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

Apr 13, 2013, 10:01 PM EDT

Joe Maddon AP

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.

  1. 13arod - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    the funny thing is that the bunted alot last year

    • paperlions - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      No, they didn’t. They had 34 sacrifices last year, ranking 22nd in the majors, with only 3 teams having fewer than 31.

      • indaburg - Apr 14, 2013 at 8:35 AM

        Yep. Moneyball teams don’t bunt.

        In this case though, a bunt seemed like the thing to do.

    • hittfamily - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:24 PM

      For hits, yes. Not sacrafices. Shitty, fast batters often bunt for base hits, and I encourage it. I was also screaming at the TV for a bunt there. It is absolutely pitiful. They were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position today. The had sean Rodriguez at 3rd with no outs, and Longo, Zobrist, Duncan coming up….3,4,5. They got 0 runs out of it.

      This team can’t execute the way they have in the past. It is getting old quick too.

    • sabatimus - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:29 PM

      Is anything you say ever accurate?

      • tuberippin - Apr 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        I’m just impressed that everything was spelled properly in his post.

  2. jonrox - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    It could be that Loney is an awful bunter. I remember when Adam Dunn was on the Reds and they tried to have him bunt in a situation like this; it had absolutely horrible results.

    Regardless, I would love to have Joe Maddon be the manager of either of my teams.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      The announcers mentioned that Loney has 6 sac bunts in his career.

      Which seems like kind of a lot, especially for a first baseman.

      • jonrox - Apr 14, 2013 at 1:31 AM

        After just looking through a semi-random sampling of players I could think of, it appears six is actually pretty low for players in general. However, among first basemen, it does appear to be somewhat high, but I’m assuming that has more to do with most first basemen being the best batters on their team. Why would you bunt with Fielder, Pujols, Votto etc? Also, for comparison, TB’s 1B last year, Carlos Pena, has five in his career.

        Tl;dr: Compared to batters of similar ability, he has fewer sac bunts. Compared to other first basement, he has more.

  3. themuddychicken - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Well I agree with the overall point, definitely.

    Situationally though… James Loney was at bat.

    Then again… he was followed by Yunel Escobar and Ryan Roberts.

  4. baseballbarrister - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:38 PM

    Statements like “the bunt is overrated” are why I never want to see the NL adopt the DH.

    • alexo0 - Apr 14, 2013 at 3:11 AM

      Because you think the bunt is not an overrated play? NL style of play leads to more sac bunts, as long as you’re aware of that.

      • somekat - Apr 14, 2013 at 10:27 AM

        it’s called having strategy in a game. As opposed to the AL, where a 12 year old with no baseball experience except “MLB The Show” could be a top flight manager

      • rmcd13 - Apr 14, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        Baseball strategy is given way too much thought as is. A manager’s job is mostly about keeping clubhouse egos in check, not playing chess. Dusty Baker has been a successful manager for 20 years and he is no ones idea of a great baseball tactician.

  5. smcgaels1997 - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    Sounds like his “genius” label ESPN trots out there has gotten his head big. 0 outs and 2 on when your down…you sacrifice Loney and take your shots after. if you can’t trust a MLB pro to bunt then maybe that’s YOUR coaching problem

  6. pinkfloydprism - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    What a coincidence… the bunt play recently told me that it thought Joe Maddon is overrated.

    • ditto65 - Apr 14, 2013 at 8:03 AM

      You beat me to it.

  7. suziecue59 - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    I’m a Rays fan and not a fan of the buntz either, but if you read what Tom Tango and others say about bunting, you should only bunt late in the game and when the bunt will win you said game. This was exactly that situation and really thought they should have bunted. Knowing Maddon, if he didn’t, there was really a good reason why. I’m not buying the ‘the bunt is overrated’ statement he maked to the media.

    • paperlions - Apr 14, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Exactly. Context is important. The only time it is a good idea to sacrifice is when you only need 1 run and that run will (or might win you the game). Sacrificing in the first 1/2 of the game with anyone other the the pitcher (or Brendan Ryan) is just giving away outs to play for fewer runs.

  8. Old Gator - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Maddon looks more like he’s dressed for a curling tournament on a Canadian lake than a baseball game.

    • aceshigh11 - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      It was cold and damp up here in New England today…I don’t blame a guy who spends most of his time in Florida for dressing like that.

    • Glenn - Apr 14, 2013 at 2:30 AM

      Stock photo?

    • alexo0 - Apr 14, 2013 at 3:13 AM

      He was busy planning what they’d wear on their next road trip.

  9. ryanw822 - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    bunting a guy to second is pretty overrated.

    but in the 8th or 9th inning, bunting a guy to third with 0 outs isnt overrated.

    • tfbuckfutter - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:46 PM

      I concur.

      Bunting a guy to third with 0 outs in the 8th or 9th inning of a close game is, without a doubt, rated.

  10. 13arod - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    i believe that bunting wins ballgames when you aren’t dcoring alot of runs

    • manchestermiracle - Apr 14, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      I’m not convinced that the colorful ribbon hung on the facade will win you any games.

  11. Minoring In Baseball - Apr 14, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    The bunt is actually under-rated, and under-untilized in MLB, imho. I’d like to see more small ball, a throwback to Cobb and Crawford.
    http://minoringinbaseball.com/

  12. mudhead123 - Apr 14, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Poor NL fans don’t realize that the DH will be around forever and if anything the NL uses it in the next 5yrs

    • Glenn - Apr 14, 2013 at 2:33 AM

      I believe that the National League is the last to not use the DH. high schools use it. They are dinosaurs, regardless of your opinion on its use.

      • Old Gator - Apr 14, 2013 at 7:22 AM

        Well, I think it’s more like the AL and high schools are the Jurassic Parks of sports – bringing back an approach that only those with pea sized brains in their skulls and the rest of their brains in their asses can enjoy.

  13. Norcross - Apr 14, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    no one makes mention that the bunt could have ended up with a force out at third, resulting in no runners being advanced and an out, or a double play.

    • alexo0 - Apr 14, 2013 at 3:15 AM

      Only if it was a really crappy bunt.

    • blacksables - Apr 14, 2013 at 5:24 AM

      No one makes mention that the fielder could have thrown the ball down the right field line and 2 runs would have scored.

      There are 9 ways to score a runner from 3rd base with less than two outs.

      There are two ways to score a runner from 2nd base with less than two outs (commonly, not counting freak plays).

  14. livepredictor - Apr 14, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Rays we’re going to have a run problem by looking at their roster before the season started.Two solid hitters crammed in a average batting line-up is not going to cut it in the AL east.

    • indaburg - Apr 14, 2013 at 8:16 AM

      Average line-up? You’re bring too generous.

  15. bowltr - Apr 14, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    You all have to realize that Joe Maddon is smarter than us all that’s why he has so many World Series Championships.

    • indaburg - Apr 14, 2013 at 8:24 AM

      The Rays have the third best record over the past 5 years in MLB with a team salary and talent level that make those wins defy logic and reason. Maddon is doing something right.

      • bowltr - Apr 14, 2013 at 7:19 PM

        It’s all about winning the WS. Nothing else matters.

      • indaburg - Apr 15, 2013 at 5:44 AM

        Nevertheless, winning the WS is not a measure of intelligence.

      • bowltr - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:12 AM

        True winning is not about intelligence bunting with no outs and runners on 1st and 2nd is.
        Winning is about…………well winning. And that is something Maddon does not do.
        Nice to root for a minor league organization in a minor league town.
        Enjoy that!

      • indaburg - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:17 AM

        I always enjoy watching my team while lounging in the pool.

        Now that I realize the level of intelligence I’m dealing with in speaking to you, have a lovely day, m’dear.

      • bowltr - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        Usually the tact someone who roots for a team that never wins takes. Hey anyone can build a pool but you root for the Devil Rays. Nuff said!

      • indaburg - Apr 15, 2013 at 6:47 PM

        I have a feeling a lot of people take that tact with you, winning team or not, because you’re not very smart. You contradicted yourself, and your argument is illogical. Cute puppy though.

      • bowltr - Apr 16, 2013 at 7:19 AM

        Not sure how I contradicted myself but not being all that intelligent I guess I shouldn’t know that. Any way you try and cut it the Devil Dogs have won nothing, will never win anything and will soon be playing elsewhere because they have no fans who are willing to support them. If anyone in the organization deserves credit it’s the GM not Maddon. Maddon thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and yet they can’t seem to get over the proverbial hump. Usually because of the arrogant way he manages. But of course he is the smartest guy in the room so you got that going for ya.

      • indaburg - Apr 16, 2013 at 7:34 AM

        You’ll never have a problem being the smartest guy in the room, so you got that going for ya too. Seriously, dude, let it go.

      • bowltr - Apr 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Can’t let go of the fact that I’m right. Maddon is an overrated fool and he won’t win anything in that minor league town.

      • indaburg - Apr 19, 2013 at 4:12 PM

        LMAO

  16. somekat - Apr 14, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    This is the kind of thinking that goes on in the half baseball American league. When you take 90% of strategy out of the game by adding a DH, the managers tend to forget about the other 10%

    The sad part is, this clown is considered one of the better managers in that joke of a league (any time you are out coached by Chally Maunual on the biggest stage, you should forever give up any claim to a “good manager” title)

    • paperlions - Apr 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      Having the DH does NOT reduce strategy, it just changes it. With the DH, now managers have to make harder decisions about when to pull pitchers, decisions that often are made based on offense in the NL. In addition, IBBing the #8 hitter to get to the pitcher isn’t “strategy” so much as boring baseball.

      The strategy in baseball is not about bunting, but about pitch sequence…and adding the DH actually enhances that….it is just strategy that players engage in rather than managers (who have lost far more games for their teams via “strategizing” than they have won).

      • skids003 - Apr 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        I agree with part of your statement, but disagree with the other part. I agree it changes strategies, but I think it does reduce overall strategies. There is less to do strtegically, but different things and outcomes than in the NL. Just makes for a “different” game.

  17. acdc84 - Apr 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Any team that has room to let James Loney bat can’t be expected to hit for anything.

  18. ryanw822 - Apr 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Rays have been great at drafting pitching but its time for them to start finding some hitters. I see Oakland trot out different guys every year that hit in the .260 range with 20HRs. No reason why the Rays should be hitting .220 hitters with single digit HR capabilities every night.

  19. bigmeechy74 - Apr 14, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    This team is so annoying. Even though they are good they are so frustrating to root for. They lose more 1-0 and 2-1 games it seems than anyone the last few years. I also get sick of hearing “pitching and defense” wins. BS you need to HIT the damn ball!

  20. kollin7 - Apr 14, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    When a team is having trouble hitting isn’t bunting, stealing, and such one of the main ways to try to manufacture runs?

  21. largebill - Apr 14, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    “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. ” That assumes the bunt is successful. There are other possible (heck, likely) outcomes which is runners still on first and second but now with an out or bunting into a double play. If you’re a major league team and you have two on with no outs you have the pitcher on the ropes that last thing an intelligent manager should do is help him get out of trouble by telling a batter hey go make at least one out. If Loney can’t hit then go get players who can hit.

  22. bowltr - Apr 19, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    I’ll take that as you conceding my point.

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