In the hopes of increasing the production of what was a disappointing offense this season, the Philadelphia Phillies have poached a top coach from the world champion Washington Natoinals to teach their hitters how to hit more dingers.
Dillon was the assistant hitting coach under Nats’ hitting guru Kevin Long, who was Joe Girardi’s hitting coach for a time with the New York Yankees. Dillon obviously has a connection to Bryce Harper, the former long-time National, as well.
Prior to his posting with the Nationals the last two years, Dillon served as a minor league hitting coordinator with the Marlins for two years, and he began his career as the hitting coach for Triple-A Syracuse in the Washington organization starting in 2014. He also played four seasons in the Majors for the Marlins, Brewers and Rays.
Dillon’s Nationals had a powerful season during their championship run. They led the National League in on-base percentage, were second in batting average, runs scored, OPS, and walks over the last two years there.
A big change the Phillies hope Dillon can instill in their lineup is to cut down on their strikeouts. Over the last two years, Nationals hitters had the 5th-fewest strikeouts in the Majors, the Phils had the 5th-most. In a March article in the Washington Post, Dillon apparently was instrumental in instituting significant changes in how the Nats practiced their hitting drills.
Dillon has brought revolutionary methods to the batting cage, methods even Long hadn’t incorporated in his lauded work with the New York Yankees and Mets. Rather than the standard half-speed drills, the banal soft tossing and tee work, Dillon is a proponent of creating game-like conditions outside of actual games. The concept is standard across sports. It’s novel in baseball.
It also sounds as if Dillon is a proponent of... the curveball machine!
This spring, Dillon had specific pitching machines, ones that can offer different types of pitches at various planes and angles, sent to the Nationals’ facility in West Palm Beach. With the machines, he puts players through voluntary drills designed to push their brains beyond their comfort zones. The key to the exercises, Dillon emphasized, is the batter doesn’t swing at every pitch like they’re accustomed to during a standard pregame batting practice session.
The dynamic between the Phils’ big superstar, Harper, and Dillon will be interesting, given it appears Harper didn’t do some of the specialized drills his assistant hitting coach had other players doing.
Trea Turner also said he’s worked with Dillon. Ryan Zimmerman recently said he hadn’t yet, but he planned to. Dillon’s methods aren’t for everyone, though, at least not yet. Bryce Harper, for example, said he doesn’t plan on incorporating the drills into his routine. Of course, Harper seems to have his cognitive skills in the batter’s box in order.
Dillon joins new pitching coach Bryan Price on Joe Girardi’s staff. He succeeds Charlie Manuel and John Mallee as Phils’ hitting coaches in 2019.