We mentioned earlier this week that former Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta is one of the candidates for bench coach of the White Sox.
Below are some Acta quotes taken from this FanGraphs interview in 2012. I'm posting this because I agree with most of Acta's remarks here, and I think some of these ideas could be beneficial for White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
"The main thing is scoring runs, so you need to stack up your best
hitters up front. You forget about trying to put a guy in the second
spot just because he can hit-and-run and bunt. After the first six
hitters, you should put your best hitters in front of the [lesser]
hitters. The bottom of your order should be the bottom. I’ve never been a
big believer in the idea of having a second leadoff hitter. I don’t
like putting a guy in the nine-hole who should be hitting in the seven-
or eight-hole. To me, you have to maximize at bats. Your better hitters
should have a shot at getting that extra at bat."
The top of the order
"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. Guys like Wade Boggs
had no speed, but if you have a high on-base guy, you have a better
chance of scoring runs than if you have a guy leading off who can’t
steal first base. The guy who hits first obviously has to be an
on-base-percentage guy. Then you go from there."
The middle of the lineup
"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. Then I believe that the third
hitter should be your best hitter in your lineup. Period. I’ve never
been a big advocate of having your best hitter hit cleanup. I think he
should hit in the first inning and not sometimes lead off the next
inning with nobody on.
"Your cleanup hitter has to hit for extra bases. That’s a big part of
his job. I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb to tell you that I
don’t want to put a singles hitter there just because he can drive in
some runs with ground balls. He has to carry some fear with him when he
comes to the plate, so that my best hitter sees some pitches."
The sacrifice bunt
"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. I have to have way too much of an advantage late in the
game, bullpen-wise and great hitters lined up, to do that. At first and
second with no outs, I usually only do it with the bottom of the order,
or maybe the top guy in the order, depending on how he’s swinging the
bat. It guarantees me a runner on third with less than two out and
another runner in scoring position. But I probably won’t if we need
multiple runs. If it’s the heart of my order, it won’t happen."
Think back to some of the lineup decisions Ventura made in 2015, and in previous years, that made you scratch your head. It would be nice if Ventura had someone on his staff to tell him the second hitter in the lineup shouldn't be a strictly a hit-and-run or bunt guy. It's not a good idea to have weaker hitters such Tyler Saladino or Gordon Beckham hitting second, yet we have seen that lineup construction over and over again under Ventura.
Also, Jose Abreu should never hit cleanup. Ventura would sometimes put him in that spot against left-handed pitching, and it always made me cringe. Like Acta, I'm a big believer in making sure the best hitter gets an AB in the first inning. Abreu should not be hitting lower than third in the Sox batting order.
Avisail Garcia also should never hit cleanup, albeit for a different reason. Garcia had only 32 extra-base hits in 601 plate appearances in 2015. He had no power to speak of, so why did he start 40 games in the cleanup spot? You got me.
I've never been able to get my mind around Ventura's philosophy on bunting. He often bunts when I think he shouldn't, and he often doesn't bunt when I think he should. I'm generally not big on giving away outs, so Acta's philosophy is agreeable to me overall.
One other thing I'll say about Acta: His record as a manager stinks. His .418 winning percentage in six seasons is pathetic, but the main criticism of him is he doesn't know how to relate to players. We've been told that player relations is a strength of Ventura's, and I have no reason to doubt that is the case. Ventura has his clubhouse under control. What he needs is some help when it comes to in-game strategy. Whether that comes from Acta or somebody else, that needs to be the point of emphasis for the Sox in hiring a new bench coach.