The Phillies were coming off an abysmal road trip. They had gone just 2-5 and had dropped into fourth place in the NL East. It quickly became apparent that it was time for a change. Then the change finally happened. Yesterday, the team announced that John Mallee, the hitting coach, had been relieved of his duties. This move brought great joy to the fanbase who had been calling for the firing of Mallee for several weeks. To add to the excitement, the organization announced that former manager, Charlie Manuel, would be taking over as the hitting coach. How will this change affect the Phillies for the rest of the season,? Let’s take a closer look.
Charlie Manuel: A Familiar Face
After being fired back in August of 2013, it seemed unlikely that Charlie Manuel would coach again for the Phillies. During his time as a manager, Manuel compiled 1000 wins along with a World Series title. This track record contributed to him being named to the Phillies Wall of Fame. Throughout the years, he’s become one of the most beloved people associated with the Phillies organization. At a time where it seems as though fans are becoming frustrated and disinterested, Charlie Manuel seems like a great option to lift the spirits of the players as well as the fanbase.
Despite all of the excitement, there are still question marks surrounding this hiring. The most important question is how does Manuel’s hitting philosophy mesh with the one of the current regime. For the past few seasons, the Phillies hitting philosophy has been built around seeing a ton of pitches. Gabe Kapler has preached patience to his team when it comes to hitting. This philosophy is why the Phillies chose to originally sign a guy like Carlos Santana. Santana was a player that consistently was towards the top of league in drawing walks. This season, Rhys Hoskins has been the guy that most resembles the organization’s hitting philosophy. Hoskins has struggled to hit the ball this season with a batting average under .250. However, he has still been able to find ways to get on-base. Hoskins has the highest on-base percentage of any Phillies player through this many plate appearances since Jayson Werth in 2010. This is a result of Hoskins seeing a ton of pitches per plate appearance. In fact, at this point in the season, he actually leads the league in pitches per plate appearance with 4.59. Clearly, as a team and organization, this has become the hitting philosophy.
Developing players into quality and consistent hitters has always been a specialty of Manuel. When it comes to Charlie Manuel, things seem a bit different. His hitting philosophy has made a large impact on the careers of tons of players. These players include guys such as Jim Thome, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth. Most of these hitters didn’t rely as much on walks to get on-base. According to Fangraphs, during Manuel’s tenure as manager, his team’s batting average was .260. To compare, over the past two seasons the Phillies team batting average has been .240! Clearly, Manuel’s philosophy seemed to have more of a focus on hitting than just simply finding a way to get on-base.
Does Manuel Make Sense?
Although there seems to be a slight difference in philosophies, Charlie Manuel’s hitting philosophy still correlates to the one of the current team. As Matt Klentak, the Phillies general manager, alluded to in his latest press conference, Manuel has been an advanced baseball mind for years. He was someone who understood things such as launch angle and exit velocity before they became official statistics. This advanced way of thinking is something the organization values highly as they transition to using more and more analytics.
Another reason as to why this move makes a ton of sense is the personality of Charlie Manuel. One of the many praises he received as a manager was his ability to relate to the players on a personal level. Based on the comments of former players such as Chase Utley, Manuel seemed to have a close and unique relationship with each of his players. This kind of person is exactly what fits into the Phillies current system. As manager Gabe Kapler noted in his press conference, a hitting coach has to be someone that can provide confidence to the hitters. Charlie Maunel’s ability to bond with his players would make it that much easier for him to provide them with a sense of confidence.
All in all, Charlie Manuel seems like a great fit for this team given their current situation. Hopefully, Manuel can help propel the Phillies into the postseason. If the Phillies were to reach the postseason, it would be the team’s first appearance since Manuel left. Charlie Manuel could very well be the missing piece this team needs.