When the Phillies signed Kevin Long to be their new hitting coach, many believed that he was being brought in to get Alec Bohm going. The first round pick struggled mightily last year and the team was going to break out all the stops trying to get him to live up to his draft status, so that meant hiring the best coach available. Conspiracy theorists believed that Long was brought in as part of the campaign to land Kyle Schwarber since he did so well while in Washington last year where Long was the hitting coach, while still others thought that his previous encounters with Bryce Harper may have played a hand in the decision. Whatever the actual reason (which likely is that he’s good and Joe Girardi knows him well), it was one of the more interesting things to look forward to this season, seeing what Long could do with players like Bohm and Harper.
A simple scan through Long’s career shows you that he has had positive effects wherever he’s gone. The Yankees’ team he was the coach for in the late 00’s was a juggernaut, but they also benefited from having Hall of Fame talent in the lineup. When he went to the Nationals, his offense would end up winning a World Series (albeit thanks to that pitching staff that year), but he also was integral in unlocking the Juan Soto experience. Put pretty simply, he’s just a good hitting coach.
A funny thing has happened, though, along the way. With the signing of Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, combined with the return of Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the hope was that the offense would be in the pillar upon which the team was built. April would turn out to be a bit of a struggle, but in some of those offensive struggles the team has had so far this early into the season, a trend has emerged. The Phillies are hitting the ball really, really hard this year.
With the Phillies, there have been some pretty notable changes that have happened this year. Many may have gestured wildly at Alec Bohm when Long was hired, but he’s doing things with other batters as well. The most notable thing is how hard they have hit the ball. The first thing we can look at for the Phillies is their year to year changes in certain statistics that are helpful to this discussion. In 2022, thus far, no team has improved more from 2021 in hard hit percentage (44.1% in 2022 vs. 37% in 2021). Their fifth in difference in average exit velocity from this year to last year (89.8 mph vs. 88.4 mph), and sixth in improved barrel rate (8.4% vs. 7.3%).
*all stats through Saturday night
It’s a pretty startling difference and even more so when the teams ahead of them in those statistics have lineups populated by some of the most consistently hardest hitters in the game (Yankees, White Sox, Angels). This is some evidence that even with the supposed deadened baseball being used throughout the game this year, the Phillies have undoubtedly improved at the ball and hitting it hard.
When you look at individual players this year, yes Bohm has gotten much better, but others have gotten better as well. Out of the 301 hitters with at least 25 BBE (batted ball events), the Phillies have quite a few hitters ranking quite well.
Exit Velocity 2022
|Player||Avg EV (Rank)|
|Player||Avg EV (Rank)|
|R. Hoskins||93.4 (t-14th)|
|A. Bohm||93.0 (17th)|
|M. Vierling||92.2 (37th)|
|B. Harper||92.0 (40th)|
|J. Segura||91.7 (44th)|
While this chart does tell us something, other times a little color helps a little more. Here is the year to year changes in percentile rankings for the hitters on the team. Obviously, there are some players who are different, but also focus on some of the players who were on the team this year and last. Look at the differences between their seasons.
There’s a pretty significant amount of red and pink showing up in 2022 this year as compared to 2021.
Listen, we all know that it is still very early. A lot of this could die down as more detailed scouting reports get passed around. What is nice to see is that these are trends that can sometimes lead to improvement as a season go along. You’d rather bet on a player(s) improving if their exit velocities and hard hit percentages are solid. We’re seeing that early in the season. Is that totally on Kevin Long? It’s hard to say, but to call it purely coincidental would be a little off. It’s something to keep an eye on this year as it progresses and the weather starts to heat up a bit.