When you have the worst offense in baseball, score the fewest runs and have the league’s worst on-base percentage, it’s no surprise that changes are going to be made.
On Monday, the Phillies made a change, announcing that hitting coach Steve Henderson’s contract would not be renewed by the team. The rest of the Phils staff has been invited back.
The Phils were the only team to average less than four runs per game (3.77) this season, far below Oakland and Atlanta (4.03), who were tied for second-worst. They were 28th in hits per game (8.06), last in doubles per game (1.43), 29th in walks per game (2.62), and struck out seventh-most per game (8.49).
They also had the second-worst batting average (.240) and the worst OPS (.685) in baseball.
The Phils only had three players with at least 340 PAs who were above league average offensively. Tommy Joseph had a team-high wRC+ (113), with Odubel Herrera (110) and Cesar Hernandez (108), the only regulars above 100. The same three players also led the team in OPS+, with Joseph at 115, Herrera at 111 and Hernandez at 107.
Not only that, one of the team’s most important young players, Maikel Franco, seemed to regress in his second season. His walk rate fell (7.8%-6.3%), his strikeout rate went up (15.5%-16.8%), and his isolated power went down (.217-.172), all in a season in which power numbers throughout baseball spiked.
As a result, the hitting coach got fired. It’s happened before.
Back in 2010, the Phillies offense (you know, the one with a still pretty good Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz) had a ton of big names who had led one of the league’s most prolific offenses under the guidance of Milt Thompson. But for some reason, in ‘10, the offense had some major problems, and the same Thompson who guided the incredible offenses of 2007-2009 was shown the door.
What happened? Did Milt suddenly forget how to teach hitting? Did the players simply stop listening? And when Greg Gross came in, did the team suddenly remember how to start hitting again?
Then again, there was the brief existence of Wally Joyner, who seemed to have a real and positive impact on Domonic Brown.
There are limits to what a hitting coach can do. It’s almost impossible to teach hitters how to be patient at the plate. It’s impossible for a hitting coach to get a hitter to pick up the rotation of a pitch or recognize in that split millisecond whether it’s going to be a ball or a strike.
On the other hand, sometimes a team needs a new voice. Perhaps that’s the situation here, because obviously hitting coaches do something, otherwise teams wouldn’t keep paying people to hold that position.
Hitting coaches help players analyze tape of opposing pitchers. They work with hitters to come up with game plans. They work with hitters to fix flaws in their swings. That, and more we don't see, for certain.
The Phillies want a hitting coach who will stress a "grind it out" approach with their at bats. Get on base. Make the pitcher throw a lot of pitches. Get ahead in the count. Hunt the fastball. Then, hit the fastball. But it would be a surprise to me if Henderson wasn’t already doing that.
So as the search begins, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury says there is one person to keep an eye on.
Name to watch in Phillies hitting coach search: Lloyd McClendon. Mackanin has great respect for his work. LM was DET's AAA skipper in '16— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) October 3, 2016
And hey, this would be weird, right?
Even though many Marlins hitters, including Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, and Justin Bour all improved under Bonds’ tutelage, Sirius XM’s Craig Mish reported that Bonds’ commitment level dwindled during the end of his tenure. Plus, he is still an extremely unpopular figure to many.
Bonds ain’t happening.
Whoever comes aboard will have some talent to work with, but also a steep mountain to climb.