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
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.