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.

Nationals sign George Kontos to minors deal

George Kontos
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The Nationals selected the contract of reliever George Kontos from the Atlantic League Long Island Ducks, per an official announcement on Saturday. The right-hander has been assigned to Triple-A Fresno, but could still make his season debut sometime before the first half of the season draws to a close.

Kontos, 33, hasn’t pitched in the majors since he took a handful of back-to-back-to-back gigs with the Pirates, Indians, and Yankees in 2018. He inked a minor league pact with the Cubs over the offseason, but failed to break camp with the team and was subsequently released in mid-April. He turned in seven strong innings for the Ducks since then, allowing one run and one walk and striking out six of 27 batters in six appearances.

Last year, the veteran reliever posted a combined 4.39 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, and 5.1 SO/9 over 26 2/3 innings. While he hasn’t pitched anywhere close to his career-best numbers in four years, he may still provide some valuable depth for the club, whose bullpen ranks 10th best in the league with a cumulative 4.59 ERA and 5.9 fWAR so far in 2019.