Matt Stairs will pack his bags and head across the country, leaving one team he played for behind in favor of another. After just one season as the Phillies hitting coach, Stairs has accepted the same position with the San Diego Padres. After the Phillies announced that manager Pete Mackanin would not return in 2018, the future of Stairs with the franchise also become unclear. With a job in jeopardy this offseason, Stairs has decided to take a sure thing and go help the Padres stagnant offense.
Stairs inherited an offense that was abysmal in 2016. The unit was statistically toward the bottom in virtually every offensive category, including finishing last in runs (610), doubles (231), and RBI’s (575). The group finished no better than 24th in hits, homeruns, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
The offense was markedly better this past season, improving in every above category except homeruns. That ranking is somewhat of an outlier, however, as the team actually hit more homeruns in 2017 than they did in 2016, but the ranking was lower as an offensive outpour occurred across the league. The team scored 80 additional runs and drove drove in 79 more runs, increasing their ranking from last in both categories to 27th in each category.The team, as a whole, hit 10 points higher than they did a season prior, improving the team batting average from .240 to .250. For a team that had 5535 at bats this past season, that an increase of 76 hits from 2016’s total. To go along with the increased batting average, the team increased ints on base percentage as well. In 2016, the Phillies were the second worst team at getting on base, the simplest forum of the game, finishing with a percentage of .301. This past season, the team jumped that up 14 points, to .315. While it still was good for just 24th, the trajectory could continue to rise as we enter 2018. The largest jump the offense took was in extra bases, as the Phillies produced 231 doubles in 2016 while increasing that number to 287 in 2017, good enough for a jump in the rankings from last to 12th.
While it’s not a massive improvement, the steps were taken to make this team much better offensively than a year prior. There’s no doubt that Matt Stairs helped that progression. While Stairs himself was a homerun hitter, a boom or bust type guy, his baseball acumen was undeniable and it rubbed off on his hitters. This is a huge loss for the Phillies young offense. Whomever steps in will have a big role to fill, as he’ll be put in a precarious situation. He’ll have to take this young team, which showed flashes of competence in the latter stages of the season, and continue to help them progress into 2018. It won’t be an easy job, and I certainly don’t envy the man that takes it.
Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports