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.

Rays acquire Wilmer Font from Athletics

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In a less-notable move on Friday, the Rays acquired right-hander Wilmer Font from the Athletics in exchange for minor league right-hander Peter Bayer. Font was designated for assignment by the A’s on Wednesday.

This is the second trade involving the righty since the start of the season. The Athletics acquired 28-year-old Font from the Dodgers in late April, but were underwhelmed by his performance after he racked up 11 runs, five home runs, four walks and nine strikeouts in his first 6 2/3 innings of relief. While the rookie has yet to prove himself at the big league level, he posted a much more respectable pitching line with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2017, going 10-8 in 25 starts with a 3.42 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 11.9 SO/9 in 134 1/3 innings. It’s still unclear whether the Rays intend to give him another opportunity in the majors this year or use him as depth in the minors.

Bayer, 24, is still a ways away from cracking any major league roster. He advanced to High-A Charlotte prior to the trade and allowed eight runs, two homers, six walks and six strikeouts in his first four innings.