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.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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OK, so today it’s just the scores. I’m catching an early flight home from St. Louis — the land of unhappy Cardinals fans, based on my interaction with them late last night — and don’t have time for a full recap. But if you use your imagination I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

Short version, though: a great night for Christian Yelich and the Brewers, who pulled to within a half game of the Cubs after dominating St. Louis. A bad night for the Cardinals, whose loss to those Brewers — combined with the Rockies’ win over the Phillies — puts them a half game outside of the playoff picture and moves Colorado into the second Wild Card slot. Also a bad night for the Dodgers whose walkoff loss to Arizona puts them only a half game ahead of Colorado in the NL West.

We only have five days left in this season, but there’s still stuff to sort out.

The scores:

Royals 4, Reds 3
Yankees 9, Rays 2
Nationals 9, Marlins 4
Astros 4, Blue Jays 1
Braves 7, Mets 3
White Sox 5, Indians 4
Brewers 12, Cardinals 4
Pirates 6, Cubs 0
Tigers 4, Twins 2
Rockies 10, Phillies 3
Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 3
Angels 4, Rangers 1
Mariners 10, Athletics 8
Giants 5, Padres 4
Orioles vs. Red Sox — POSTPONED