is a normal offseason might be a good confidence boost. What meaningful role he ever plays in the big leagues again, however, is decidedly up in the air.