Dec 7, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta answers question for a press conference during the MLB winter meetings at Hilton Anatole. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Managerial Candidate: Manny Acta

Dave Dombrowksi hasn’t let on to who he may or may not actually be considering as Jim Leyland’s replacement at the helm of the Detroit Tigers, but plenty of names have been floated out by fans and media members alike. One of those names is former Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta.

Acta is an intriguing name for stat nerds like me because of his open mind to the “new” analytical approach to baseball. Here’s some of his comments (and a comment about him from Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff) from a 2012 Q&A piece on FanGraphs:

(Chernoff:) It’s Manny’s job to make out the lineup. It’s entirely up to him, but he does seek input from us. He reaches out to our analytics department to ask questions about the best lineup construction in certain situations, or maybe to see how a change he’s thinking about might help our team. He’s very open-minded about seeking feedback.

Managers often like to “go with their gut” or stick with guys who have been “going well” or who they’re “trying to get going”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s cool to hear of a manager actively seeking the advice of his front office and from the analytics department. Maybe they all do this, at least to a degree, but we didn’t really ever hear of this from Leyland.

Speed at the top is important, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get on base. It’s been proven over the years.

Like I said, I’m not a big believer in the second hitter being a guy who can just put the bat on the ball. I think that spot is one of the most important parts of your lineup.

Jim Leyland wasn’t horrible with lineup construction this past year — most managers would do exactly what he did — but Acta sounds like the type of skipper who would toy with the idea of batting Victor Martinez in one of the top two spots. Moving Victor from fifth to second would mean an extra 50 plate appearances for him, and it would mean more men on base in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

I’m not big on bunting guys from first to second. I don’t think it’s a secret, because the facts are out there. It’s been proven that a guy has a better chance of scoring from first with no outs than from second with one out.

Amen. Just amen.

Now of course Acta isn’t perfect. He’s been fired from his two posts in the past (a concern), but he wasn’t in situations where he was surrounded by talent either – the Washington teams he managed were particularly bad. But, in addition to an apparent lack of talent, he also perhaps had a problem with communicating with his players. Chris Perez was quite outspoken following Acta’s departure from Cleveland that he didn’t get the troops fired up enough.

“Last year we didn’t get it at all. He only gave us two speeches, one at the start of the season and one at the end and we were playing for first place up until September.”

“It sounds like a cliche, but a team does follow its manager, good or bad,” he said. “If a manager has no activity on the field. If he doesn’t argue calls or get upset, why would his team?”

I would take these comments with a big grain of salt – no one should be required to live up to Perez’s ideas of how fired up one should be – but a lack of communication between the staff and players (if that really existed) would be something that would need to be corrected. Jim Leyland seemed to be good at talking to players and letting them know where they stood in his eyes. Perhaps he could help mentor a new manager in this respect.

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  • chrisHannum

    Whoah, there. I’m not a believer in that old “base clogger” idea, but Victor Martinez actually IS amazingly bad on the basepaths and that does make his odds of actually scoring when he gets on base unusually low. He’d be very bad at advancing to third on any of Cabrera’s many singles but he is very good at driving in Cabrera with his own singles. Now if he was no slower than Alex Avila… that would be a different story.

    • Matt Snyder

      You’d rather have poor base runners ahead of your power hitters than ahead of your singles hitters though, wouldn’t you. Good base running / taking the extra base is more valuable in the 6 or 7 spot.

      • chrisHannum

        It’s that Victor Martinez is much more valuable as a run producer than as a run scorer, because he is such an incredible liability as a baserunner. And in the #5 spot, he isn’t in front of the team’s leading singles hitters, he’s behind them. He IS the #1 singles hitter – the rest of the top 4 were Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder. Honestly if the guy could limber up just a little bit, then I wouldn’t be so opposed – Hunter is another big-time singles hitter, but he never, ever walks any more and getting on base in front of Cabrera by whatever means necessary is key. Or Hunter could start taking pitches again, take your pick. The combination of sky high O-swing% and bad jumps on fly balls makes me wonder if Hunter needs Lasik.

  • Matt Pelc

    Of the names being thrown out there (and with Mattingly now back in LA), I’d probably support Acta getting the gig. I was impressed with what he was able to do with Cleveland and thought he was a bit of a scape goat. They didn’t increase that payroll until several months after hiring Francona. Acta had Cleveland overachieving through much of 2011 and a couple months in 2012 with probably the worst roster in the division during that time.

    As far as what Perez says about him not being a rah-rah guy, I’m fine with that. The Tigers know what they need to do, they dont need someone telling them what they need to do.

    All that said, I am not ga-ga over Acta, someone else can come out and excite me more but with McClendon, Ausmus, Manuel as really the only other three I’ve heard legitimately rumored (LaRussa aint coming out of retirement), then Acta is the best of that lot.